So, by far, it was one of those most intimidating of experiences in life. Rachel and I had picked the place out, but we really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, we had been to this kind of place before, but each one is so different and has their own nuances. I remember actually spending time thinking about what I was going to wear. I wanted to fit in and didn’t want to be the odd ball! When we arrived, it was a bit confusing on where we were supposed to park and where the entrance was. There were two, so we just went for the one that was closest. The trepidation intensified, and we freaked out a bit about being complete strangers there. We wouldn’t know anyone. At least, we didn’t think we would. And then we had the thought, what if we do know someone here. How would we explain why we are here? Once we had entered, then came the fear of trying to find the main attraction. How do we get where we are supposed to go? Once there, what’re we supposed to do? We didn’t want to stand out as the weirdos. It was so awkward!
Guess where we were. Visiting a church one Sunday morning when I was off from Brooklife. I’m a pastor. I’ve been inside more churches than most people. I know how church works and what it is about. I was familiar with this church, even though I had never been there. I know how typical services work and know most of the ins and outs on which most churches operate. Yet, I, the pastor, was freaked out! It made me realize how desperate someone has to be to enter the doors of a church. Their world has to be a wreck; a catastrophe must have occurred in their world. They are looking for something they can’t find anywhere else in their circles. So, they are looking for hope, for some help, for God. I honestly have no clue how they do it, but it did make me ask the question, “How can we make it easier for people?”
I started thinking through strategies. Having people with big smiles at the front doors (which is awesome) might make someone smile, but would it put them at ease? Yes, it will a little. Then once they enter the building, they will be warmly greeted by several people. That’s gotta help a ton! But would it put them at ease? The service can be well thought out, and we can explain everything we’re doing to take away the awkwardness. Would it put them at ease?
We do all these things and so much more, but none of them is as valuable as this one thing:
a friend of theirs meeting them in the parking lot and walking into church with them. All of a sudden, they’re not worried about where to go. They’re not worried about not fitting in ’cause his/her friend gives them the skinny on what to expect. They’re not worried about looking foolish; they’ll just do whatever their friend does. They still may be a little nervous because it’s a new experience. But, it’s the exciting kind of nervous because “I’m safe. I’m with my friend.”
When it comes to what we do as followers of Jesus, there might not be anything as important as building friendships, real ones with real people. Then, when the door opens up to have a God-conversation, you are able to invite those friends to come with you to Brooklife where you’ll be their host. People need you. People are hurting and desperate for love, hope, peace, and belonging. We can give that to them…if we build real friendships with real people in our real world who need the Hope of Jesus.