Is Your Church Too Friendly?1
As a larger than normal number of visitors will attend Services this Easter let us ask ourselves: Is my church too friendly?
As a pastor who is busy every Sunday morning I don't often get to observe other churches in action. But I keep my ear to the ground; I make inquiries; I get reports from others; and I check out church websites; and what I observe is embarrassing.
Churches that gush with affability. That fairly trip over themselves to show how open, warm and friendly they are. How regular they are, and how there is no need for the traditional fear that associates itself with church.
But there is a problem.
There is nothing regular about the cross. Nor can we approach God except in fear. The word "fear" in Christian parlance includes, among other things, a healthy element of dread alarm which, if missing or minimized, neutralizes the church's message.
Moreover, people know when they are being sold and they don't like it; and so any element of contrived conviviality will have the opposite effect.
The greatest offenders are clergy who don't know what their job is. The church is not a cruise ship, and pastors are not cruise directors. The pastor's job is to lead God's people in holy worship. To administer the Sacraments and forgive the sins of the penitent. To preach judgment and salvation in equal measure. To comfort the afflicted, but also to afflict the culturally comfortable.
Also on the offender list are official greeters, and overly-enthusiastic members who may view any visitor as "fresh meat" to add to the church's numeric success levels.
What can we conclude from this? It's not rocket science. Be polite to people as you would in any public gathering. Mind your own business. Let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. He knows his job, how to "call, gather, enlighten and sanctify" better than we do.