While my family and I were travelling south (to Baltimore) for our niece’s baby shower, my 15 year-old and 8 year-old got a haircut. We dropped my wife and daughter off at the Lion’s Club in Bowie (so that they could participate in baby related games without the distraction of three males who had no desire to be there) and headed toward the mall to find one of those national haircut chains. When we arrived at our destination, we noticed two things – one, it was crowded; and two, all the staff and clientele were women. We accepted defeat and chose not to get our haircuts. But as we turned to walk away, a man from a few shops down beckoned us to enter his establishment.
So, last Sunday my boys visited their first barber shop. It was a much different world (not better but different) than the Hair Cuttery© world from which we had just walked away. It was filled with men of color; it had an old episode of “Law and Order” on the four televisions suspended from the ceiling; it had the smell of shaving cream and after shave; it was dark and comfortable, warm and inviting. My boys talked with their barbers about such topics as nicknames (Josh’s barber was Chi-Chi) and sports (David’s barber was a big fan of the recently retired Kobe Bryant), and they were delighted by the conversations between the cutters and the customers, including a few men who just stopped by and greeted their barber with a fist-bump and just as quickly departed. It was a special time with my boys.
I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated and (dare I say) frightened to enter into an environment so far outside my comfort zone. I wonder if those are the same feelings many unfamiliar with the church feel when they first step through her doors. It has a different conversation than one may be used to, and everybody else seems to know one another. It may produce questions in the mind wondering if one’s need will be met here and what it would cost. As a pastor I wonder if there are sufficient members of the church community that are, by nature, inviting and open with those who are not members of the church community, so that anyone who may enter will be accepted for who they are and engaged in conversation over what we share.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5 (NIV)
My fears and intimidation in entering an ‘urban’ barbershop were completely unfounded – it was a wonderful experience. I would hope that the fears and intimidation of the non-religious in entering an ‘evangelical’ church will be likewise unfounded – that it would be a wonderful experience. In order for that to happen, both church folks and the non-church folks need to adapt. My boys would not have gotten a haircut if that kind barber hadn’t invited us in. My boys would not have gotten a haircut if we listened to our lesser voices and walked away simply because it was unfamiliar.
Take a chance: invite someone to church this weekend or accept an invitation and go to church this weekend. It may be a wonderful experience.