I was in a fitting room recently trying on some pants.
Down the hall at the entrance to the fitting rooms, I could hear the store manager talking with the fitting room attendant employee. It seemed they were doing some on-the-job training. He was presenting a scenario to her then asking her what her response would be in that situation:
Manager: “Let’s say a customer came in and wanted to exchange an item, but they didn’t have a receipt, and all tags had been removed from the item. What would you say?”
Employee: “Mmmm. Well, I guess I would tell them that it is our store policy—“
Manager: “Whoa. Wait a minute. We don’t EVER use the ‘P’ word.”
The manager then went on to tell the employee what would be a good response to that imaginary customer. I didn’t catch much of that part of the conversation because my mind was already off and running, mentally writing what you’re reading right now.
Why would the manager stop that employee in mid-sentence like that? What was so bad about the word “policy” that the manager felt he needed to correct? I’m gonna take a crack at it, and in doing so make some connections to ministry.
Policy = “We’ve learned from the past.” Generally speaking, policy is created based on past experiences. We learn from getting burned, so we make policy to keep it from happening again. Policy isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But it can become an obstacle to ministry.
Policy = “This is just how we do things.” I’ve seen that sentiment drive death nails into ministry. Once a church gets “stuck” in that rut, it takes everybody working together to kick that coffin open from the inside. Its possible for sure, but if you hear those words uttered and don’t get an explanation as to WHY that is, push for an answer.
Policy = “We like things this way, so don’t ask us to change.” This one is a first cousin to the one above, but when we get comfortable with the routine we have created, we escort the Holy Spirit to the door. Or at least to a corner where we can keep an eye on Him.
When policy takes priority, people know it. Customers at a retail store know when they’re not valued and likely don’t return. But what happens when someone attends a church and doesn’t feel that people are priority? What happens when the emphasis is placed on caring for the carpet more than caring for the congregation?
Other P words that need to be addressed:
Pride. Pride says I’m better than others. Scripture clearly states I’m not, and also states that pride will lead me to death.
Pity. Pity says I’m worse than others. Scripture clearly states I’m not, and also states my exact worth. We are all worth the life of Jesus, given on the cross. Everyone.
A couple P words we should all focus on:
Prayer. God tells us “You have not because you ask not.” I’m not saying God is our Almighty Vending Machine, but what if we actually believed God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves? And that He wants to? And that He prizes above all else an intimate conversation with us on an ongoing basis?
People. Only two things will last forever: God and people. So it would make sense of us to invest in those two things. Nothing else matters.
Passion. Those who follow Jesus, the most passionate man who ever walked on earth should be the most passionate people on earth today.
What other P words can you think of that we should avoid OR focus on?
(The rest of the story: I didn’t buy the pants.)