Did you ever hear someone say: “I’m looking for a friendly church”? They hop from one congregation to another, looking for that illusive “friendly church.” Why is it that some folks can visit a congregation, and go away praising it: “Those are the friendliest people,” while others can visit the same group, and complain that just the opposite is true.
Why do you suppose this diversity exists? Let me suggest some thoughts for reflection.
To some degree, “friendliness,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. A church may seem friendly to you because you are a friendly person, and friendliness attracts the same deportment in others. A kindly disposition is “magnetic,” and, in many instances, it brings out the best in those you meet. Try being congenial to others and see what wonders it works.
In my early morning walks, I have developed the habit of speaking to people — those walking by, those waiting for buses, etc. At first, most of them will scarcely look at you — and almost never initiate a greeting (this is the “California cool”). But I have determined that I will give them a friendly, “Good morning.” I have seen this produce phenomenal effects. Some people I see almost regularly, and they frequently speak to me first, or even wave from across the street. It has been a delightful experience.
We should try very hard to see to it that visitors at our church services get a special, wonderfully gracious greeting.
Some people don’t give their brothers and sisters an opportunity to show them a cheerful countenance. They come at the last minute (so as to avoid visiting with others), and they beat a hot trail out of the building to their automobile, cutting a wide path around anyone they feel might want to “assault” them with cordial conversation. This is a sad spectacle.
But the problem for some is not that they find the members unfriendly; rather, they find the teaching and preaching “unfriendly.” They desire a church of convenience, rather than one of conviction. They are looking for a “churchy” environment wherein they may feel comfortable, without having their spiritual problems addressed. The old-timers used to describe it as having “just enough religion to make them miserable.”
Any preacher who deals with error in the religious community, or who addresses problems within the church, may be assured that, eventually, he will be accused of being “unfriendly.” And then, before long, the indictment will be leveled against the church at large. Many folks just will not take responsibility for their own problems. Of course, it is possible for a minister to address volatile subjects in a rather “unfriendly” manner; that cannot be discounted.
While we must try our very best to be cordial and warm to others, we must also realistically concede that some people just don’t take to friendship. As “Sheriff Andy Taylor” of Mayberry used to say: “Some folks won’t have to be buried when they die. They’ll just ‘nasty’ away.”