Source: Steve Hamblin / Alamy Stock Photo

Back in the wonderful days when I had hair, Larry was my hairdresser. He used to do a fine job with my copious mop. Sadly, the passing of time means the mop became a stranded peninsula, and what used to look like Texas now resembles the Isle of Wight. I purchased some clippers, and told Larry that I no longer needed his services. 

I still see Larry at church and, whenever I spot him, I’m reminded that he is one of the primary reasons for the growth of our congregation. Larry cuts hair for a living, but he lives to get alongside people and share Jesus with them. Hairdressers make great evangelists, not only because they have a captive audience but, with all that scissor waving, they’re also armed. 

Living alone, Larry usually spends his evenings in the bars and cafés near his salon. He has countless friends who know full well that he loves God – and them. More than three decades ago, Larry met Nicki. A brilliant, beautiful law student, Nicki was paying her way through college by working evenings as a stripper at a local club. Mid-haircut, Larry chatted with Nicki about Jesus, and invited her to church. 

It’s been said that we make decisions about people within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. Larry impressed Nicki. Many men ogled her, but Larry saw her. The following Sunday, she showed up to church, and decided to follow Christ. In the weeks that followed, she read the entire New Testament. 

Nicki soon realised that most Christians don’t remove their clothes for a living, so she quit her job, but not before inviting her work colleagues to her baptism. A good number came, and they didn’t dress for church. Burly security guards wore donkey jackets with the name of the club emblazoned on their backs, and the dancers dressed in, well, not too much. As they planted themselves in the front pew, some of our church ladies were seen covering their husbands’ eyes. 

A word of kindness can have such an impact

A good number of the club workers decided to follow in Nicki’s footsteps that day, so then we had a gaggle of utterly unchurched new converts to disciple. It was beautiful, but not without its challenges. Our church grew from a few hundred to a few thousand in the years that followed. We didn’t have a strategic plan for expansion; Larry was the catalyst for much of it. 

Today, Nicki is still following Jesus. Larry, now in his 70s, is still cutting hair, still inviting people to church and still views the downtown area of our city as his parish. 

Recently, he was out of town and decided to treat himself to dinner at a rather posh steakhouse. As he walked in, he smiled at a family dining there, and was surprised when the young mother came over, gave him a hug and told him that she and her husband wanted to pay his bill. They’d never met before, but she said she believed he was a man who loved people, and they had felt that love when he entered the restaurant. That first impression was powerful. Later Larry commented: “Paying for my dinner was amazing, but even more so was that they felt the love for others that God has placed in my heart.”

We live in a world that often seems too busy to notice and too self-obsessed to care. We can hurtle through life, heads down, phone focused, indifferent to those around us. But we can turn heads – and even hearts – by paying attention to the first impression that we make. A word of kindness, a helping hand or even just a smile can have such an impact. 

If in doubt, ask Larry.