I walked into a public restroom and found a pamphlet next to the sink. "Is Baptist baptism biblical?" the title read. It had been strategically placed above the hand dryer for someone to find. I thumbed through the pages out of curiosity. Someone decided this was the most important message to communicate and a public restroom was the best place to grab attention.
Do you know your audience?
Who am I speaking to? Whether you're a pastor or a spy novelist, knowing your audience is key. In the case of the public restroom, I think it's safe to assume almost any type of person could walk in. So what do all people have in common?
I'm a firm believer in the principle that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Everyone has a longing to be accepted, loved, and affirmed. Every soul struggles, yearns, and searches for significance. We all need hope.
So back to our pamphlet...
Someone made the decision, in a world of people searching for hope, in a situation where you have a brief flitter of someone's attention, to make an argument about doctrinal issues concerning baptism. My curious amusement with the pamphlet turned to frustrated cynicism. Have you heard the phrase "majoring in the minor"?
I started thinking of who might walk into this bathroom...
A young father who just lost his child in a tragic accident. A teen who is constantly bullied. An older man who has been jaded towards God because of the suffering he's seen. A veteran whose PTSD makes even the simplest parts of the day complicated. Countless stories flooded my mind.
And what do they find? Better yet, what will they ignore as they move along in their search for meaning and hope?
"Is Baptist baptism biblical?"
That's not good news. That's preaching to the choir, and the last time I checked, most churches don't meet in random public restrooms. It infuriates me, because even good-intentioned pamphlets would probably serve most people better as kindling for a bonfire.
What is the most important thing you can say?
I sat in front of a hotel notepad a couple weeks ago as we were about to check out of our room. I wanted to write something the next person that came in would find. I thought to myself, "If I walked in this room on my worst day, what message would have stopping power? In a world that's having a major identity crisis, what matters the most?"
From Psalm 139, this is what I wrote.
"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!"
We live in a world that inundates us with false messages. We are told lies that birth insecurity and despair in our hearts. We are overwhelmed to the point of forgetting who we are, but here's a hopeful reminder: you are fearfully and wonderfully made, loved by the God of the universe, whose thoughts about you are precious.
Now that's good news. That's a message that matters.
So whether you're printing pamphlets as a ministry, writing an advertising slogan, or simply typing an email to a friend: stop, think about who you're trying to influence, and focus really hard on what's most important. Most of us don't have the time or attention to notice anything else. And especially to those trying to reach the hurting in this world, you can't afford to waste any more time or paper.