They don’t have to be literal ugly chairs (although you may or may not have some). But an “ugly chair” is something in our life we think is great or simply something we’ve gotten used to, but others would look at as unsightly, dysfunctional, outdated, or useless. It could be piece of furniture, but could also be some other object like a car or a phone. Usually when we talk about “ugly chairs” we are talking about objects, but it could also be a way of doing something, like using a paper map when you have a GPS on your phone. Even though we may like our way of living, others may wonder if we are simply unwilling to change or be open-minded to new ideas.
Most of the time, these “ugly chairs” are just fine. They are ours and we love it. But when we hope to attract people into our lives and into our organizations, we need to be aware of it. If you were going on a first date, would you dress in your old plaid fishing flannel shirt or would you maybe put on a nice polo or button-down? If you were trying to make a good impression with your boss at work, would you pick your nose while talking to her? Or would you maybe save that little gem for later? You get the idea.
The same is true for organizational life. A business with a dirty exterior, unclean restrooms, broken down equipment, and a staff who cares more about talking to each other than the customer isn’t likely to generate much repeat business. But we do those things ALL the time and the church is no exception. Too often we become used to the idea that other people should fit in with what we are doing instead of adapting to the world around us.
The reason the early church grew so rapidly was because they were meeting the needs of their community in a way no one else even considered! They helped the poor and the sick, the widowed and the children when others ignored those people. They were radical in their approach to loving one another and by their actions and their faith they drew people in by the thousands and later by the millions. But as the church became dominant in our culture, the impetus to stay on the cutting edge has waned. Pretty soon, we got used to opening the doors and having people pour in. The church less than a century ago was the hub of life in the community – whether you were particularly religious or not. Today, there are so many options for a Sunday morning, for connecting to the community, for finding “spirituality” that the old ways just don’t work any longer.
If we are to bring people to Christ, we have to be willing to look for “ugly chairs” and part with them, no matter how much we enjoy them. We have to act as if we are constantly on a first date with our community. We need to act as if we care what other people think, not because we are vain or lacking confidence, but because we want to appeal to those we are trying to attract.
Our sermon series will deal with different ways “ugly chairs” can creep into our lives and into the life of the church and how we can recognize and deal with them.