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First impressions reflect Christ

Hand sharing bread

What do disciples do? In this month’s Home Words Bound, Rev. Benton Heisler, Director of Connectional Ministry, explains how important first impressions are, in the church and in the community.

REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministry, Michigan Conference

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.” Likely not a new statement to most of you. Yet a profound truth to constantly keep in mind.

Linda and I have moved to a new community this past week. I keep reminding myself of this “first impression” truth. Each person I meet is a new opportunity to make a friend, offer a word of encouragement, and hopefully model a Christlike example.

We went to our favorite “chain” restaurant for a bit of comfort food tonight. We knew the menu would be identical to the one in the town we just left, but would the service be as good? Our server made multiple good impressions, including an unsolicited loaf of bread as we boxed up the left overs at the end of our meal. “Here, she said, you will want this with lunch tomorrow.” What an unexpected act of generosity and excellent first impression!

My point? Every “first encounter” in our congregations and with each of us as disciples of Jesus Christ, should leave persons with the impression of Christ shining through us. A generous, kind, grace-filled and compassionate  experience should be the memories we leave behind.

Paul Perez, steadily guides the multiple responses we have made to various disasters. In the face of tragedy, the compassion and generosity of United Methodists is the first impression of the Church many may encounter.  Please consider giving generously to the Bishop’s Advent Offering to help our impact in the face of these recent disasters.

I Samuel 16:  7 reminds us that as “humans we look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” What is the first impression we are making with God as God looks into our heart?  Is it a heart of war seeing others as objects to be conquered, or a heart of peace that seeks to graciously welcome every individual we encounter?

As we left the neighbors that had become our “family” the past ten years, one of the women commented, “Linda brought us brownies the day we moved in. You have no idea how much that made us feel welcomed. I have made it a point to do that with every new family that I have seen move in.”

Discipleship is like that, a contagious multiplication of kindness, grace and generosity that leads others into a similar walk with Christ.

So, walk boldly in Christ’s image and make a great first impression!

~“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)”  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.