Our Public Image



The apostle Paul admonished the brethren in Romans 14:16-17: “Let not then your good be evil spoken of, for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost.”

After observing certain actions that seem to be common among us, and after reading this passage of Scripture, I make the following comments.

We only become “good” by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ into our hearts as the Scripture has said we must do; Isaiah 64:6 calls our goodness filthy rags. When faith is enacted, we repent, obey the command of baptism in Jesus’ name, and receive the Holy Ghost. We also deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and develop a holy nature exemplified by sober, righteous, and godly living in this present world. Then, and only then, do we become “good.”

Many passages of Scripture allude to our being royalty, heirs and joint-heirs with Christ, and having a Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills. To state it plainly, when we receive God into our hearts, we become SOMEBODY.

But this truth brings us to a very important question. Do we really become better than everyone else?

What about our attitude? I have always wondered what our reaction would be if when we answered our door, a couple would be standing outside and they would immediately inform us, “We belong to a certain church down the street, and we stopped by to tell you that you are going to hell because you also do not belong to that church.” Or they might say to us: “I know you attend a particular church, but we wanted to tell you that you are not saved.” Or perhaps this: “I can tell by the way you dress that you are lost.” I could go on and on.

Many good people in the world around us are very conscientious in their beliefs and are just as adamant in following them as we are in following ours. I heard of one person who strongly criticized a person of another religion for putting food at certain times on the grave of his deceased loved one by saying, “Don’t you know those dead people cannot eat that food?” The criticized person replied, “Sure, I know the dead cannot eat that food, but don’t you also realize that your deceased loved ones cannot smell the flowers you periodically place on their grave?”

At our last General Conference I encountered some disturbed waitresses and waiters who wondered why we Pentecostals would not tip, yet service was demanded and seating expected immediately. My wife and I strongly apologized to a maitre d’ who could not understand why one group demanded that the music on the intercom be changed to gospel. One young waitress sat at our table and wept as she described how she was openly embarrassed by some whom she tried to serve because she did not have our standard Pentecostal look. What kind of example did we leave in that city and no doubt in other cities?

An evangelist recently shared with me the following story. A member of his family was applying for a job in one of our larger cities. The manager at the place did not realize this person knew anything about Pentecostal people, and during the interview plainly stated, “You will not have any problems trying to please most people, but when a Pentecostal comes in, you will have trouble. We always do.”

An owner of another business recently told a Pentecostal minister’s wife that even though she did not want to hurt her feelings, the fact remained that the first ones who complained about the service rendered were Pentecostal.

Recently one of our own was observed giving a bank teller a very hard time over a trivial matter of having to wait in line until her turn came. The teller then said to all those present: “That individual is the hardest person in this town to please.” One of our Pentecostal ladies was present and heard the entire episode.

In another unfortunate incident, a young Pentecostal girl was told by a group of ax-waitresses who now work in a legal office that they always dreaded the annual music conference to come to their city because of Pentecostal rudeness.

Please let me qualify something. These are not attitudes of everyone who is a Pentecostal. But I am sure that I have only touched the surface of much that some of us do or fail to do.

As ambassadors of Christ we need improvement in dealing with the general public if we want to win them to Christ. We do not get a second chance to make a good first impression.

We do not have to look sad. Our strength resides in joy. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit. We need to practice the lost art of smiling and looking pleasant. And, please, could we treat others as we would like to be treated?

Let me also add this about our standards of dress, which applies to men as well as women. Thank God for holiness. But holiness does not have to be morbid. We can personify holiness without wearing flip-flops downtown. Women can comb their hair pleasingly without having to cut it or dye it, and men can cut their hair attractively. If blue jeans or blue jeans skirts are a normal part of one’s attire, they can be clean, pressed, and made to look neat.

With all of our goodness, can we get the right spirit? Jesus rebuked His disciples in Luke 9:55 with these words: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of”

Let it be said about us as a compliment: “Just be quiet, please. Your actions speak louder than anything you can utter.”


Brother Reid is pastor of First United Pentecostal Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and a member of the Mississippi District Board.