This is the age of “image is everything!” Businesses spend millions for that “just right” look. And if you really watch the TV commercials you‘ve got to believe that individuals do too. In our craze to “market the church” Christian leaders also have been deeply influenced to create and maintain an image. From the color of the paint on the walls to the tone and content of our preaching we are constantly directed to present a consistent image. Of course, that image is to be one of warmth, compassion and acceptance in a user-friendly environment. It is not my intention here to belittle this practice because we have all experienced the barrenness of churches that have been totally indifferent to the question “How do others see us?”
But there is a built-in shallowness to this image question. If this becomes a dominant concern with us, what makes us think we will become any less vain than the man or woman who can’t resist endless primping each time he or she passes a mirror. We should first be asking an entirely different question: how does GOD see us? To deal honestly with this most important question we must put aside the “church marketing” books and read THE Book, especially the part where Jesus answers that question of the church at Ephesus. In His brutally frank way He lets them know the truth. Amidst all the good things they had going for them (of real substance, by the way) He lets them know that they have a potentially fatal flaw: they have lost their “first love.” No amount of tinkering with externals is going to make up for it either. In fact, Jesus says that if they don’t do something to restore it quickly He is going to put them out of business.
That got me thinking about which of these two questions we have decided is the most important to us. I think this whole idea of trying to become a friendly, accepting, compassionate church is going about it backwards. Our goal should be to allow the Spirit of God to work within us to produce what He promised to produce if we cooperate with Him; that is, real faith hope, love, and all those other things that people genuinely long for. To concentrate on acting friendly, without experiencing a genuine work of the Spirit within us is only to offer an empty shell. The substance that fills that shell can only come as we truly desire to live a life that is pleasing to Him. That is my prayer for all of us.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship