After a staff meeting four years ago, our staff team had lunch at a restaurant down the road from our church. The mayor of our city was sitting near us.
After we finished eating and were getting ready to leave, the mayor came over and said, “Pastor, I wonder if I could talk to you for a few minutes?” I sat down with him at his table, and he said solemnly,
“Pastor Scott, there’s a problem … a big problem.”
I responded immediately, “What do you mean? Tell me what it is.”
Without hesitating, he said, “You and your church have a bad reputation in our community.”
I was stunned, and I asked him to explain what he meant: “Mr. Mayor, I don’t understand. Please tell me what you’re talking about.”
He explained, “You’re the biggest church, and in fact, the biggest organization in our community, but you have the reputation for doing your own thing. You’re not really part of our community at all.”
I tried not to be defensive as I explained, “Everything we do is designed to help this community. I wake up every morning thinking and praying about how we can make a difference in the lives of people.”
To be sure he heard me, I repeated myself: “I’m serious Mr. Mayor. It really bothers me that you would say such a thing because everything I do is for this city.”
He smiled knowingly, “That’s the problem, Pastor Scott. You’re always doing things for us, but when was the last time you ever did something with us? There’s a difference … a big difference.”
I still didn’t understand, and he could see the confusion in my face.
To make his point, he gave an example. “Do you remember last fall when your church had your Fall Festival? You had about 5000 people at the church. It was huge. The city had a Fall Festival, too, but we had only a handful of people. When we have our citywide clean up days, we call your church to see how many of your people want to participate, but the answer we get is that your church has your own clean up program planned, so very few of your people are available to help us.”
The mayor stopped for a second to let this sink in, and then he continued, “Pastor Scott, your church has all the money, all the people and all the resources to make a huge difference in our city, but the other leaders in the city see your church as inconsiderate, and worse, as competition. Here’s what I’m saying: