On a recent trip to North Carolina I had some free time for an afternoon of climbing and hiking. Naturally, I was famished afterwards and stopped at a homey restaurant for lunch. Sadly, what seemed to promise a great, home-cooked meal was a disappointment with things like gravy out of a can and instant potatoes. I thought for sure I’d be getting the real thing!
I had just wrapped another Threads event, and gospel parallels were easy to come by at that moment. I couldn’t help but think about our churches today and how every day people drive by them just like I drove by this restaurant. In my mind I just knew the staff would be friendly and the food would be good only to be very disappointed. I wondered how many people finally say, “I’m ready for a good meal…I’m tired of what this world has to offer” and give the church a chance. Maybe we even greet them at the door and offer them any seat in the place…well…maybe that is a stretch. After all, we like to sit where we sit week after week and with only our friends, right? Hmm.
I thought, What are we truly offering to a world that is hurting or to someone who needs a home-cooked meal? Maybe that meal is a hug, or someone to invite them to a community group, a play date in the park with other moms and their kids, or a lunch date. The day I went into that restaurant in Chimney Rock, I thought—based on the sign and the look of the place—that a friendly environment existed and that a basic need (hunger) would be met.
Every week people walk through the doors of a church expecting to be accepted, loved, and spiritually fed. Yet many leave disappointed, still starving, and trying to figure out why the inside of the building didn’t match what was promised on the sign outside. People need us to love them. Our churches shouldn’t be there to keep us comfortable or be another social gathering. We need to rise up and serve each other and those coming in “to dine” week after week.
I was challenged. My first Sunday back in church after traveling I introduced myself to four new faces and sat with a Muslim high school student who has yet to know Jesus as Lord. I am convicted to make sure that I’m not just giving the impression of a great God just like that restaurant gave a great impression of a home-cooked meal, but that I’m a living example of the God of the Bible. After all, who wants gravy out of a can and instant potatoes when homemade gravy and real mashed potatoes exist?
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.