The following is from “To encourage and Equip” blog by Tally Wilgis
Dear Pastor and church member,
You are the greatest marketing piece your church has. In addition, those whom you disciple will be nearly as powerful.
This is a truth I’ve had to learn and a truth I was reminded of today.
As a pastor but especially as a church planter you must engage with your neighbors. As Mark Batterson says, “The church should be in the middle of the marketplace.” I’m certain he’s speaking of physical location but he’s also referring to personal location. Far too many of us spend far too much of our time on busy work, book work and that all important task of butt-impression on our office chair. We have to instead spend time around and among the people of our community.
22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Paul took time “and looked carefully at your objects of worship”.
Paul probably saw some things and some behavior that he would not participate in personally. To an extent I’m certain that Paul appreciated their honest desire to worship. Remember he was sincere about a faith other than Jesus not too far in the distant past. These are two vital areas [(in,not of) and (appreciate their desire)] of the Christian walk that MANY MANY Christians are missing today. The ability to be in the world but not of the world has been severely diminished in Christian circles for a long time now. In our fight for Truth with a capital T we have accepted a truth with a lowercase t. We’ve aligned behavior with belief in a way that was never intended in scripture. The outlawed behavior being observation (not participation.) We’ve allowed church leaders who claim to hold THE propositional truth to take us down paths of capital-T Truth only to lead us at the last minute to walled-off corridors of a similar-yet-poor imitation of our faith. So close yet so far away.
Jesus made a path. The church wants to so protect that path and the “religious leaders” (read: Pastors) so wanted to protect that path and (for all the right reasons) wanted to guide people down that path that they marked off the path and built institutionalized walls on either side of the path. All this done to “be certain that the sinner becomes a saint.”
The concept and even passion is a good one. The method (and attached theology) however I believe is terribly wrong. If a person ever gets to the place where they feel coerced or forced to become something… they will wonder where the ‘someone’ went. They will wonder if it all was just a manipulation ploy. People outside of Christ have to make the decision for Christ apart from our prodding and wall-building. They have to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.” We ask them to “buy a membership to Sam’s club and trust US, the grapes are good.” We want people to act like believers before actually becoming belivers. We want them to buy into a system, a way of life, a new culture before they can shop at our supermarket.
Why am I passionate about this today? Well, because I just got my hair cut.
Yes. A haircut.
I hardly go to any one salon or any one stylist. Since I was 13 years old I’ve cut my own hair (insert joke here) and it was only within this last year that I’ve gotten interested (read: lazy) enough in actually go to a salon. One thing you should know about me is that I always talk with the staff I’m around no matter the store. Also I purposely tip very well. Just a few weeks ago I bought extra Apple because the person taking orders at the drive-thru seemed to be anxious for me to buy a pie. I asked “Is this some competition?” She said “Yeah, but we’re not supposed to tell anyone.” I asked who was winning and she said that the guy at the counter was winning. So I took two pies and left my church business card with her. Side note: One thing I hate is when Christians don’t tip well but they leave tracts. Okay, back to my story…
So today I meet my tattooed stylist and we begin our conversation. Within a few minutes I know about her family, education, previous job experience, etc. She then returns the favor and in normal conversation begins to get to know me a little. We get to the “So what do YOU do?” question and I smile and say “Actually, I’m a Pastor.” (Why I have to say ‘actually’ is another story that I may have to get over.) Anyway it gets quiet so I follow up… “Yeah, most people are surprised when they hear that. She said “Yeah, I’d imagine so. You’re definitely not the Pastor type.” —BINGO!
So, we continue and I assure her that I do not hold about 85% of the views that make up her connotation of the term “pastor”. We talk more and I find out about how she’s been put off by the church. Starting from the age of 14 she’s met some over-zealous Christians. She described story after story of people who interrupt her meals, conversations or even walks home when they come up to her and try to ‘save’ her. She told me of one time when she and a guy (whom she did not know) in a suit were walking down the street. She was a few feet beside him and behind him and this woman stares at her from a distance as they walk past.
She said “you know when you feel like someone is staring at you so hard they’re burning holes in you with their eyes?” I said ‘yep’. She continued to tell me that this woman began handing her “religious material” (a.k.a. tracts) and so she was so frustrated that she asked this woman “Maam. Why is it that you didn’t stop that guy in front of me?” The woman replied “Well, YOU look like you need it.”
Okay. So here’s my deal and I’ll shutup.
This woman is wide-open spiritually. In fact she was cool with talking to me and sharing some of her beliefs. She even talked to me about her husband’s experiences with churches in my denomination. Okay I have to share this one: His family quits attending this unnamed church. The church sent offering envelopes anyway after the family let it be known that they were no longer going to attend. So, the guy’s dad mails the church the tithe envelopes back hoping that someone else could use them. What does the church do? They send this family a BILL FOR THE UNUSED ENVELOPES!!! Again I say GGGRRRRRR!
Well, ultimately we had a great conversation and she made me look more attractive (it wasn’t very hard) and we had some relaxed conversation as I paid. She gave me her card and I said “can we trade?” she said “absolutely” and assured me that she’d check out the church online. She said “Now, you’re the kind of person with whom I feel like I could talk about God.” I thanked her for the cut and I was out.
So in conclusion dear Pastor friend and church member, please remember that YOU are the best opportunity to “market” your church. You are a living, breathing, walking, talking, billboard all day long. I’m absolutely convinced that people would LOVE Jesus. The average religious person would be ticked off by him… but those outside of the faith would enjoy his company. He’s a cool guy. He understands and wants to improve the lives of everyday people so much that he wants to give them an abundant eternal life. Eternal means now and forever. I can’t help but to think that Truth doesn’t need a salesman.