Last Saturday morning, my husband and I went on a coffee date to Starbucks. We drove about a half hour to a very ritzy part of town called Escazu. (Whenever you see Costa Rica on House Hunters International it’s either a beach location or a multimillion dollar house in this part of town.) It’s very American over there. As a matter of fact, we just got our first Starbucks in Costa Rica and, of course, it’s in Escazu.
We noticed as we were pulling into the parking lot that there was some kind of festival or market happening down the block. There were cute white tents like the kind they use at the Uptown Art Festival in my hometown. So I got excited, thinking that maybe it was an art exhibit or something. After our coffee, we wandered down to the tents to take a look.
It was an organic, vegan and whole foods farmers’ market. There were all kinds of foods that I have never eaten before and had to read the labels to identify. And everything was suuuuuper expensive, like $20 for a bag of hemp chips.
All the vendors had a certain look about them. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I finally decided that I would call the look “Rich-Modern-Urban- Spiritualist.” If “Hippie” ever became trendy, this would be the look. If “Boho” married “Yuppie” this would be the prodigy. I concluded that everyone obviously “belonged” in this kind of market because of their look.
It was kind of like crashing a convention of home school moms. Everyone sort of had the same look, except for us. (I say this with no malice because I WAS a home school mom for many years.) My husband and I sort of didn’t fit in.
Maybe it’s because we had both showered that morning and neither one of us smelled like Patchouli. Maybe it was because we don’t drive a hybrid car or recycle religiously… I don’t know. But whatever were the elements required to be a member of this group, we didn’t have them. I walked away with an odd feeling of being excluded. (Maybe I should have bought that $30 jar of seaweed jelly just to fit in.)
I asked Josh, “What do you think people think of us?” I mean, I pegged those people into a category upon first sight, but what category would WE fit into? It really is difficult to see how others view you. I wonder if my husband and I have any distinguishing characteristics or fashions that would allow people to guess how we voted in the last election, how many times a week we eat fast food, and if any seaweed has ever been ingested by either of us.
Then I got to thinking about the church. Is this how people feel when the visit our churches? Do they feel like they need to have some “cool factor” in order to fit in? Does our appearance communicate how rich we are? Are we more likely to enter church with a Starbucks cup in our hands or a Bible in our hands? Is our church language designed to give newcomers the information they need to become a member of our group, or is it exclusive so that only long time members would understand the announcements? Do new people walk away with a vague sense of “High School Cliques Deja-Vu” or do they feel warmly accepted and excited to return?
We should give careful thought to the kind of culture we are creating at church. We should put ourselves in the position of a Newcomer and try to see how THEY would view us. “What would other people think of us?” is a valid question.