[Jesus said] “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” [John 13:34-35 CEB]
We continue our sermon series, “People on the Porch,” this Sunday. Using an illustration by Methodism founder John Wesley, the people standing on the front porch refers to those who have not put their trust in Christ or "entered the front door" of the House of Salvation. The challenge for our church is to look beyond the walls of St. Andrew's to the community around us, to help lead them into the front door—into a life in Christ. But, how do we accomplish this?
A big part of the challenge is that it has been a long time for many of us since we were on the front porch. We cannot comprehend or relate to what someone on the outside of the church feels or thinks about Christians, the church, or St. Andrew’s UMC. We, as insiders, know who we are. We are people who experience the grace, love, and salvation offered through Jesus Christ by worshipping together, sharing in the Word, and serving.
But what about the people on the porch—how do they see us? Probably not in the same way we see ourselves. What do they think about when they think about a Christian? And is a life in Christ so irresistible, so compelling, so gripping that they want to rush through the door?
Have you discovered the new bakery in town called Crumbl Cookies? They have become a nationwide phenomenon for their unique and savory cookies that are indescribable. Each week they rotate the variety of styles of cookies they make. So, each week you will have a different menu of six or so cookies to choose from. They have developed a reputation as being the best cookies ever. They are irresistible. And many people will attest to this, including myself.
Our daughters first discovered Crumbl Cookies when they opened a bakery in Lutz. They didn’t think twice about driving 30 miles and waiting for 30 minutes to get a box of these cookies. (There is a location in Brandon now!) When a group of our youth and adult chaperones went to Pensacola for the youth mission trip, a new Crumbl Cookie bakery opened less than a mile from where we stayed. There was always a line out the door and down the street. But they were well worth they wait. The cookies are truly irresistible.
So how can we at St. Andrew’s, or any church, make it so irresistible that the porch people will be so willing to walk through the front door? How do we conduct ourselves in such a compelling way that people want to be a part of this community? This is the big question. And though we, being insiders, may have a simple answer to this question, the true task is to try to look at the same question through the eyes of the people on the front porch.
I regularly listen to a podcast by an Asbury Seminary professor named Dr. Brian Russell. He always ends his podcasts with the words, “Live by faith, be known by love, and be a voice of hope for others.” That may not describe the whole essence of how a Christian should behave. But if we just followed these words, it would be a good start. If we did live this way, maybe the people on the front porch would find this church irresistible and compelling. And it would be worth making that decision to step through the front door.