A few years ago I was speaking with my friend, pastor, and Bible teacher, Steve Brown of Key Life Network, about the prospects of Kim and I planting a church. He gave us his blessing, and his parting words to me were, “Tommy you are quite winsome.” When the conversation ended, I immediately called a trusted friend to ask him if he knew what the word “winsome” meant. (For those of you who don’t know, it took me eleven years to finish a three-year program at Knox Theological Seminary!) Steve has dedicated his life to spreading Gospel truth that both lifts and encourages, but I simply wasn’t sure if he was giving me some deep theological message . . . or pinpointing some area for personal growth.
When I got on the phone with my friend and told him what Steve said, he responded, “My dear brother, Steve Brown just gave you one of the nicest compliments you’ve ever received!” My friend went on to explain that “winsome” means that one has a pleasant personality, a candid charm that attracts others and, in turn, makes God attractive. At that point, I knew why I like Steve so much and listened to him for more than two decades!
Later that day, I did some thinking. First, Steve Brown is a very kind, encouraging man, but I’m really not that winsome. Second, this conversation took place only a few months before Kim, the kids, and I, along with a few families, did launch out and plant Cross Community Church. I felt that God was impressing upon me that “winsome” was the word that needed to define our church environment and all those called into service at our church family. We needed to be warm, pleasant, and honest, which would, in turn, make God attractive and draw outsiders to our new church, which we call “The Cross” for short.
Now, I fully understand God does not need our help to make Him attractive. He is attractive all by Himself.
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
To be sure there is nothing more attractive than the love and beauty of God, which He expresses to us so powerfully in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. However, as attractive as God is, we who profess to be His people can either attract others to Him or repel them, simply by the way we engage with them. The more we reflect the character of Christ, the more attractive we make our God. If the people who walked onto our campus experienced the unconditional, sacrificial love of God in Christ through the way we engage with them, from the parking lot to the pew to the coffee pot to their particular point of need . . . we would succeed in making our God attractive and God would get all the glory.
We are in our 30th month as a church plant, and the comment I hear most from those visiting our campus and experiencing the hospitality at The Cross is, “I felt welcomed and loved by everyone. Jesus is so present here!”
Soon after my talk with Steve I read this story about the great pastor and evangelist, D. L. Moody, whom you could call the Billy Graham of the 19th Century. Moody described the secret of a winsome church in these words:
“The churches would soon be filled if outsiders could find that people in them loved them when they came. This . . . draws sinners! We must win them to us first; then we can win them to Christ. We must get the people to love us, and then win them over to Christ.”
I love Steve Brown, but I’m really not all that winsome. One dear friend told me that when I forget to smile, I look like a hanging judge. So much for “winsome”! But God has raised up a group of people at The Cross who really are winsome! Every person on Team Cross makes God attractive, and that is attracting new people each week. Our church family is acting as the hands and feet of Christ, living out that candid charm that attracts others to them, which in turn attracts others to Christ.
There’s something else Steve Brown has said: “We are simply beggars telling other beggars where to find bread!” That’s winsome, and that makes God attractive.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!