Let me just say to start that I admire the fine profession of dentistry (I am not, nor have I ever been an anti-dentite). I go to the my dentist’s office every three months, and I can’t imagine what an unpleasant task it must be to spend 40 minutes scraping tarter off the teeth of someone like me who subsists mainly on coffee, Mountain Dew, and Oreos. All disclaimers aside though, I think churches (and Pastors especially) could learn a lot from the great (and not so great) dental hygienists I’ve encountered over the years.
Getting your teeth cleaned is at best intimidating, and often painful. The best hygienists’ are honest about the discomfort, they acknowledge it, they show compassion and empathy…but it doesn’t keep them from dealing with the mess in someone’s mouth.
Great dental hygienists’ glove up and serve others by finding the “gunk” (pretty sure thats the actual dental term) that hides under the gum line…the gross stuff that all of us carry around behind our pretty smiles. But, a really good hygienist always does it with compassion…mindful that the person in the chair needs to return often…remembering that trust and relationship are more important to continuing dental health than a onetime “win” against plaque. (Years ago, I had a dental hygeniest who LOVED finding tarter, so much so that she would triumphantly exclaim “AHA” and laugh whenever she found something particularly nasty, before attacking it with the intensity and violence of a viking berserker. Needless to say I switched my appointments)
Really great dental hygeniests’ inspire and never shame. The realize that how you care for your teeth away from the dentists’ chair is more important than any deep cleaning they provide…so they inspire you to brush, to floss, maybe even use those pointy little christmas tree looking things, or buy a water pic. They will NEVER belittle or shame a patient for the condition of their mouth, because they realize that it takes much more courage, pain, and effort to come to their office and open up…than to just ignore the problem right below their noses.
I hope that people never think of actionchurch as anything like going to the dentists’ office (hopefully at least our music is better? :-) ) However, I want us to always behave like the very best dental hygienists. I want us to be compassionate and gentle, but NEVER be afraid to dig down to the darkest areas of the human heart. I want to be a church that never shames, but instead inspires others to do the hard work of life change that most often happens BETWEEN Sunday mornings. Most of all, I want our church to be a safe place, a place that more and more people trust as a place that they can sit down in our chairs without fear…open up…and (without a bib or a spit suction tube) experience the amazing cleaning power of God’s word and God’s spirit on the human heart. Come to think of it, I hope actionchurch is a LOT like a really great dental practice!