August 15 – Opening Doors: A Lobbyist, er, Narthexist, for the Gospel

sanctuary_outsideI I’d like to make a plea for all of us at LPC to consider God’s calling to become a lobbyist. Of course, at LPC we are just barely high church enough to call our lobby a narthex, so, in fact, I’m asking you to consider becoming a narthexist. 

Late last year when Gallup asked Americans about the honesty and ethical integrity of the members of various professions, nurses, pharmacists, and grade school teachers were rated as most trustworthy. Used car salespeople, members of congress, and lobbyists were rated least trustworthy (though the continued downward slide of members of the clergy was the headline for the report). The used car salespeople outpolled the members of congress of by one point and the lobbyists by three points.  You have to wonder about the 6% of us that rate lobbyists as highly or very highly honest.

According to the BBC, the term lobbyist originated two hundred years ago and it refers to those who trolled the lobbies and hallways of Parliament seeking to influence the votes of MPs and peers. Typically we think of lobbyists as peddlers of cash and influence who hold undue sway over the decisions of our elected officials. The current administration in Washington recently created an unusual bipartisan outcry in the media when it loosened its rules about lobbyists serving on White House Advisory boards. This in the left-leaning Huffington Post.

So with all that said, I’d like to make a plea for all of us at LPC to consider God’s calling to become a lobbyist. Of course, at LPC we are just barely high church enough to call our lobby a narthex, so, in fact, I’m asking you to consider becoming a narthexist. Political lobbyists barely make a 6% positive rating. A good narthexist just may hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In slightly edited form, this is the copy of an email I received earlier this week:

Hi Pastor Bill,

(We) have been enjoying attending church with you, thank you so much for how welcome we have been made to feel the past few months by you and the entire congregation, it is exactly the environment we were seeking to teach our daughter about God and community. I am emailing to inquire about what steps (we) would need to take to become members of the church…

Wonderfully, this is the third such email I have received in the past month.  As I visit with and get to know couples like this I see some common threads in the stories they tell. In the case of couples, marriage or the birth of a child often causes them to begin to think about important things. Their own faith, or maybe their lack of faith, and a faith to pass on to their children are among those important things.  Our single visitors may come simply seeking a church home in a new town or looking for a faith to sustain them in a tough time.

Our website is often their first introduction to LPC.  Some of them are drawn to our contemporary service and many others to a worship service that “feels like church.”  They comment on the clarity and the focus of the message and ministry of LPC. They are looking for a church that stands for something. Whether they know him well or are just beginning to get to know him, they want a church where they will find Christ.

The unanimous consensus of these new friends is that they have found LPC to be a warm and welcoming place.

That’s where the call to be a narthexist comes in.

LPC is currently blessed with a handful of committed narthexists. We need more.  A narthexist is someone who intentionally gets to the narthex before and after worship for the sole purpose of influencing our visitors to want to get to know us (and our Lord) better. Yes, narthexists are known to troll the fellowship hour and to linger in the sanctuary, but they know the narthex is where most of the important action takes place.

Narthexists know that:

  • Names and faces matter. They recognize first time visitors as visitors to be welcomed, and figure out how to remember the names of second and third time visitors.
  • Most first, second, and third time visitors are shoppers. They didn’t come for a long conversation; they came to see if we might be what they are looking for. Some have been shopping for months and are getting discouraged.
  • Most visitors want to be shown and not told, to be heard and not asked.  A smile and a handshake, a name remembered, means much more than “I think you’ll find this to be a friendly place.” “Good to see you again,” is more welcoming than “where do you live and how long have you lived there?”  It’s much better than, “I remember when my kids were little. I used to have this special Sunday diaper bag, and I would always bring a Tupperware full of Cheerios. I, I, I, and blah, blah, blah…”
  • It’s all about Christ and not about them. As they drive home after worship, good narthexists don’t ask, “Did they like me?”  They ask, “Did I somehow, someway, represent Christ and his love to them?”

Our “You’ve Got Mail” mailbox is beginning to fill. The website gets new hits every day. We need a few more lobbyists, er, narthexists, people who God can trust with the gospel. Oh, we also need some sidewalkists and lunchroomists. That for another day.

See You Sunday