The following blog was something we asked Elise Cho to write up after a conversation she had with a recent guest. It’s these conversations that can be so foreign to us as those who attend church regularly without realizing what it means to be the church to those who have no previous knowledge of Jesus or the community of people that represent Him in the world. Every Sunday is someone’s first or possibly last Sunday. That’s why we aim to guide people in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and want to make Him irresistible to anyone and everyone. To encounter God we need a community to engage others not only with the Gospel of Jesus, but also why we do the things we do. May this conversation challenge and even linger in your mind as a reminder of why we want to be the kind of church that wants to make Christ irresistible.
“Hey, there’s a new youth girl today. I don’t think she knows a lot about church. She’s in the gym with Jane now.”
“Oh, okay. Sounds good. Thanks!”
I stood outside the gym, looking for an unfamiliar face as the students were dismissed from the gym. I quickly identified the new student and fell into step with her, slowing my stride to match her pace as she slowly followed the other students. We exchanged names and chatted a little bit about ourselves and then I got interrupted with a question that I haven’t heard in a really long time:
“Hey, where are we going?”
“Oh, so after service, the youth kids leave the gym to go to their own classroom where they have their own service.”
“Sorry? What’s what?”
“What’s ‘service’? Is that the thing I was just in?”
(Wait. What? Hold up. Did this girl just ask me what service was?) I couldn’t tell if this girl was trolling me or not. However, the next ten minutes revealed that this new student really did not know what church was about. As we walked towards the youth classroom, the student continued to ask me question after question about who we were as a church and why we met at Newport.
“So, where does all of this stuff come from?”
“Stuff? Do you mean the signs, tables and computers?”
“Yeah. All of this. Is this part of the school?”
“No. It’s actually ours. We keep it in storage in trailers and in a public storage lot.”
“Wait, so you set this up EVERY week?”
“…yeah. Yeah, we do. There’s a team of people who bring all the equipment out, set it up and the break it down every Sunday.”
“Wow, that’s so cool!”
I couldn’t help, but smile. Having grown up in the church, I never realized how odd and strange visiting a church could be. I’ve been attending church for so long that I never really stopped to think how much of an effect our blue-and-cream banners and our information tables had on the environment. In my mind, most of these things were associated with labor because someone was in charge of setting these things up and taking them down every week. But for someone who was visiting for the first time, the signage and information tables adds to the environment.
“So, I have another question. Do you have to pay to come to church?”
“No…you don’t have to pay to come to church.”
“And if I were to bring my parents here…would they be able to meet other people and make friends here?”
“Y-yeah, your parents will be able to meet other people and make friends here. We actually have a program that helps with that, it’s called GroupLife…”
As I went on to explain what GroupLife was about, I was taken aback at how serious this student was. This girl genuinely wanted to know if she could come to church for free and find a community. The thought of bringing her parents excited her—I mean, the girl practically lit up when I told her there were other adults who attended our church. She told me that she wanted to bring her parents, she wanted to bring her little sister, she wanted to find out more information as to when and where all of our programs were happening.
This past Sunday, Pastor David gave a sermon on why presentation matters. At first listen, I thought he was talking about why it’s important to “look good” in the church. But when I took the time to listen carefully and reflected why presentation matters in light of the Gospel, I was reminded of this:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17, ESV)
Taking ownership of the presentation of the Gospel doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to put on a show for Christ. I think taking ownership of the presentation of the Gospel is allowing the truth to change your heart in a way where it leads to you to become a blessing to others. It means an internal change of heart that eventually leads to an external change of behavior. There’s something attractive and mysterious when you see someone genuinely excited about something. There’s something even more intriguing and eye-catching when you see a group of people gather together in sincere excitement. Now throw in a welcoming environment and a well-organized event. How could that not make someone curious of what the group is excited about?
People come to know Christ in many different ways—that’s probably why we have so many different ministries. Some feel closer to God through worship, others feel closer to God in smaller communities like GroupLife. Some just thrive off of a well-decorated environment.
My conversation with this new student reminded me that is there is no singular way for someone to connect to the Gospel. For this student, she originally came to Newport to pick up a book from her locker, but got caught up by the Guest Services table because she didn’t know who we were and why we were at her high school. This girl became excited and hopeful when she found out that her parents and her younger sister might “be able to make friends here”. It’s important to take ownership of the presentation of the Gospel because God desires all people, regardless of who or where they come from, would be blessed through Jesus. How we live our lives in light of who He is and what He has done affects the way we can be a blessing to others. The thing is, the gift of grace is both a personal gift and an interpersonal gift. Grace can be can be shared with other people both in private ways (e.g. prayer) and in public ways (e.g. smiling at someone who walks in through the doors).