Yesterday we began a discussion that you should read if you haven’t yet, because I’m gonna pick up where I left off starting…now.
I resonate with Blake when he says, “I am afraid that sometimes that is all they will get.” Our strategy follows that of Jesus: we meet people where they are, but love them too much to leave them there. For the last few years, I’ve had a personal unwritten strategy for the people that find our church, a three-stage process through which I want everyone to move:
- Consumer. Yep, they’re coming. And yep, if we have French Vanilla Creamer and a cup with a little cardboard sleeve, all the better. Up-front parking? I’ll take it. I can wear shorts? Sweet. You’re going to call me and check to see how my experience was? WellAlrightyThen.
- Worshipper. Our goal in First Impressions is not to make people coffee drinkers, but to clear the way so they can worship. A mom is not going to hear the message if she’s worried about the fact that no one listened in Summit Kids when she told them about her child’s peanut allergy. A dad is not going to loosen up and hear the gospel if he’s still ticked because of the surly treatment of one of our parking guys. And no one will be happy if there’s no toilet paper or they felt like they stood out or they could sum their morning up in the words awkward or uncomfortable. The First Impressions Team removes those potential obstacles so people can engage in worship. They’ll experience the music. They’ll hear people sing to Jesus. They’ll hear the preacher. And many times, they’ll respond to the gospel. This isn’t always a one-day process. (In fact, it rarely is.) But week after week, month after month, as their preconceived notions of what church is supposed to be are stripped away, the gospel will become increasingly clear, and before you know it, Jesus has stepped in and changed their life.
- Minister. This is where Elton John’s Circle of Life soundtrack should begin playing. This is where it gets beautiful…when a formerly self-absorbed, up-front parking, cappuccino-swilling, where’s-my-complimentary-umbrella complaining, I-don’t-think-I’m-gonna-like-this thinking consumer has a change of heart. They see where they were the beneficiary of grace, and they make the decision to dispense the same grace to those who came after them. I see it all the time, and it never ceases to amaze me. Reached people reach people. That’s a fact. When they truly realize what they’ve received, they can’t help but give some back. We have people who started attending just a few weeks ago who are now serving at our Information Table. We have people who received free childcare who are now taking care of the kids of others. We have people who used to get to park right up front who are now deliberately taking spaces far away from our building so that guests will be able to park closer.
But again…is it guaranteed? Can we absolutely be sure that this three-stage process will happen? I’ll share an interesting insight with you…