Okay, so I’m finally getting back to writing a blog that is not one of my weekly types, and I must say it feels nice. (Yes all you AP stylebook users, I DID just use an Oxford comma!) Sorry… I’m in some Communications classes (and I capitalized the major too!) and the switch from English and MLA to Comm and AP has left me a little grammatically defiant.
Bear with me.
Anyway, it would feel good, or at least better, if I was blogging about a recent triumph. Instead, I’m blogging about something I did tonight that I regret. It’s nothing terrible or depressing, but we are all our own worst critics.
So, tonight I swing by Wal-Mart after work to get some power steering fluid for my new car (Did I mention my new car? I haven’t! It’s actually an old car, but I love it nonetheless. Her name is Sadie.), and then I go out to the parking lot to put said fluid into said car. I leave the driver door open for no reason other than I see no point exerting the energy to close it. I just have to open it again right? (I use the same logic in my bed-making habits.)
As I’m under the hood doing what I gotta do, the young man in the truck next to me asks if he can close my door so he can open his door, saying he would go to the other side, but that lock doesn’t open with the key. I’ve had similar problems with vehicles in the past, so of course I say “go ahead” and muse to myself about how polite he was. Smile on his face and a “thank you” as he left. Who says gentlemen don’t exist these days? (I suddenly realize that he didn’t offer to help me while I, a young woman, have got my hood up in the middle of the night at Wal-Mart…)
Either way, I felt compelled to leave a note on his windshield (since it slipped my mind to do so in person) thanking him for his politeness saying “God bless you” and writing something to the effect of
“If you would like to meet other nice folks, I’d like to invite you to my church as my guest at such-and-such an address. If not, nice to cross your path anyway.”
with of course a post-script of “and by the way, we have donuts.”
And there it is. The sales pitch. “We have donuts.” (For those of you wondering, this is where I am disappointed in myself.)
My intent was good. Invite the nice young man to church. Maybe he’ll come, maybe he won’t. Maybe he already goes somewhere else, but will appreciate the offer. But if he was seeking something for his soul, and thought perhaps my church might have helped him find that missing element called Jesus, that whole hope was suddenly cheapened by “We have donuts.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love donuts. I love that my church has donuts on Sunday mornings. But when I invite someone to church, it ought to be because we have something spiritually tangible (oxymoron?) for them to receive, something that can enhnce their life. When I tell them they should come because we have donuts, I’m doing little more than saying, “Hey, I’d like to invite you to my shallow church where we think people can be bought by donuts so I can raise my hand when Pastor asks if I was bold enough to bring a friend.”
And the thing is, my church isn’t shallow, my pastor doesn’t ask questions like that, and no one I know wants to buy visitors with donuts. It’s just something we use for everyone to hang out in the mornings. But now, all this guy knows is that “We have donuts.”
He doesn’t know that miracles have been performed in our sanctuary, that people have been physically healed and delivered from life-long addictions, that our pastor delivers compelling mesages straight from God, or that we enter into God’s presence through prayer and worship every week. He doesn’t know that we are an intimate group of people who only know how to operate in unity and service to one another because we’re too small to survive any other way. He doesn’t know that God has wrecked us over the last four years and is now building us back stronger than we ever were before. He doesn’t know any of the important things about us. All he knows is that we have donuts.
And he’s probably going to laugh at that note (which he may have done anyway) and realize that he doesn’t have to visit my church to see if we’re any different than any other church he’s been to, because he knows we’re not (based on my note), because all I did was feed him a line about some shallow meaningless thing that we can offer him. Some sugary ball of dough that’s going to leave him hungry again in an hour. (I just realized there’s a whole other lesson that we’re going to get into later.)
In Western civilization, we always have our guard up because we kno people are trying to buy and sell us. There’s always a catch, always a line, always fine print. And the moment someone might be willing to get vulnerable with us and ask that deeply personal question, “Do you have what I’ve been looking for my whole life?” we reinforce all their stereotypes of us by saying, “Yes! We have donuts and bake sales and car washes and this and that and the other!”
Understand me. None of those are bad things. But the next time you invite someone to your church, answer this question: Just what exactly are you inviting them to?