Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It started small. In 1931 the Wall was just an ordinary pharmacy with one huge goal: to reach out to those in need. The depression years were terrible, and many businesses were going belly up; but despite the fact that the home of this particular pharmacy, Wall, South Dakota, was only a tiny town, it knew how to survive.
Located at the entrance to the South Dakota Badlands, tourists frequently passed through Wall during the hot summer months. The pharmacist figured out that the greatest need he could fill for these tourists was to quench their thirst. Although in those days they did not have refrigerators like we do now, he figured out a way to provide free ice water to anyone entering his pharmacy. But more than this, he treated anyone visiting his store like royalty.
Before long, the little pharmacy of Wall, soon to be known as "The Wall", along with its pharmacist who cared enough to take an interest in his customers, became famous all over the state, and eventually all over the US. People literally flocked in.
Over the years, business continued to boom, and now The Wall has expanded to the point that it could better be called an indoor mall. Covering an entire city block, it contains a variety of stores where one can buy clothing, shoes, books, toys, souvenirs, music, food… and of course, pharmaceutical drugs. But it is still renown not only for its many services, but especially for its friendly and caring staff and its free ice water.
Being friendly attracts people. Caring for others makes people think. Being genuinely interested into the welfare of others opens up even the hardcore introverts. People flock to places where they really feel welcome.
I have to wonder why so many churches can't seem to attract those who don't know Jesus.
I mean, the gospel message is powerful. Not only does it free people from addictions, it also provides freedom and real life beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Jesus is alive and He backs up his message of salvation: "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV); "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20 NIV).
So why aren't people flocking in?
Is it possible that it's because we, as Christians, do not know how to genuinely be interested into the welfare of others? Is it possible that we don't really know how to love others like Jesus did? Is it possible that we don't know Jesus intimately enough? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV); "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:12 NIV)
If newcomers don't feel welcome in an establishment, especially in a church, they will eventually stop coming. Churches are famous for clicks, but we have to ask ourselves if we attend church to be with our friends, or if we attend with the single purpose of worshiping the One who makes a difference in our lives, of loving and adoring Him and of loving and encouraging those He died for? Isn't attending for any other reason truly a waste of time?
"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt 7:22-23 NIV)
What is your purpose for attending church? Do you want to follow in Jesus' steps? Do you want to obey His call to love one another and to broadcast His dynamic message of love and deliverance to a generation that hungers for real meaning in life?
"Excuse me, is your ice water truly free?"
"Absolutely sir. By the way, my name is Christian. Where are you coming from? Let me help you out…"
A little bit of friendliness will have a huge impact on someone's life. If you don't believe it, visit the Wall in Wall, South Dakota.
Dear Lord, help us reach out to those that come into our churches. We pray that the impact we leave will make them feel welcome and want to learn more about Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.