Many years ago I heard Pastor Ben Merold speak on the subject of church growth. He was, at that time, the Pastor of Eastside Christian Church in Fullerton, California. He was scheduled to be the featured speaker at a special Wednesday night service in a congregation that had a reputation of being a “friendly church.” He decided to come early and slip in unannounced for the fellowship dinner that preceded the program. He sat down at a table and waited. No one spoke to him. No one gave him instructions. No one even sat by him. All were enjoying themselves, having a good time, eating, laughing and being “friendly.” Then came the program at which he was the guest speaker. He began by saying “let me tell you about your ‘friendly church’...” It went downhill from there, but he did point out a self-perception problem many churches have. That problem is this: it is easy and fun to be friendly. Most churches are, but only with their own friends. The real trick is to be friendly, helpful, outgoing and loving to strangers!
The other day I talked with some people who had recently visited our Sunday service. They said “Of all the churches we have visited (some were large and some were small) we found your church to be the only one that seemed glad we were there.” That is music to a pastor’s ears! It isn’t always easy to know, amidst all the “goings on” that precede and follow a service, if your people are really expressing a welcome to their guests. One church I know has a “five minute rule” that its leaders have agreed to keep. For the first five minutes following the service they greet no one they know until they have first greeted someone they do not know. I think that would be a good practice for all of us to follow.
But being “friendly” must be more than just an image we present to others. It must come from a real heart of compassion for the souls of men and women. Every person who walks through our doors on Sundays is a person for whom Christ died. It should be our goal to see people through the eyes of the Master and then communicate appropriately that we really care. I hope that is your goal too.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship