Is Your Church a Friendly Church? Submitted by Prof. Renihan
A few years ago weather delays forced me to miss a flight connection and thus to spend an unscheduled weekend at a hotel near the airport of a major city in a foreign country. I asked the concierge at my hotel if there were any churches within walking distance, and he said that there weren’t and that I would have to return to the airport for an ecumenical service. Of course there was no way that I was going to do that. But I also suspected that he was incorrect.
I had noticed a sign at an intersection, indicating that a church was located down a side road. On Saturday evening I went walking to look for the church, found it, made note of the time of worship the next day, and planned my schedule in order to attend. From all appearances, it was an evangelical church, and I looked forward with real anticipation to attending the next day. When one is stranded in a hotel at an airport over the Lord’s Day, the prospect of worshiping God is very pleasant.
On Sunday morning I made my way over to the church and entered the sanctuary about 10 minutes prior to the beginning of worship. It was a small older building with about 15 people present at the moment. To my surprise, no one greeted me. Several people looked over at me from a distance, but no one made an effort to speak with me. In fact, in all the time I was there, not one person, not even the minister, sought to initiate a conversation with me. The whole congregation that morning totaled about 30 people, so I was not missed in a swarm of attendees. I was quite conspicuous, and would have thought that in such a small assembly (which was, by the way, evangelical), significant attempts would have been made to meet and greet this stranger in their midst.
As I walked back to my hotel, I reflected on this experience, and a conversation I had a few years ago came to my mind. On that occasion, I was preaching at a Reformed Baptist church here in the USA. The pastor asked me an interesting question, something like this: “In your travels, do you find Reformed Baptist churches to be friendly and welcoming?” As we talked, he told me that on several of his trips (I think for vacation) he had visited other Reformed Baptist churches and found them to be less than outgoing and friendly. His experience was a sad commentary on the state of the churches he had visited.
My visit to the church near the hotel, and the memory of this conversation have made me think deeply about this. There really is no excuse for churches to be cold and unfriendly. We need to teach our people to greet guests warmly, to engage them in conversations and to find ways to welcome them. And those of us who are elders need to lead the way.
Is your church a friendly church? When the stranger who is stranded at the airport comes into your assembly and then walks back to his hotel, what does he think of your congregation?