I was chatting to someone I know a little the other day and invited him to a men's breakfast. Sadly he was unable to come due to a golf commitment. Hope he enjoyed the game in an absolute downpour.
Here's the thing. We talked for a bit and we exchanged addresses for the first time. Noticing he lived in the same road as a key couple from one of my churches (I work in six and have responsibility for one) I mentioned this and his face frowned massively.
I was than regaled with two stories about one of the couple - one of dangerous and selfish driving, the other of failing to acknowledge an attempted kindness.
And there is set the opinion of their church. And the bar, of getting an interested enquirer across the threshold of a spiritual event, is set that little bit higher.
We are invited by Peter in his first letter to always be prepared to give an account of the hope we have in us. Ever wondered why that doesn't happen very often? Maybe because your life doesn't betray that you live with any hope, or have an ability to explain it with what Peter calls 'gentleness and respect'.
I do not write as one who is constantly bombarded with requests to give an account of the hope I have in me. I try to be a good example so as to leave the door open. But this story is a reminder to all of us that we only have one chance to make a first impression and that is not necessarily about the quality of coffee and the welcome at the church door. Although obviously if those two things are horrid you have erected another barrier.
Play nicely everybody. Play nicely.