By Jacqueline J. Holness
As Christians, we are called to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This verse has always struck me as wonderfully dramatic. I imagine scores of excited Christians lining up, boarding airplanes, clutching a Bible in one hand and an atlas in the other, determined to travel the globe to proclaim Christ! But what about the “sermons” we preach in our everyday lives in our own neighborhoods?
One of my worst habits is that I am a procrastinator—which is comical, since I usually rise hours before I have to be anywhere. But I typically still arrive late to my destination because I dawdle on the computer or whatever it is that I find to do that leaves me with no choice except to dash to my car and speed all the way. This puzzling behavior is no more apparent than on Sunday mornings. If I drive the speed limit, I should get to my church in about 35 minutes or so, but when I speed, I can whittle that time down!
I am reasonably sure that those drivers who have witnessed me weaving around cars to find the most direct route to church are not interested in my Christian “witness.” They have already witnessed my beliefs in action. In the Bible, we are told to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13), so I’m asking God to help me obey his Word, particularly when it comes to speeding.
Other Christians seem to have more trouble after leaving church. I came across a website created by Chad Roberts of Preaching Christ Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. Servers and others in the hospitality industry can anonymously post their horror stories about the bad behavior of the church crowd who frequents restaurants on Sundays (sundaysaretheworst.com/stories).
Roberts said the website’s concept was born after he heard about a minister in St. Louis who “went with their church group to Applebee’s and wrote on the receipt, ‘I give God 10 percent why would I give you 18 percent?’” The stories include one about a minister who stole tips and another about a minister who left a prayer card as a tip.
To be fair, Michael Lynn of Cornell University and Benjamin Katz of HCD Research conducted a study “Are Christian/Religious People Poor Tippers?” and concluded that the average Christian tips 17 percent of the bill after good restaurant service. Whichever side is accurate, Christians should always remember to “treat others as you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). Do you think the ministers who stole tips and left a prayer card as a tip would have any success in inviting the restaurant staff to their churches to hear their sermons?
The Rest of the Week
Other Christians struggle with their sermons the rest of the week. My favorite author Catherine Marshall admitted in her book Meeting God at Every Turn that sometimes her everyday actions did not always match up with her beliefs. “I have become more irritable in the daily grind of everyday life. Slow drivers, inept salesgirls, parking lot attendants, provoke me much more easily than they used to.” I wonder if she ever felt like this in the grocery store when behind someone who is taking forever because all of the person’s payment methods are being denied.
I was inspired by an article “To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store” I recently read in The Huffington Post by Andrea Gardner. Gardner’s $17.38 grocery bill was paid by the woman behind her in line after Gardner couldn’t pay the bill. Gardner said the woman had no idea that Gardner and her family, which includes five children and a husband without a job, were homeless. Gardner called this stranger “an angel in disguise.” I don’t know if the kind woman was a Christian or one of the angels in disguise mentioned in Hebrews 13:2, but I’m reasonably sure Gardner would have been willing to listen to her sermon at that moment.
We won’t ever be perfect Christians this side of Heaven, but we are commissioned to make disciples all over the world. And we can start with the sermons we preach in our own neighborhoods through our everyday actions.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service,
an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.