For those of who read this blog, you know that when I mean dentist, I most likely don’t mean dentist. But in this case, I am going to talk about both the real dentist AND the metaphorical dentist, in this case, Christ. So if you are like me and the sound of the dentist’s drill totally makes you want to faint, then man up and read anyway. Paul said we are to not have a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) but of boldness. I fully believe that he is talking about proclaiming the Word of God, so I am still allowed to have my fear of the dentist.
A few weeks ago I started feeling a sharp pain in my teeth whenever I drank or ate something cold. Knowing it was not normal for me to cringe in pain whenever I ate something, I felt it was important to head to the dentist. Now, I am quite fearful of the dentist. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall the last official time I had been to the dentist. It had to be at least 7 years, probably more.
I WAS PETRIFIED WITH FEAR!
When the receptionist answered the phone, I paused for a few minutes, thinking to myself, “Do I really want to go through with this?” and “I wonder what snide remarks they will make about me not going to a dentist for so many years.”
But I made my appointment and showed up early. They took me back, took some X-rays and pictures, poked me with a few sharp instruments, and came up with the conclusion: I needed 2 crowns and a filling.
I thought they would be saying words about me not going to a dentist in years or how poorly my teeth look. But they didn’t. They were very nice, very accommodating, and very helpful. I am still not a fan of multiple shots to numb my face or the sound of that drill or the 2 hours that I had to keep my mouth open. But I will say that they not only took care of my issues in my mouth, but my issues with my fear. They made me feel comfortable. They understood the issues I have with fear of dentists. They knew I needed to be there, but totally empowered me to know that I needed the services they provided. Before I continue, I want to give a shout out to Dr. Doring and his team. You need dental services? They are the people to call! www.doringdds.com.
But as I was lying in that chair with my mouth open, I started wondering if people see church the way that I see the dentist. Could it be that people are so fearful of going to church that they simply do not choose to go.
The church could easily be seen like the dentist to a culture that is scared to experience the truth. God’s Word is very clear. Much of society’s focuses (views on homosexuality, the marginalizing of Jesus, etc….) are all items that make people uncomfortable when discussing. And churches are known (at least the Bible-believing ones) for preaching a Gospel that is countercultural. When you preach a countercultural message, you make people uncomfortable.
Like the dentist’s drill (which I can still hear in my ears days after leaving the dentist’s office), the Word of God is fashioned to cut away the rotted out parts of our lives. The author of Hebrews puts it perfectly: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (4:12)
So if the Word of God is going to hurt, why would anyone want to walk into a Bible-believing church?
The answer is simple: because God’s people are (at least we should be) people who will disciple those who have a desire to learn more. To disciple means to walk beside someone, in the good times and the bad. To disciple is to stick with someone as they are scared to hear the Word of God. Like the dental assistant who sat with me and talked to me, and knowing how uncomfortable I was calmed me down so that the dentist could do the work on my mouth that was necessary.
If we think of God as the dentist, it is our job to be the dental assistant, comforting the scared and walking beside them so that God can do His amazing work in their life.
I have been re-reading a book that I really like, Radically Unchurched by Alvin Reid. In it, he shares the story of Bill. Bill shows up late to a fully packed church dressed like he just came off the streets. Since the church is packed, Bill sits down in the aisle up front near the stage. Everyone looks nervous when they see a deacon in his eighties get out of his seat. This particular deacon looks very nice, dressed in his three-piece suit and well-groomed. He walks slowly over to the young man. Everyone in the church is expecting the deacon to explain a little bit about church decorum to the man. A silence fills the sanctuary. Eventually, the old man reaches the young man, puts his cane on the floor and slowly (and most likely painfully) lowers himself and sits next to Bill just so he wouldn’t feel alone during the service. (Reid 2002)
Is this you? Is this your church? How welcome do we make people feel as they walk through the doors of our churches? The message is a hard one to hear, especially when it runs countercultural to our current situations. Are we as Christians making it more difficult for others to hear it because of how we react to outsiders, sinners, and those who don’t fit our Christian mold?
So, for all the Bills out there, how long has it been since you’ve been to the “dentist?”
And for all the Christians out there, how long has it been since you have taken the role of dental assistant?
Maybe it is time we look very closely to our churches and make it as comfortable as possible so that Bill can be discipled and we can all get our souls fixed.
*I was not paid for my endorsement of Dr. Doring.
Reid, Alvin. Radically Unchurched: Who are they and how to reach them. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2002.