I APOLOGIZE for comparing first-time visitors in church to dogs.
But the comparison did come to mind a few days ago.
My daughter, Becca, has a new pup: a border collie named Tucker. Becca is going to be tied up over the Labor Day weekend, and she wanted to know if my wife and I could pupsit.
We have a three-year-old black lab, Buddy the Dog.
He is friendly. A lavish licker. A loud barker. And has never bitten a soul.
He did swallow a baby bunny, after squeaking it a few times.
Tucker is not much bigger than a bunny.
Buddy the Dog could not swallow Tucker whole. But he could squeak him pretty good.
And he could fling him around the house or in the backyard, like he flings his other toys when he takes a fancy to it.
I suggested a meeting to see how the two dogs reacted to each other.
I took Buddy the Dog over last week.
Tucker ran up to me, as he always does. I squatted down to meet him and he jumped up to nibble on my ears.
Becca took the leash from me, securing Buddy the Dog at a safe distance.
As Buddy inched toward Tucker to give him a sniff, Tucker backed into my squat, protected between both of my legs. He was quite obviously afraid.
In a moment, Buddy the Dog was on his way to sniff elsewhere.
Tucker kept his eye on Buddy, thoroughly intimidated by Buddy’s size.
At one point, Tucker hid under a chair.
Later, he climbed the back stairs – his clue to my daughter that he wanted to go back inside, to his safe place.
You can see the photos capturing this first contact. They are on my Facebook page in the album called Tucker the Dog.
It struck me later that Tucker seems a lot like people visiting church for the first time.
And Buddy the Dog seems a lot like church people when visitors come.
Most folks are terrified of going into a new church by themselves. I know I was when I went church shopping a few years ago.
Regular attenders on the other hand – a bit like Buddy the Dog – can be somewhat indifferent to visitors. They give the visitors a sniff – a quick handshake or a how do you do – and then they follow their nose somewhere else.
I hesitate to compare myself to the Holy Spirit. So why don’t I compare myself to a pastor instead. That’s the kind of job I was doing with Buddy and Tucker, trying to bring the two together.
Take a close look at the pictures of Tucker and Buddy. See if you don’t pick up on the fear that Tucker felt. And see if the fearful look in his eyes doesn’t remind you of what it’s like to step into a church filled with strangers.
Maybe we all ought to give that some thought this coming Sunday.