In the hopes of sending the kids out of the house each morning in the right mindset, I taped a Dr. Seuss quote to the door that reads: “Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” Similar to the cliché about having only one opportunity to make a first impression, if you see someone infrequently, then your attitude and actions from that day will stick in their memory, whether good or bad. Unfortunately for parents, it seems like the times when you want the kids to make the best impression, they do completely the opposite and act like hyenas in a boxing ring.
As a church family, we have a similar opportunity every week to make a good impression. Every detail matters – from having enough greeters in the parking lot to enough toilet paper in the restrooms, from the printed bulletin to a handshake during welcome time, from the music to the sermon. What do we want visitors (and members, for that matter) to remember as they leave the building each week?
I’ve been guilty sometimes of showing up to church in a grumpy mood, stressed out or preoccupied. It pains me to think that I may not have smiled at someone who really needed to be uplifted that particular day (even more than I may have) or didn’t go a few steps out of my way to say “hi” to a new person because I wasn’t feeling sociable. Those aren’t the things I want them to remember. I want them to remember having a personal encounter with God because of their worship experience that morning.
Psalm 111 provides a great example of a lasting impression. The author begins by declaring, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation” (v. 1, ESV). Surrounded by people who are creating a first impression of us (and Christ in us, consequently), will we put aside the distractions and focus on giving thanks to God with all that we are?
The good news is that even though we are human and screw things up more often than we’d like to admit, God is still so gracious and faithful. Today marks another fall and another new school year for us as a church family to strive to live authentically (albeit, imperfectly) in community together. Looking back we can claim dozens upon dozens of people baptized and hundreds of lives changed. God deserves our praise and thanksgiving! The psalmist wrote, “He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful” (v. 4). But, looking forward our hearts must still ache to say, “Oh, there are more stories God has for this fall and into the new year.” If we are faithful to live out our calling as a church family, just imagine the stories we will be telling in the fall of 2015. And what about the stories to come in the years that follow? It starts now! It starts today!
Originally posted June 2, 2013 (revised)