"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).
I love the Contact Church of Christ. I love my friends whose lives are changing as they follow Jesus. I love to see them reaching out to others, serving others, loving others, and sharing the message of Christ with others. They inspire me.
However, I try to refrain from bragging about the church to people who do not know much about us. Sometimes I fail, but I hold back a ton of positive information about the church.
I have come to realize a couple of important concepts that have led me to refrain from promoting the church very much.
First, our message is about Jesus Christ. He is more important. He is essential. We are incidental. When we talk about ourselves, we should be merely examples of his grace and forgiveness. Whatever good is accomplished in us or by us should be seen as coming from our Savior.
Second, people don't believe the hype about us anyway. A few years ago, I was engaged in a casual conversation with a co-worker when the topic of churches came up. Without knowing anything about my church background, she interrupted. "Don't tell me anything about your church," she said. "I don't want to hear it. Everyone thinks their church is the best." A little stunned and not wishing to argue, I asked her about her church background. She had been a very active member of a church that she considered the best around. She was always telling others about how good her church was. Then she was mistreated by the leadership and became disillusioned with churches. She stopped believing the hype, and I could not blame her. Nearly 15 years ago, I was forced to leave an abusive church situation, too.
Today, I try to make my conversations focus more on how good Christ is, rather than how good the church is. When I mention the church, I am more likely to let people know how we can help them with something (food, emergency money, drug addiction recovery, parenting classes, etc.), instead of asking them to attend services with us. (Strangely enough, they have been known to show up anyway.)
I have much to learn, but I know this: I am an imperfect Christian in an imperfect church loved by a perfect God.