One of my bullet points for purchasing our church van two-and-a-half years ago was the fact that it could become a moving billboard for the church and its ministry. I told the congregation that I would be out and about during the week. I joked that I would find conspicuous places to park where it would be noticed.
I've kept that promise. I regularly take the van out. It has made many stops along Franklin Street and many trips through the downtown. It has spent time in the YMCA parking lot. It has been parked in front of Nigrelli's Jewelry Store and Toscano's Men's Shop.
The van has visited both Westerly and Stonington, high schools, Stop & Shop and McQuade’s, the ice hockey rink, and Amanda's Pantry. The truth is that it is better than a tracking device. You can tell where I've been by the places you've seen the van.
Last week I suddenly realized that there is a potential problem with all of this. I was talking to a woman at the coffee shop. She told me she saw me driving the van toward Norwich on Route 2 a few weeks ago. I stopped to think about it and then replied with a smile, "I hope I wasn't speeding!"
She laughed and said, "No, I was behind you. You were actually going too slow!" I had to laugh too. It was only after she left that it dawned on me that everything I did while driving the van was up for scrutiny. With the church name prominently displayed, that meant that everything I did would reflect back on the church.
It's a sobering thought. It is no longer Cal Lord who is behind the wheel. I am representing the whole congregation every time I step into the van. I've often seen stickers on the back of commercial vehicles that say you should call a 1-800 number if you observe the driver engaged in risky behavior. Well that's me!
The same is true once we decide to follow Jesus. Our lives are no longer our own. We belong to him. In that regard, the apostle Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. He sends us out to represent him. In another place Paul suggests that we are his hands and feet and the body of Christ in the world.
As Christians our actions matter more than our words. People make judgments about Jesus based upon what they see in us. Yet if we live for Christ, allowing his love to guide us, always acting with grace and mercy, we will have nothing to fear. Who knows? We just might end up with someone following us down the road to Jesus.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.