Planting Evidence

It seems our stocks are down. One of the interesting things that we’re dealing with now is an apparent decrease in the perceived value of our church in the eyes of the average student. Fancy way of saying, the average person that visits isn’t nearly as impressed as they used to be. Not that we’re on a mission of impressing visitors, but the church in its most glory-filled form should have an immense weight – it can be liked, disliked, but not ignored. If people find our church forgettable, irrelevant, or boring, then it would seem that we’re lacking something that the early church and many generations of Christians since have had in high doses.

 

This perception is probably taken in on both macro-impression and micro-impression levels. Macro: what are we here for, what is this message about, why are we looking at the Bible, why are we standing in rows and singing songs. The big stuff. After someone visits our church, this is the stuff that they’re most likely to be confused by, offended by, or, at best, affected by. Brings us back to major questions: are we centered on the Gospel of Christ? Is our worship clear in intent and voice? How do we treat those that God brings into our church?

 

But I think there’s definitely a micro-impression as well. These are the categories that most people wouldn’t notice themselves being affected by, and we would probably pass by as unimportant in our visitor’s experience. But these things tend to fly under the radar, they imperceptibly affect our voice – our credibility, how compelling we are. This list is probably different for every church, but for us, right now, I think it’s things like: the attitude of those participating in the public service, the organization of the service, which and how many announcements we make, how I use illustrations in my message, or whether or not we start on time. These things, though they seem on the minute side, must communicate a little about what kind of a group we are and how we ourselves see our mission.

 

For instance, we just moved into this new building, and it is tomblike. Big, cold, and empty. We’ve moved our stuff over from the other place in a rather haphazard fashion. Looks like we’re meeting in a warehouse. And the spirit of the service in that building was drastically different that the other church the night before. One of our faithful members told my wife, “Are we going to be able to fix this place up? It feels like a hospital.” Why should a less-than-attractive, less-than-organized building hurt us? Beats me. I’m too busy studying for my sermon this weekend to figure that out. But possibly, a cold, junked-up building communicates to our visitors somewhat imperceptibly that that’s all our faith is worth. Less than our best.

 

Here in China, college students don’t know what church is about. I think if we sacrificed a cow, some visitors would be like, “Well, I guess that’s what church is.” (maybe a little extreme) But when they come in, they’re taking in clues. What is this group all about? What does their faith mean? And our worship, our clothing, our teaching, our order of service, and even the building, the shell that we occupy, is providing them with evidence. Just something I’m thinking about going into our second weekend back in China and figuring out what we can do to plant some evidence.

One Comment on “Planting Evidence”

  1. Trent November 1, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    Great post. It is a problem we all deal with but normally do not see it as clearly as you stated it. I am confident in a matter of time your leaders will have that place glowing again.

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