As I was walking into a business the other day, I noticed a sign. “No public restrooms.” I was relieved (pun not intended, but enjoyed nevertheless) because I’m not sure I’d want to use a restroom where everyone could see. I soon realized they meant something different. They were saying there wasn’t a restroom in their facility (again, pun not intended but enjoyed) that I could use.
As you know, my mind is a strange place, and it occurred to me that you don’t have to advertise bathrooms. People have a need for bathrooms, and they will come looking for them. So many people, it would seem, that if you don’t have one, you’re forced to advertise that fact! Some places of business (ok, I’m starting to intend some of these puns) are aware of the general public’s need for restrooms and use them as a means of attraction. “Cleanest bathrooms on Route 66.” “Last clean bathroom for 200 miles because don’t even think about using the ones at the truck stop next door...ew.”
Point is, people regularly need a bathroom. If that need is ignored, it will only become more and more urgent. The longer you ignore it, the more it occupies (heh) your thoughts so that eventually you can’t think of anything other than finding a bathroom (and heck, at that point you’ll use the bathroom at the truck stop next door because LET ME IN THE BATHROOM NOW!!!).
Funny thing about our need of the bathroom, though. We aren’t born knowing that we need it. That’s why diapers are a thing. At some point we become aware of feelings associated with needing to use the bathroom, at which time parents help us interpret those feelings as a need to use the bathroom. That connection becomes so hard-wired that our mind eventually equates the two, and going to the bathroom without going to the bathroom starts to seem odd. For those of you (probably male) thinking, “I don’t need a bathroom, hahaha,” I’d ask you why you typically look for a tree. One might even argue that the need for a bathroom is actually artificial, created by society because...ew. I disagree. It is well documented the unsanitary conditions resulting from a complete disregard for bathrooms is not tenable in the long term.
So we need bathrooms, and we know we need them. And as a result, nobody has to advertise them. They just have to provide them.
I am aware of my need for God. I know when I feel distant. The more I try to ignore that need, the more present it becomes in my mind. I can experience God at church, and in that experience I can find the joy of relief.
I was at a sign store today looking at the cost of signs to advertise our Christmas concert. Looking around the room at all the different signs, I was struck by how much churches spend on signs...on advertising. I can understand why. People need to know about special things coming up, after all. But then I realized that no amount of money spent on advertising can address the real problem. People know the church is here. You can’t miss the steeple. Poll 100 people who don’t come to church. I’ll bet 95 of them could tell you that if you walk in the church at 11 on Sunday morning you’ll find some kind of worship service. Ask the same 100 people if they need the church. 95 of them will tell you they don’t. Ask the same 100 people if they need to be loved, accepted, and supported. 73 will tell you they do. 27 will lie either because they don’t know or because they don’t want to admit they need support.
If God is unbridled love and acceptance, all people need God. God is what sets the church apart from everything else the community has to offer. But people don’t yet know that is what they need, and people don’t yet know the church is where you find it, in part because you actually can’t find it at far too many churches. If this is true, then evangelism takes on something of a different shape:
1. We must ensure that our church meets the universal need for love and acceptance.
2. We must help people identify their universal need for love and acceptance (evangelism?).
3. We must show people that need can be met in our church (discipleship?).
We won’t even need to advertise. If people feel the need for God, if they hunger and thirst for it, they will seek it out. Because LET ME INTO MY CHURCH RIGHT NOW!!!