I had the opportunity to speak at my church the other day. How did a barefoot professor get invited to speak at church on a Sunday morning?
My church (Blue Ridge Community Church) is rather large – we hold three services on Sunday morning and greet 2,500 people each week. At BRCC, we often teach on themes, or series, that span several weeks or months. We started a new series recently called The Body which examines the analogy God makes in Scripture that his people – the church – constitute his body (Jesus being the head). To kick off the series they wanted an expert on the human body to come “Wow!” people on the wonders of the human body machine. For some reason they chose me. J So I gave a 20-minute crash course on how the ear achieves hearing with some flashy 3D animation and I guess they liked it because they’ve asked me to come back and speak again.
So why is this on the barefoot professor’s blog? Does this have anything to do with foot health or the barefooting movement? Of course; here it is.
I always go to church barefoot. Always. The regular attendees at BRCC know me well and they accept me barefoot.* However, our church is a seeker church; with concert-style worship (including a smoke machine) and preachers in blue jeans, we are good at drawing in unbelievers and then getting them hooked (or “saved”). Indeed, we have well over 100 people baptized every year at BRCC! So, on any given Sunday we will have a mixture of regulars and newbies in attendance.
Despite the casual atmosphere at BRCC, the church officially bans bare feet on the stage; speakers, singers and musicians must wear at least flip flops. In observance of this rule I wore a pair of flip flops to give my dashing talk on the human ear, but then an interesting thing happened. After the first service many people commented on my shoes and felt it was too unusual for me. In fact, so many people commented that I was told I could teach barefoot for the second and third services. Wow! That is a major departure from the norm and I was truly “feeling the love” from both the congregation and the leaders of Blue Ridge.
But I wore my flip flops on stage for both remaining services. Why?
Gospel = good news.
The word gospel means good news. I have two gospels in my life; I call them my ‘greater gospel’ and my ‘lesser gospel’. The lesser gospel is that you can live barefoot and that living barefoot is more natural and healthier than living with shoes. My greater gospel is that Jesus is the Messiah, the hero who came in and saved the day, the one who reconciles evil humanity to a Holy God.
So why did I wear shoes on stage when I was told I could teach barefoot? Because nothing trumps the greater the gospel, not even the lesser gospel of barefooting. The apostle Paul encouraged us to become all things to all people so that we might win some to Christ. The fact is that I live in a shoe-wearing society and being barefoot on stage might be a distraction to some people; I will not let my love for my lesser gospel deter people from the greater gospel.
Now for a point of clarification: I DID take off my shoes in both the second and third services and teach barefoot, but only after I took the stage and started teaching shod. I gave the newbies in the audience a few minutes to get to know me before I casually slipped off the flip flops in the middle of my talk. In this way, I hope I gave them a taste of both my gospels!**********
* In fact, bare feet are perfectly okay at BRCC; dozens of people can be seen barefoot there on Sunday mornings in the summer.