Last month Rita and I had the privilege of spending a few days in Hong Kong with a couple of hundred pastors from Mainland China. I was invited to teach eight sessions on my book, The Presence, and to preach two evening services on prayer and revival.
It was humbling to be with leaders who endure so much and so rewarding to share a similar heart and passion.
Our meetings were in the heart of the old city, and our little hotel was right across the street from the McLaren dealership. Now, that name may not mean anything to you, but, for a car fanatic, a McLaren is the pinnacle of automotive design and engineering.
Nothing, except maybe the Bugatti, is even a close second.
Twin turbo DOHC 3.8 liter V8.
679 brake horsepower.
Built mostly of carbon fiber and titanium.
Top speed 207 mph.
0-60 in 2.9 seconds.
And you, too, can have your own for a mere $200,000.
I had to walk past the McLaren dealership every day on the way to and from our meetings.
The building was not particularly impressive.
The showroom was small, even a little cramped.
There was only room for two McLarens and a small desk.
I never saw anyone, other than the salesman, in the showroom. I guessed that even looking at the car up-close was by appointment only.
But that didn’t seem to matter.
In the short time we were in Hong Kong, they must have sold one because, when we first arrived at our hotel, there were two white models in the showroom and, by the time we left, one of them had been replaced by an orange-colored model.
Here is the deal!
Every time we walked past the dealership, Rita had to keep me from running into pedestrians or light poles, because my eyes were fixated on the McLarens.
So, was it the showroom or the car that made my head turn and my heart skip a beat?
I think you know the answer.
Here is my point!
I hear and read all kinds of opinions today on what the Church needs to do or how it should change in order to attract people to come back through the doors. Everyone is panicked about the absence of Millennials in church today.
Everyone and their uncle is posting five keys to this and ten principles for that, suggesting ways to recapture our dwindling market…ways to ensure the church survives the generational changes happening all around us.
I have a problem with all of the suggestions. I know that doesn’t surprise those of you who know me.
The majority of all the new ideas are just window-dressing.
Ways to make the showroom more attractive, more conducive for shoppers. Trendy decor. Las Vegas show-like atmosphere. A barista waiting to serve beverages with four names.
Age-specific music only allowed. Dumbed-down product information with slide show. And a weekly sales pitch that never offends and assiduously avoids the whole truth of the Gospel.
Surely that will bring the customers in!
The problem is that they are just sales gimmicks… a carefully camouflaged bait and switch sales strategy. You resort to these kinds of ploys when you have rubbish cars you are trying to palm off to an unsuspecting public! You don’t need them when you have McLarens in the showroom.
It’s the reputation and performance of the McLaren that turned my head every time I walked past the dealership… and that is exactly what exploded the early Church across the world in the years that followed the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.
The showroom (the gathered community of faith) was never intended to be what sold the product (salvation).
It was changed lives.
New patterns of living visible in homes, neighborhoods, work places.
New ambitions and desires that set the convert apart from the rest of the world.
Unbelievable selflessness and love.
Love for God, love for His people and love for the lost.
The joy of the Lord in all circumstances.
A sense of God’s presence whenever you were around them.
Radical transformation that friends, neighbors and associates couldn’t take their eyes off of.
That’s the attraction we need that will rebuild and re-populate the church today!
We are expecting the gathered Church (the showroom) to do what can only be accomplished by the living testimony of a vibrant Christian faith (the McLaren) outside the gathering place.
And that is something that will only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit with the power and presence of God at work in the life of every believer.
Everything else is cheap window dressing.