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It only takes one…

"Lonely" Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Davide Cassanello. Sourced from FlickrI had opportunity to chat with a friend this week about an experience she’d had with a professional.

The person was, I’m presuming, having a bad day. Maybe they hadn’t slept well, maybe they were counting the hours until vacation, maybe their personal life was falling apart.

Whatever it was, the encounter was NOT a positive one.

So much so, that my friend was turned off the entire profession.

It’s been a conversation, I’ve realised, that I’ve had a number of times. And it’s a different profession each time. A doctor with a bad bedside manner becomes “doctors these days are all horrible” or an unattentive retail provider becomes “sales staff these days are all lazy.”

The underlying theme: it only takes one.

On the other side of the coin, it only takes one good experience to shift the conversation too. A friendly waiter becomes “they only have great service at this restaurant” or a compassionate nurse becomes “they all go above and beyond.”

Again, it only takes one.

I think we need to be aware of this in the church. One bad church experience could mean someone no longer wishes to be part of the community—and that would be unfortunate. Yet one good church experience could mean someone wishes to engage more deeply in the mission and ministry of Christ’s church here on earth—and that would be lovely.

As the church, then, I think we need to be careful and intentional about how we present ourselves. We are called to be welcoming within the sacred space, of course; but we are also challenged to demonstrate those good Christian values when we are outside of the building too. We should be careful not to gossip, not to disrespect, not to complain. We should be careful to demonstrate dignity for all, to seek the Christ in all people, to regularly celebrate community in prayer.

Let’s be careful of the one experience, the one story, that people are having, of the church. For one story from each person in a conversation can become many stories that culminate into a reputation.

How we go about being church in the world will influence people’s understanding of what it means to be church. We can allow it to be a negative one, or we can make it into a positive one. Let’s choose to make it positive. Let’s show the world that we are Christians—by our love. Let’s show the world, one good experience at a time. It only takes one….

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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10 Responses to It only takes one…

  1. Church should be pleasing to God! We are not in the “pleasing one another” business!!

    • Hi Kevin Melissa;
      I may not have fully conveyed my starting point – and that is that in all times and at all places we should be doing what pleases God.
      I think, further, that when we do things that do not please God (gossip, disrespect, complain, etc.) it does a disservice to God and to God’s church. It’s all about living an authentically Christian life in all we say and do; and being aware that only one experience where we eschew those Christian values/practices can colour another’s perception of what the church can – and ought to – be.

  2. In pleasing one another we are pleasing God.

  3. In pleasing one another we are pleasing God.

  4. We can please God when we please one another, but they are not always the same thing. There are situations where we can please both God and our neighbours, but the reality is that God’s ways are not always society’s ways and what society expects of us can sometimes come into conflict with what God demands of us. In those situations we must remain faithful to God while discerning the best ways to avoid causing unnecessary hurt or offence to others.

    • True, Matthew, thanks. As I mentioned above in the comments, we do need to keep God first. And when we live the authentic life of faith, it will show. But when we fail, only one experience can have the detriment of turning someone away from church.

  5. That was how I had understood your article to begin with. Thank you for writing it!

  6. Dawn Leger

    On a different note. The more we put out our positive stories the less weight the negative ones have. I once asked my congregation when was the last time they had a conversation with anyone outside of the church about Church. Not Jesus or theology, simply, hey, this happened at my church. Most couldn’t remember a conversation in the previous 6 months.

    So, we share the good news and, when there is bad news, we listen. And say we are sorry, because we are all the Church and so we all bear responsibility.

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