Imagine you’ve never been to church before. Never heard of Jesus. Never read the Bible.
You notice a lot of cars pulling into a building. You’re not sure what the fuss is all about. You decide to check it out.
It takes you a while to find a parking spot. The folks next to you rush in. They’re looking straight ahead, some with scowls, others with polite stares. Mothers are pulling their kids along, fathers are bleary eyed.
You’re a bit confused, but you don’t want to miss whatever it is that got them out of bed so early. Some of them are carrying a book with a handle. Strange, but you’ve seen stranger things in your lifetime.
As you walk through the door, a couple of folks have a smile plastered on their faces in stark contrast to those walking in. You smile back, but you still don’t have a clue what the buzz is about. Then you hear someone saying: “Good morning, welcome to our church.”
Church. So that’s what they call the building with the steeple.
Everyone is walking into a big room set up like a stadium with a platform in the middle. A guitar stand and a drum set are on it surrounded by a couple of mics. For a split second, it strikes you that church may be another word for concert, or band.
Someone guides you up an aisle and directs you to sit. No one asks for your ticket. It must be a free concert.
You glance to your right, but the woman is staring at her phone. She won’t return your glance. You look to your left, and the man is so preoccupied in a conversation with his wife you can’t squeeze in a question. What time does the concert start? How long does it go? Who’s playing? Is the opening band any good? Why do they have the concerts so early on a Sunday?
You look around and notice that some people look like they’re still sleeping. Their eyes are shut. Others are reading that book with the handle. You make a mental note to buy yourself one of those books next time you come, if there is a next time.
Nothing happens for a while and you’re about to leave when you suddenly see a countdown clock pop up on the big screen. Five minutes before take off. You might as well stay.
The lights dim, the music is about to start. But a second before it does, the guy up front says “Hi, and welcome to our church.” He then closes his eyes and talks to an invisible person. It’s weird. You’ve never seen anything like it before.
Then something strange happens. The folks on your right and on your left stand up and it’s as if a whole new person has taken over their bodies. They start singing with everything they’ve got. A few minutes into it, their hands are lifted high and tears are streaming down their faces.
You feel oddly out of place. Everyone knows the words to the songs, but you’ve never even heard them before. Some songs are better than others, some singers much better than others. But they don’t seem to care. It’s almost like they’re singing to someone else.
This goes on for twenty minutes. Then the guy up front closes his eyes again and talks to the invisible person. He calls it a prayer, but to you it sounds like any other conversation you might have with someone. The main difference is that the guy praying seems to be worshiping the one he’s praying to. It’s kind of eerie.
On cue, some folks walk up the aisles and start passing out a bag. People take out their wallets and start dumping money into the bag. No wonder no one collected tickets earlier. No free concerts around here. But wait, the guy up front is talking again. He says this is a part of worship not meant for visitors. Things couldn’t get any stranger.
The concert goes on a little bit longer. Then the band leaves the stage. You think it’s over, but no one makes a move to leave. And then another guy gets up front. He’s kind of average looking, but when he starts talking he sounds a lot smarter and a lot more confident and convincing than anyone you’ve ever heard before.
As he starts talking, everyone around you opens the book with the handle and starts flipping to the same page. You remind yourself for the second time to get yourself one of those books if you ever come back.
You’re a little distracted, until the guy up front mentions a name.
And everything suddenly goes into slow motion.
Your heart skips a beat.
You’ve never heard that name before, but there’s something about it. Your ears perk up, your heart starts to race. You feel like you’ve just run a mile. You hang on every word. Sinners set free. Hearts made whole. Freedom granted. Love poured out on a cross. Eyes opened now see. Lives set free. A Savior crucified and risen from the dead.
You look around. You can’t see Him but you sense He is near. Can anyone see Him?
Suddenly you know. You can’t go on another day without Him.
The service ends. Folks walk out. Nobody stops you. Not a word is spoken, not a glance your way.
But you know without a shadow of a doubt: next Sunday you’ll be back. Because deep in your soul you know that life will never be the same again since you’ve heard that name.
What do people see when they come to your church for the first time? Do they see Jesus in you? Or do they have to wait until your pastor starts speaking to see the face of that beautiful name?
What if you came to your church for the first time and ended up sitting next to you? Would you meet Jesus or just another tired, sleepy Christian waiting for the service to begin?