Not too long ago, I was listening to the radio in my car and a commercial for a local car dealership came on and it made me think of how some churches talk and act.
The story line of the spot was that the owner was meeting with a hand full of marketing consultants about doing some commercials. Each of the marketing consultants was throwing out ideas of how the owner could bend the truth to deceive people and get sales. The techniques they put out were the ones we all have grown used to ….. haggling, junk cars, special deals that actually benefit the dealership and the like. The owner went on and on about how he is not one of those dealerships and put the consultants out. It was a typical “we’re not like the others, you can trust us” type car spots. It is evident with the amount of money dealerships are spending on the “you can trust us” message that they are aware that there is a trust issue between the general public and dealerships.
It got me to thinking about rather or not, we as the church realize that we are in a similar situation with a lot of people. “We’re not like other churches” “Come as you are” “We’re contemporary and cool” “We accept anyone” These are slogans that a lot of churches are putting out there. In some cases, these claims are true. People are coming and finding a refreshing experience that mirrors the Scripture. Other times, not so much and it’s all the harder for that person to trust again to visit another church.
Let me give you a couple examples I have heard about from non-Christians…
One is the “Come as you are” statement. Many have gone into a church that have said this and felt the cold chill because of their dress, tattoos, piercing, hair, and any other instant noticeable difference. One book of interest to this observation was a book called “Under the Overpass” where two gentlemen decided after graduating college to choose to become homeless for six months in six different major cities. The response they got with their poor dress and “pleasant” aroma in all but one church they went to was very sad and eye opening.
Then it moves to “We love everyone”……However, if we don’t watch how we present discipleship (which is needed) then to the unaware, it comes off as we are lying. We love everyone as long as you change this, this, and this, and become more like us.Then it moves to “We love everyone”……However, if we don’t watch how we present discipleship (which is needed) then to the unaware, it comes off as we are lying. We love everyone as long as you change this, this, and this, and become more like us.
Another one that really bothers non-Christians is if it appears that we have started a friendship with them for the purpose of saving them. It’s even worse when in fact, that is what we did.
In a book called “Jim and Casper go to Church”, a Christian gentlemen hires a professional man who happens to also be an atheist to go to 12 churches with him (several of the big names and some smaller churches too) and give him his insights. One of the churches they went to is a small home church of about 10 people that is headed up by the drummer of the secular band the atheist gentleman is the singer for. As they talked to the drummer, at first, he did not want to be named in the book because he does not want people coming to him asking him how he established a friendship with and is trying to convert an atheist. What method did he use? The simple fact was he and
Casper are friends period. If God uses that relationship great but he is not on a covert mission to trick someone into a relationship to manipulate them.
Yes, God has a heart for our unsaved friends and so do we. The Holy Spirit gives us opportunities to reach out to them but we need to be careful of how we look at and love people. If a “lost” friend feels like they are nothing more than a potential notch in your spiritual belt of truth, there is a good chance that will push them further away from the Lord. In the same way, a used car salesman might push you away from buying a car if he acts in a way that makes you feel more about his commission than your needs and cares.
To some, we as the church are the same as car dealerships. If you don’t think so, maybe it’s been awhile since you have talked to someone who has been hurt by or turned off by church before. Does that mean all is lost? Not at all…..It just might be something for us to keep in mind with the people in our lives that we love so much (and for those who come through our church doors that don’t fit our “molds”).
Just some more thoughts…..