If you needed a blessing Sunday evening, all you had to do was pick up the phone and dial any church in Abilene. A bland, yet kind voice would have thanked you for calling, informed you of the church’s office hours and wished you on your blessed way.
Had you needed more than prerecorded encouragement, almost any restaurant or major retailer would have picked up before the third ring. I wrote a news story Sunday with a local angle on the Super Bowl. As I dialed my way through Abilene’s church listings, my disbelief grew. Why, on the day set aside for Christian worship and fellowship, did not one church answer? Why did no answering machine messages include contact info for a pastor, deacon, elder or priest?
The greatest gift Christians can give the world is their availability.
Voice-to-voice communication is increasingly optional, and face-to-face encounters are almost not worth the trouble. Mobile technology lets us keep tabs on each other while avoiding actual contact if we so choose.
Scholars like Malcolm Muggeridge and Marshall McLuhan dedicated years to the study of technology and media’s influence on Christianity. Roaring Lambs author Bob Briner rebuked Christians for voluntarily relinquishing technology to the secular world. Yes, flashing lights and ear-drumming volume can distract, and congregations should discuss and experiment with worship styles.
But too many churches have become unreachable – not for members but for the outside world.
Designing advertisements and welcoming visitors during Sunday morning announcements help create an inviting appearance, but they are distant and impersonal. An ad does little for someone who needs only to be reassured there is hope. Many people still turn to the church in moments of desolation, and a phone call is a safe, dignified way to ask for help.
The Super Bowl is every American’s excuse yell, scream, cheer and overeat together – an experience that eternally bonds those present. I would never require any American to give up that right. I also know criticizing the church is painfully easy.
So let’s be available, and it begins with answering the phone.