Several weeks ago my wife and I decided to move to Phoenix.
“This will be simple,” I thought. “We’ll call our Realtor, sign some papers, have nice pictures taken, empty the house, and get ourselves to the Valley of the Sun.”
The process has been almost nothing like that. Yes, we called our Realtor and yes, we signed some papers. Then we started signing checks.
I know, I know—the people buying the house are supposed to sign checks, but at the moment that’s our job.
We’ve lived in the house almost exactly eighteen years, and we’ve loved it. It is in a great neighborhood, has beautiful landscaping (we’ve made three calendars using only pictures from our yard), is in one of the best towns in America, and it has served us faithfully and well. Our friends admire it, our relatives enjoy it, and we are thankful for it.
But several weeks ago, it wasn’t ready for new residents.
Frankly, I didn’t know that, but our Realtor did. She suggested work on the house that would cost us thousands of dollars! How was that possible? We were living happily in the house every day. It was fine.
In fact structurally, safety wise, and in all major ways, it was and is fine. Why couldn’t we just sell it “as is” and let someone else do what they wanted to it?
My attitude was one of resistance. I could see no reason to modify our house, either through paint or new carpet or refinished hardwood floors, and I certainly couldn’t see going through all the time, hassle and money (mostly money) for the benefit of some stranger who might or might not like what we had done.
And that’s when it hit me—the house doesn’t need to be OK for us, we need to make it as nice as we can for the future owners. With that new attitude I embraced the process, got out the checkbook, and started signing.
Along the way another insight bubbled to the surface: this is exactly the same problem we have at many churches.
Those of us in a church, especially if we’ve been there for a few years, may not notice that the hardwood floors (some of our basic doctrines?) have taken on a little moisture over time and need to be sanded and polished.
We neglect our smoke alarms (spiritual discernment?) failing to see that they need new batteries, and that they should be placed better to offer proper protection.
We no longer notice that the yard (spiritual disciplines?) has as much crabgrass as bluegrass, and that there are tiny little trees (sins creeping in?) growing up from roots not all that far under the surface.
We don’t see that our watering system (teaching and preaching?) is misaligned and leaving dead spots in the yard (the body?).
We forget that there is a leak in our roof (prayer cover?) because the last time it rained (challenges in our church life?) we were able to endure it, mopping up the mess until God made it stop raining for a while.
We don’t even think of our curb appeal (reflecting the light of Jesus?). That’s because we always drive up to the house and walk in, we never drive by to get an idea of what kind of impression other people might get. We never walk across the street and look at our house from a different perspective. Why should we?
I could push this analogy even further, but I think you get the picture. Frankly, once I began to notice all that needed to be done, I was embarrassed that I had looked at my own house so poorly.
If you look at your church as critically as a buyer looks at a house, you will begin to see that there is much work to be done to make the house ready. Embrace the idea of making your church (God’s house) ready for the new people who may be coming in, or they simply will not come in—and if they do, they won’t stay. You cannot expect them to put up with all the flaws, the in-fighting, the peeling paint and the flickering light of the world you put up with because you have grown comfortable there.
Do all you can to make the physical property of your church as appealing and friendly and inviting as you can, but don’t stop there. Do whatever it takes to make your services and yourselves as appealing and friendly and inviting as you can for the one guest who matters most—our heavenly Father. Have an open house every week. Put up signs both visible and invisible that say, “Come in and look around, because you will like what you see. Make this your home.”
May we keep our homes—and more importantly may we keep our churches—always in good repair and ready for new owners. Doing so is really a matter of attitude. And that may be the first thing that needs to be repaired.