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Body Builder

by Terry Camsey, Major – 

They say that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

I heard of a pastor who had read that people need several hugs a day and decided to explore the issue to ascertain the benefits for his congregation. He went to the library and looked along the bookshelves in hopes of finding a book that would help.

He was delighted to find one entitled, How to Hug, and thought that this would be a great introduction to the subject. When he got it home and opened it, he found it was volume seven of a dictionary!

That seems to support the thesis that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

There is truth in that statement since, if we haven’t “cracked the covers” and read what is inside, there is no way we can judge that content. But wait…

…if the cover itself is unattractive, it is not likely people will even pick the book off the shelf, never mind actually open it, no matter how valuable or interesting the content.

So, in fact, people do judge a book by its cover and, the more attractive that cover, the more likely people will be curious enough to pick it up and explore the contents.

Marie, my mother-in-law, used to work for a government office in a small city close to Sacramento. She is a wonderful, gifted evangelist. She would place a Bible with a bright colored cover on her desk . People would be curious, pick it up, and ask her if it was indeed a Bible. She would answer, “Yes, would you like to have it? If you would I’d be happy to have your name inscribed on it.” Numerous people took her up on the offer. The cover was attractive enough to arouse curiosity which, in turn, led to an opportunity to share her faith in a very practical way.

Covers do sell books—or not, depending on the appearance of the cover. An attractive “wrapper” can help sell books.

The same principle applies to people, too. How many times are we tempted (by guess who!) to judge people by their appearance…to pigeon hole, or label them, with our prejudices showing at the seams.

It’s the same with churches. First appearances may be deceptive and either attract or repel people interested in exploring our worship services. For Salvation Army corps, this may be even more of a problem if the place is untidy and cluttered with donated items, or where notices posted are out of date, etc. The “wrapping” has a great impact on whether people will even want to explore what we have to offer. And, if they won’t even “open the cover” how will they ever be exposed to the good news we wish to share with them?

If they are more attracted by other places…bars, gambling resorts, sports events, etc. how can we hope to attract them and get our message across? One way is to go where they are (an open air meeting is but one expression of the principle of taking the gospel to the people). Another might be to try to prevent them going to such places and come to the Army instead. Easier said than done!

Perhaps a more potentially fruitful approach would be to, first, examine our “covers” and adopt ways of making corps more attractive, or such that they arouse curiosity among those we strive to reach…a curiosity that demands to be explored. (William Booth did this well with his target population as any examination of the innovative ways his people advertised will prove.) But be sure that, if they do pluck up courage and open the book, the content is seen by them to be of value in living their lives.

How about the “cover” of your corps? Are people judging you by it?

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