For over a year now my wife and I have been proudly Wal-Mart free, but occasionally we will venture into Wal-Mart for an exchange on an item such as diapers that nobody else will accept without a receipt. The other night ended up being one of those nights where we needed to do an exchange. So we fought through the cars to find a parking spot, experienced an unfriendly greeting at the front door, waited in long lines, and walked the store what seemed like fifteen minutes to find the section that I was looking for.
Let's just say that immediately my mind was flooded with the many reasons that we are no longer Wal-Mart shoppers, aside from the ethical implications of shopping there. I finally found the item that I needed to get and proceeded to the checkout line. The checkout clerk was very pleasant and we had some small talk as he overly explained their return policy to me and pointed to a manager about ten feet from us. Since he had pointed to the manager I thought it courteous to walk over to find out the information.
To my surprise her response to me was, "I'm off the clock!" I kindly smiled and left, but immediately thought how that was horrible customer service and a really bad first impression. As a manager of a store it shouldn't matter if you are off the clock as long as you are still wearing the uniform, smiley face name tag, and standing out on the open floor.
This in turn made me think about our first impressions team at the Summit Church and Danny Franks in particular. We go above and beyond to make sure that first time guests have an excellent first impression of not only our church, but Christians and Christianity. It is commonly said around our church that "The sermon starts out in the parking lot."
I find this to be true, but think of the many churches that treat first impressions just like this manager at Wal-Mart. They may be all about doing what it takes to get you there, but if it appears you are interrupting their life or want to talk to them after church then you are mistaken.
As Christians it is important to remember that in a sense we are all leaders and never off the clock. We are always called to be representatives of Christ and ultimately called to do everything in and with love (1 Cor. 13).