I know a little about this, so listen up.
Today is Christmas Eve, ya hear - the season nearly to be jolly and all that. And it has an interesting parallel to my former trade!
Imagine the scene - sitting behind a desk, all togged up in a sharp suit, kitted out with an even sharper pencil, a little graph paper and a calculator. On that desk is a computer and below it drawers filled with the detritus of a thousand flooring transactions - plans, rough sketches, knackered pencils, quotes for people who promised that they would be back months since. Imagine that desk, inside an out-of-town retail shed, filled with carpet sample-books, four-metre rolls in fours rolled onto racks for the cut-and-take trade. It is a Saturday afternoon, the day hasn't gone so well and targets will be missed. The wearer of the sharp suit is demoralised - another week where the commission won't pay the rent or mortgage. It is five o'clock, the day all but done. A good lounge-carpet order might just tip the balance, but one with all the 'extras' to make it worth the effort.
A person enters the shop, approaches the desk - hope springs eternal. They are holding a piece of paper with a pencil-drawn shape upon it - might this be the lounge order that saves the week?
"Could you show me the bathroom carpet please?"
The heart sinks. Labour-intensive, low return, fussy little order at five on a blessed Saturday. A frustrated finger is lifted into the air - pointing to a hitherto undisclosed location. "Down there, love; end of the aisle".
Anyone who has sold flooring will know that feeling. If they were anyone who had worked for me, they will also know that after that seated direction to the irritating customer, they would receive a lecture from me about manners and commercial acumen! Why? Because of lost potential. Every house has a bathroom, and if that carpet looks nice for a satisfied and well-treated customer, who knows what the January sales would bring. The Lounge, hall and three bedrooms - who knows.
I observe some of this tendency in church life. Commit to us and we will bother with you. Dip in once or twice a year and we will jolt out the proverbial finger to a pews-news - if they want to know more. Midnight Mass is one such time - once-a-year types taking our seats (and they are probably only here because the pubs are shut anyway - aren't they). We see the same for large baptism gatherings out our main services. Noisy lot - sitting in our seats and talking through the prayers.
I arrive at Christmas after a bruising few weeks (at one level) having observed so many people draw close once or twice throughout the year for their religious bathroom carpet. It is easy to judge the once-onlies against our thrice-weeklies - their bathroom carpet to our lounge and bedroom! I am also in need from time to time to remember how much of a blessing they are to us. Once leads to twice leads to often if we let it. Christmas is that precious opportunity not just to point to the back of the shop, but to take these people and walk with them for the moments that they are with us. That is evangelism. That is the sale!
So they don't want to sign the pledge, the standing-order form and the Course sign-up sheet. Not yet anyway. But who knows what they will need and want in the new year. God knows.