I already don’t want to meet him.
My friend tells me I would adore her fitness instructor and personal trainer. Yet, not one thing she has told me about him appeals to me.
“He pushes you really hard.”
“He works you until it hurts.”
“He yells at you and tells you you’re a wimp, so you’ll be motivated not to quit.”
Call me a wimp and the only thing I’m motivated to do is punch you in the throat. If this appeals to my friend with her personal trainer, she may have deeper issues than her need for physical fitness.
Then, there’s my friend with the nutrition coach. Yeah, I don’t want to meet that one either.
“She tells me everything I can’t eat.”
“She tells me everything I have to eat.”
“I check in with her once a week with a list of everything I’ve eaten and how much I ate. She scolds me sometimes for eating the wrong thing or too much of something, so I don’t always tell her everything.”
I’m not against a healthy diet and a reasonable amount of physical activity, but if my friends truly wanted me to get to know these people who they say have turned their lives around, they probably could have found a more inviting way to intice me to meet them.
My friends need to learn the art of introduction.
If you have a friend you want me to meet, let me tell you what I’d like to know about them before I let you introduce us. I’d like to know what you find so appealing about their character. I’d like to know their most endearing personality traits. I’d like to know what it is about your relationship with them that is so special to you. What makes you want to spend time with them? Because that’s probably what would make me want to spend time with them and get to know them better.
So why can’t we do that with Jesus?
There’s an opportunity for introduction where we often fail miserably. Let me give you an example. Or, maybe I should say, let me share with you a pet peeve. Church signs.
Church signs can send me into orbit. Not all of them, mind you; it’s the trite ones, or the condemning ones. It’s the “we’ve got it right and you don’t” signs. Here are a couple of what I consider colossal failures in the art of introducing the world to Jesus and the church.
CH _ _ CH. What’s missing? U R!
Or this one.
If God feels far away, guess who moved?
They’re not wrong; they just don’t present Jesus or the church as very inviting or accepting.
I don’t want to meet my friend’s personal trainer because I don’t want to be pushed into something unpleasant. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to be yelled at and told how I’m falling short.
I don’t want to meet my friend’s nutrition coach because I don’t want a laundry list of everything I can’t have. I don’t want to be told several times a day what I’m required to have, whether I like it or not. I don’t want a checklist that I have to live by and report in once a week to have my progress gauged – to be judged by my performance or lack of it.
But, isn’t that how we can portray Jesus to those people who haven’t had a personal introduction to Him? Isn’t that the picture we give of church to people who haven’t experienced church for themselves?
Do people who haven’t experienced their own relationship with God get a true understanding of what it is we love so much about Him? Or do they see Him as Someone constantly pushing us to do things that are unpleasant, or making us do hard things that can sometimes be painful? Do they see God as Someone who’s going to yell at us constantly because we’re always falling short of perfection?
What about Jesus? Do people who have never experienced Him get an honest-to-goodness look at who He is and what He did for us? Or do we portray Him as Someone with a laundry list of do’s and don’ts? With a bunch of rules to follow? Do we present Him to others as Someone we check in with at church once a week so we can report on all the assignments we believe He gave us, even trying to lie to Him about whether or not we really did those things?
Do my unchurched friends get a picture of my church as the keeper of the gate to heaven? Do they see us church-goers as the ones who decide whether or not they’re good enough, i.e. enough like us, to come and join us?
I’m becoming increasingly aware of how important it is for me to see the church, to see Jesus, to see God through the eyes of people who don’t know anything about them. I want to be intentional about how I portray my dearest Friends to those who have never been introduced to them. I want them to get to know my Friends the way I’ve come to know them over the years.
God, teach me and let me learn the art of introduction.
But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,
“A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!”
Romans 10:14-17 (The Message Translation)
Teach me to make introductions that will take Your breath away.
Post Script – I do have a favorite church sign:
Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.
Thank you, Landmark Baptist Church in Forrest City, Arkansas, for that beautiful introduction.