Our bathroom at work has a lock on the door, not just on the stall inside, but on the door. This makes sense because there is only one stall – don’t really want to share a one-toilet bathroom.
When I have to make a trip to said bathroom, I check the dead-bolt to see if it is locked. If it is, I know that someone is in there and I will have to do one of two things: hold it or go to the smelly, slightly dangerous student bathroom upstairs.
A few weeks ago I headed to the bathroom and saw that the door was unlocked, so I pushed open the door and stepped right in. To my surprise, I saw a professor standing comfortably in his golf shirt, khakis and thick soled tennis shoes relieving himself with the stall door wide open. At this point, I stumbled back out of the door and back to my desk – I didn’t have to use the bathroom anymore…for the rest of the day.
Recently I had a similar experience, though a little less visually scarring. As my wife and I are preparing to move our family up to the Raleigh-Durham area, we went up to stay with some very gracious friends in the area. Friday and Saturday were spent in job hunts and various other needed tasks (including a date night/afternoon with my wife!). On Sunday, we wanted to try out area churches since we were sans children.
Our friends gave us two churches in the area that we might want to check out. We left early that morning to make sure we could find the first church. We found it..about 30 minutes before services started. We killed a little time and made our way back close to 15 minutes early. The parking lot was still basically empty, but people were milling around the foyer so we parked in the specially marked visitors parking places (kind of embarrassing) and went inside.
Once in the building, we walked around the front looking as lost as could be. We meandered around looking at a video screen showing missionaries from the church around the world. We walked past the free coffee (neither of us drink) to the information wall. Perusing the brochures and bulletins, we nervously waited for the sanctuary doors to open and offer us the relief of a purpose – sitting down to begin the worship service.
When we finally made our way inside, it felt like a cool, hip, Calvinistic night club. Ambience lighting flowed from the faux-stained glass windows as Caedmon’s Call music drifted softly through the air. This place looked like the place to be. We had found the popular church, the place where all the cool people go.
The only problem was no one wanted us there.
On our way in, the greeter spoke hastily, but nicely enough to us as he handed us a bulletin and turned to continue talking with his friend. That was the only time anyone in the entire church ever spoke to us. No one ever came up to us as we were looking lost outside. We were obviously visitors – we parked in those special parking places remember? No one ever introduced themselves as we sat in the far back corner of the sanctuary, as far away from everyone else as possible – another sure sign we were new.
People walked by us through out the service. A couple did say “excuse me” as they slide past us to what must be their usual seats. But nobody ever made us feel like they actually wanted us there. My wife thought the same thing. It was her first comment when we got in the car. If we had this feeling, I can’t imagine what an unchurched person would have thought.
Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote about how businesses and employees change if the Pope is coming for a visit. At this church the Pope probably would have gotten the same treatment, but if I had been John Piper I think I would have been treated a little differently. If it is somebody that you value, you put more effort into what you are doing.
Their problem wasn’t that they are Calvinist (some of the most friendly people are know are), it was that they didn’t value those they didn’t know. They didn’t think me or my wife were worth the effort to be friendly. They didn’t think we could contribute enough to their church family or their lives to move them away from their conversation with friends.
The church should have simply hung a “No Visitors Allowed” sign on their front door because they attitude gave that impression. Just like the professor in the bathroom, if they didn’t want my wife and I there, the church should have locked the door and saved us the embarrassment of being somewhere we obviously were not welcome.