This post will appeal to my boss, because on this issue we are probably of a like mind. This post is also rooted in the issue about which I may even venture to write a book.
This is not a post about Lucy Moore and her work. This concerns our church buildings in their rather unique place in our world. They are, in many ways, a cross between our homes and retail outlets. You will all be amply qualified to assess your home for its accessibility and welcome to your guests. I am amply qualified to comment on accessibility and welcome offered by retail outlets.
Neil Pugmire wrote a book called '100 Ways to Get Your Church Noticed', a tome that does well what it says on the tin. In my former life, the marketting men had much to say on how to get people to the front doors of our emporia, and in all our present lives, we will have views about how he like our homes to look to the eye of a passer-by or a visitor. However, getting people to the door is half the battle. In commercial terms, not a thread of carpet was ever sold to a person who never entered the building.
Churches, of all breeds age and churchmanship, seem to disregard the fact that they are places that provide something. It may be a place, an act of worship, a venue for an experience with God, a meeting place, a place to learn about churches, a concert, passing curiosity - all of these things represent, to forgive the terminology, the 'product' of a church. Frankly, the more of that 'product' that is taken up, the higher the footfall, and in the end, the greater the conversion rate (commercial and spiritual meanings intended).
Let me illustrate my point from the perspective of a shop. How many carpets would be sold from a unit that closed its doors all day? How many would be sold from a shop that didn't put on its lights or kept the place warm? How many rugs would be transacted in a store that was a mess and behind whose doors was a pile of detritus that customers would be caused to climb over before they could get to what they came in for? How long would people remain in a store if the ambiance were a cross between the funereal and grumpy possessive? This is before I ask the same questions about your homes and how your visitors would experience them!
There are so many questions like this. The answer, of course, is not many. In Britain, many of us are blessed with some stunning churches that are half empty and rarely visited. We have a mandate to make disciples of people, yet one of the finest vehicles to that is the place from which we minister. Sadly I have lost count of churches that are in every way possible 'closed for business'. Ranging from damp cold, to mouldy smell, to piles of discarded pew sheets on the messy desk that I have seen inside the front door. Our visitors will judge our love for Our Lord by how we hove His house. Our visitors will recognise, quick as a flash, what is important to us. Does the church look like a dishevelled recording studio? Does it look like a faded museum of ancient artifacts? If it were your home, would you dream of having dinner guests sit at a table already cluttered with the dirty pots from breakfast or the innards of a knackered toaster?
I urge every one of you reading this, who has an interest in their church building, to step outside the door and re-enter it with a camera. Take a picture of the first impression you get. Print it A3 in colour and be honest about what you see. Of course, this assumes that the doors aren't locked in the first place, which is more of the case these days. Evangelism is about 'going out', of course. But why, when we spend hard-earned shekels chasing them do we consistently neglect those who have felt called to visit us? There is a business statistic that I heard once: that only 1 in 14 customers enter a shop without ever having been affected by it in some way beforehand (recommendation, prior visit, advertising etc). Those are the ones who have more to do with the remaining 13 than any other. I wonder if a correlation can't be made in those who visit our churches for the first time.