I was saddened this weekend to see the “Estate Sale” signs at Howard’s VCR Service. Howard’s VCR Service is very close to my house. I have never gone into it, but it has always intrigued, bewildered and amused me.
Howard’s VCR Service seems like a blast from the past that never went away. What’s really bothering me about the closing of my local VCR repair store is that I’ve been wondering if this VCR repair store is what church looks like to the average outsider or those who have lost faith. Howard’s VCR repair is closing now, but it has 5 eye opening lessons to teach the Church:
1. We can’t be focused on the inside.
When you are too inward focused, it’s easy to lose sight of those you are trying to reach. Howard’s VCR Service may do other things besides fix VCRs, but as an outsider I have no idea what those things are. I don’t own a VCR so I never stopped into the VCR repair store. I’ve also never met a single person who has been in the VCR repair shop. Are we waiting for people to bring their broken VCRs to our church?
There’s a quote in the movie The Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.” That certainly was not how Jesus operated. He spent his time going out to people. The church isn’t meant to be the Field of Dreams. As Pope Francis has reiterated over and over “We must go out.” We must continually be focused on sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those who don’t know him.
Howard’s may have been the best store you never heard about, but it’s closed now. Our churches can’t be the best kept secret of our community or we will slowly and inevitably face our end. The great news is that the Good News of Jesus is really great news and the most contagious story ever told.
2. We need to be known for what we do
What else did Howard’s VCR repair service do? I couldn’t tell you. They don’t have a website. They don’t have a social media presence. No one talks about them.
We need to be committed to communication and messaging. It’s important to be able to communicate the narrative of who Jesus is, but also the story of our local church. We want to connect people to Jesus and we believe the local church plays a major role in being Jesus to our local community as the body of Christ.
You should be prepared to use different words to explain what your church and ministries are about to insiders and outsiders. If you make someone feel like an outsider when talking about your church, you’re most likely not going to see them on the inside of your church.
3. We can’t ever lose focus on what we are all about.
One of the few pieces of information you can find online about Howard’s VCR repair service is this not so glowing review:
Don’t waste your time or money – after making my deposit and leaving my VCR here for more than a week, I was literally told that the owner couldn’t fix it because “He’s close to retired and doesn’t want to work on stuff anymore.” So… Why keep a VCR repair shop open if you don’t want to… repair VCRs?
Sadly, I think if you changed a few of the words in this review it would echo some peoples’ experience of the church.
We can never forget what church is really about: people experiencing the life changing love of the person of Jesus Christ. When people encounter Jesus, their lives are transformed.
We simply can’t preach Jesus too much.I would go so far as to argue that most people who abandon their faith do so not because of some theological controversy, but because the basics of a relationship with Jesus Christ are missing.
We need to welcome people and always be ready to show them Jesus. This is not said to advocate a program, but to advocate people discipling and evangelizing people one on one. We need to do hospitality and do it well. We recently started a goal at my home parish that anyone attending Mass at our parish would be known and loved.
4. Being unwilling to change is a definite way to ensure our demise.
Howard’s business seemed to be ultimately doomed by the innovation of the DVD. As the church, we seek to communicate timeless truth and the unchanging person of Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean our methods, culture, and strategy don’t need to change. We are not called to be the church of 1970, nor the church of 1950, but the church of today.
We are not called to be the church of 1970, nor the church of 1950, but the church of today. https://t.co/3t9yElgmVc
— Andy Lesnefsky (@RedeemedOnline) June 2, 2016
I recently got to hear from a real visionary pastor who said the shift we need to have is moving from “if it was good enough for us when we were kids, it’s good enough for our kids” to “how can we reach the next generation?” We must be focused on those who aren’t here. This requires real change.
Some things in our church aren’t meant to change, but even the things that were never meant to stay the same are hard to change. Change is necessary if we don’t want to be having an estate sale at our churches in a few years.
5. We need to give people excellence.
We were driving by as the estate sale was ending on Sunday. My wife told me to turn around and take a look. “This is your chance to see inside Howard’s!”
We pulled up and there was what looked like a lot of junk in boxes sprawled across the lawn. I stopped the car, got out, and then got back in. I don’t know exactly what was in the boxes, but from my vantage point it looked like a bunch of stuff I didn’t want or want to sort through.
Do people show up at our churches and find boxes of junk? Do they run away before they ever meet anyone?
We have so many opportunities that we miss to evangelize people by offering them real hospitality. We need to make sure when people show up they see excellence. I hope our parishes can become places that when people show up, they encounter people on fire for Jesus, who greet them with love. It probably also means throwing out some of those junk boxes.
I believe these lessons can teach the Church a lot. How has your local church experienced change recently? What positive changes are you thankful for recently? Share below!
Lastly, Howard if you are reading this, best of luck. Hope retirement rocks!