Should Churches be as Friendly as a Bar?
An article in this months’ Christianity Today caught my eye. The title is, “Should churches be as friendly as a bar?” The author quoted a survey taken where 800 respondents, mostly Christian, were asked whether they felt that their local churches were as friendly as their local restaurants and bars. Unfortunately the restaurants and bars won out! The results of the survey also showed that when their pastors were rated on the “friendly index” they too didn’t make the grade! The pastors fell below the friendliness of neighbors and co-workers and pastors and were rated at just a notch above store clerks in their friendliness!
If this wasn’t bad enough, to my horror the author continued by insisting that churches and pastors don’t need to be that friendly! He proposed many intellectual reasons why the Church shouldn’t strive to be friendly and make people comfortable! Before I finished reading the article I found myself walking down memory lane.
My husband and I unfortunately have been part of several unfriendly churches—like the ones this senior editor must be writing about! We lived in a wealthy artsy town and raised our children in this striving community nestled between the tall mountains and the perfect beach. My husband was a professor in a private Christian college there – one that had a reputation for excellence. And church fellowship for us consisted mostly of important people striving to impress other important people! Fellow Christians in this snobbish oasis knew their Bibles so perfectly and were quick to judge anyone who didn’t measure up. After many years of trying to be a part of these competitive Christian groups, both my husband and I left depressed, isolated and lonely.
We left it all and moved across the country. It had been such a long time since we had enjoyed real Christian fellowship! Did it still exist? We had never attended a Methodist church before but a few weeks after our move we nervously snuck into a Methodist church down the street from our new home, A young man with a “Greeter” button on his lapel met us at the door with a big smile and a hand shake. When he discovered that we were visitors he suggested that we join a Sunday School class, and before we could answer he grabbed our arm and began pushing us around proudly pointing out one Sunday School class after the other.
On impulse we decided to try the smallest class-the Searchers Class. We were immediately invited into their circle and offered a cup of coffee. Everyone introduced themselves and told us that they take turns giving the lesson each week. It felt good to be in a friendly group, so we decided to give this new Searchers class a try.
We’ve been part of this small Christian group now for six years and it’s so good to be equal with others and belong! We share Scripture and pray for one another in our little circle. The Searchers don’t look too impressive to the outsider. So what do we have now that we missed out on for all of those years in all of those unfriendly churches? For one we all treat each other like family. We eat together once a week and go on mission trips together – cook at the local shelter together, collect money each week for the poor and distribute it. We don’t judge one another and everyone is welcome always.
I can think of so many folks who fell by the wayside while going to the pretentious unfriendly churches we tried to attend in the past! Unfriendly churches and unfriendly pastors are responsible for so many lonely ones never enjoying Christian fellowship, never finding our Lord! A very real tragedy! There will be an accounting!