So we went up to Anchorage to shop for a new car. Our old truck had been recalled and we weren't going to get it back. We had a pretty good idea what we wanted. But we were planning on visiting a few dealerships over the next couple of days. My wife was not looking forward to it. She hates to shop for cars. She knows what it is like and she has done this with me before. I get into the competitive side of car shopping. It is not a complete shopping experience unless you shake your head and walk out at least once. So we get to the first dealership at 8 am. Someone tells us the sales force usually does not come in until 9. As we were ready to head out for another cup of coffee, a man approached us. We had noticed him standing in the corner, baseball cap on his head and a newspaper under his arm. He was probably waiting for the service department. Can I help you, he asked. He was a salesman and as he led us into the showroom he wondered what we were looking for. 4 hours later we drove out with a new car. Most pleasant car buying experience I ever had. The salesman (let's call him Scott) was about our age (older) and had lived in Anchorage a long time and had worked at this dealership for over 10 years. He owned two of the kinds of cars we were looking at. In the course of the next four hours we talked cars, and families, and sports, and religion, and dogs and .... life. For a while it seemed the car buying was secondary! We drove cars and set in them. He steered us away from pricier options. He gave us his card and told us to call him anytime. As I thought about this later I realized he answered our questions but did not force any information on us we were not looking for. And there was no pressure.
When I got home and told a few people about this shopping experience, they said, he didn't have to do much, the car sells itself. Partially true, I thought, but that does not stop a lot of salesmen from, you know, doing what salespeople are known for.
Of course, I thought about what I do. Some people joke that pastors are in sales, too. Unfortunately, as far as that comparison goes, pastors can fit the stereotype of the car salesman. And so can our flock. We can be anxious when those people who are church shopping stop by. Did we make a good impression? Did they find what they were looking for? Do we need to change some things up to appeal to the church shopper? Did we successfully sell our product so they will come back and buy - join our church. Did we get to make our points - to seal the deal with hopefully not too much pressure. But there has to be some, doesn't there. After all we are dealing with eternal issues here.
But, what if we saw a person as a person with a life and we were interested in his or her life. Interested in getting to know them. Whether or not they joined the church was secondary. No pressure. We were not interested in them as potential church members but as persons. What if we were ok with just getting to know them. And letting them get to know us. What if we were confident enough in our "product" to let it sell itself (or Himself). What if we were sure we had found the best vehicle for life and if they hung around with us, they would want that vehicle, too.