Summary: The issue behind first impressions and which first impressions matter most.
God’s Glorious Church
First Impressions Really Matter Part One
Woodlawn Baptist Church
April 10, 2005
(See end note for credit)
In 1 Corinthians 10:31, the apostle Paul said,
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
We have already considered that God desires to receive glory in and through His churches. Ephesians 3:21 tells us,
“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
There’s no debating the issue – God wants to be glorified in His churches. He wants to receive glory from our ministries. He wants to receive glory in the preaching. He wants to receive glory in the way we hold to His doctrine. He wants to be glorified in our prayer, in our practicing what He teaches, in our way of living and in our treatment of others. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” Paul said: everything.
In tonight’s message, I’d like to talk to you about the subject of first impressions, and why they matter when it comes to church and ministry, and the best place to start talking about why first impressions matter is to begin with an understanding of just what I’m talking about and why it needs to be discussed. Remember, God’s mission for us is to meet people in their state of lostness, and lead them to saving faith in Christ, after which we are to help them in the process of spiritual transformation: people who are maturing in their faith and becoming actively engaged in ministry. That’s God’s intent for each of your lives and for every life we touch.
Now, in an ideal world, people would have some idea that they need a relationship with God, or they would have some idea that they ought to be in church. In fact, if we’re honest about it, that’s sort of the way we approach ministry and the lost: as though they know this is what they need. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t live in an ideal world, and the reality is that most people could care less about church or a relationship with God; and given the consumer-driven society that we live in where we are competing for every moment of a person’s lives, every first impression matters. In fact, very often, a first impression is all we may have the opportunity to leave with a person. I have mentioned consumerism, which has become a problem of increasing concern in our churches.
The problem is this: Many churches are plagued with problems and are in need of work. The members seem to have little awareness of visitors, and they do things the way they’ve always done them and then wonder why they’re not growing. Some churches, on the other hand, have taken the matter to another extreme. Fearful that factual biblical teaching will offend those who are lost or new, the message is compromised and the methods become sovereign. Such churches have a consumer-driven mentality. A church that totally disregards the needs of the unchurched will reach few if any for the kingdom. But a church that makes most of its decisions based on the perceived needs of the same group is in danger of losing its biblical identity.
Now, I hear people say, “Brother, we can’t be like the world.” That’s an easy statement to make, and when someone says that it usually means that they want things done to suit their own tastes, as though what they like is representative of all that God desires, which is why I usually dismiss anyone who says that as being unwilling to think through the issues. That kind of talk is usually just a smoke-screen.
We do live in a consumer driven nation, so no church, not even ours, is immune from the “You can have it your own way” mentality. The question then becomes, “Where do you draw the line?” As our culture changes, without compromising the message of the gospel, how do we carry out our mission and at the same time make the greatest first impressions possible on our consumer-driven society? How do we meet people in a day and time when they are extremely busy, overloaded and stressed out and expect to grab their attention? I think I can answer that with one word, and it is a word that I want all of you to hear: It is an issue of excellence. When we talk about first impressions in church or ministry or even in our private lives, what we’re really talking about is excellence.
Do you know what excellence means? Excellence does not mean that we have to be bigger than the next church, or offer more ministries than some other church. Excellence is simply this: it is doing common things in uncommon ways. In other words, when God says “whether you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God,” He is talking about doing everything with excellence!