What do people really see when they visit our church? Do we realize what they see?
I have been reading an interesting book this week, co-authored by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. The title of the book is Jim & Casper Go To Church. The book is a conversation between the two as they visit eleven different churches in the United States. What makes the book especially interesting is that Matt Casper is an atheist. Henderson and Casper have forged a friendship that gives the book much warmth.
Casper gives his reaction, as a non-believer, to many of the things done by well-meaning Christians in various church settings. It is interesting to see this from the eye of a non-believer.
In one chapter of the book, they describe their visit to a very high profile church. They are both very complimentary of much about the church. Then they mention that only one person spontaneously spoke to them the morning they were there. Hmmm.
I suspect that the longer many of us live as Christian people, the harder it becomes to see what outsiders might see in our churches. Some years ago as I began a new work with a church, I asked them about their sign in front of the church building. It was awful. Faded. Sagging in one direction. Very, very dated. Anyway, I asked several people about the sign in front of the building. The responses I received? "What sign?" "Is there something wrong with our sign?" After I raised the question, several people came back to me and said, "I go by that sign every day and never noticed how badly it looks. We really need a new sign." I suspect we are like that with our churches in general. After a while, we just don’t see what is so obvious to an outsider or newcomer.
What do you think people (outsiders or newcomers) see in your church? What do they probably notice that is positive and encouraging? What might they notice that is not so encouraging? Do you think it is difficult for many of us who are longtime members of these churches to see these things?