reflectionSince the beginning of my ministry 30 years ago, I have been concerned with the appearance an atmosphere of the churches I’ve served…and the Church in general.  It has always been a concern that the church be radical in its hospitality toward everyone.  It is critical for every church to be constantly developing ways to radiate love, grace and forgiveness.

In my library, one of my favorite books was written many years ago entitled Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.  The author, Dr. Paul Brand, was a physician who specialized in several areas, including Hanson’s Disease, or leprosy.  It is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read.  In it, Brand says, “The atmosphere in a church will, skin-like, reveal the substance beneath.” 

Absolutely true.

The skin of our bodies is an incredible piece of work.  The largest organ of the human body, the skin acts much like a thermostat that helps regulate our body’s temperature.  If we get too hot, our bodies perspire to keep us at a constant, comfortable temperature.  When we fall ill and have a fever, touching the hot skin is often the first sign of illness.  Our skin regularly tells us what is going on underneath.

As Dr. Brand says, when the world around us looks at the Church, what does it see?  What is its appearance?  How does it feel?  When we as Christians are being given the “once-over,” do people see our love?  Our joy?  Our patience and kindness?  Our gentleness and self-control?

We often judge others by what we see of them – their outward appearance – in hopes that we will see something that reveals what really lies beneath.

The world around the Church is doing the same thing.  Others are looking at us and drawing a picture of Jesus from what they see in us.  And that is often a frightening and convicting thought!

What sort of picture of Jesus are you and I giving the world?  Do people look at us as see something we had hoped to keep a secret?  Or do they see in us the face of Christ?

Brand was right.  The atmosphere of the Church will, skin-like, reveal the substance beneath. 

Let’s take care, then, of our outward appearance…we may just be making the most important statement of our lives.