Last Tuesday I had the very fortunate opportunity to go to visit the dentist. I say it was fortunate because, although I no longer have the pleasure of having my choppers inspected by our own, Dr. Vance Bingham, I understand that regular visits to the dentist are good for me. Such visits are a healthy and wise choice to make.
Rachel, seen here, was my dental hygienist.
I told Rachel, that I was anticipating that this experience may just make its way into my newsletter for the month. She kindly gave me her permission to talk about my experience there. And may I just say, Rachel is great. She is a new mom of an 11 month old baby. Her husband is a firefighter. And her family are members over at the Independent Bible Church.
So, Rachel, if you’re reading this, thank-you for your permission to talk about the experience, and for being such a good example for the rest of us.
What’s that you say, dear reader? You don’t see how my experience at the dental office and my connection with Rachel is an illustration for the church? Allow me to explain.
The simple truth is that there are significant similarities for a person visiting the dentist and someone visiting church for the first time, (or even the second, or third…). There is often the mixed reality where the guest finds himself thinking things like, “it is probably good for me to be here, but boy, does it make me nervous too. How invasive is this examination going to be? Will it hurt? What if my dirty secrets are exposed – I know I should brush more than once a week, but I’m so busy!”
So, as I sat in the dentist’s chair, I tried to think, what can the church learn from Rachel?
I think first is to recognize that she didn’t great me wearing all the garb seen in the previous picture. While that garb is important for her job and perhaps it would likely be more convenient for her to just go around already prepped for her duties at the dentist office, this isn’t what she did. To say it simply, she didn’t greet me while wearing her mask. Instead, this was who I got to see when I was welcomed into the back room.
Isn’t this beautiful, happy face far less intimidating than being greeted by that anonymous person behind the mask?
What masks might we wear, what busyness might we convey, even unintentionally to our guests? Are we even aware when guests come in the door, or when they sit alone in a pew? What if, on seeing a person new to our church walk in the door, you were to invite them to sit with you during the service? Can visiting with our close friends in church, to the unintentional exclusion of guests, be a form of wearing a mask?
And what else do we all know about Rachel? She has a new baby, her husband is a fireman, her family is connected at IBC. Isn’t that awesome. Intuitively she knew how to take down those barriers and became someone I could trust, long before she started digging in my mouth, poking my gums, and doing her best to gracefully ignore my bad breath.
May we give thought to how we might bless others, in the same way, when they visit our church. For those who are interested in learning more about this very subject, there is an excellent book called “Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church” by Gary McIntosh, which I would highly recommend.
“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ. For he is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.” – Rule of St. Benedict
This article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of the FBC newsletter. Click here to view the rest of this newsletter.