Monday, May 22, 2017

Why People Don't Want a Friendly Church

On Facebook I posted a quote without context. It was interesting that people took it in so many different ways. I didn’t tell them who I was quoting or what the person was talking about when he said it. It may be beneficial for me to add some context. The quote? “People aren’t looking for a friendly church; they are looking for friends.” [1]

Without context people will read their own assumptions into this statement. For example, there are plenty of churches that want to be known as a “friendly church.” Many churches think they are friendly whether they are or not. So, a person at one of these “friendly churches” might take this statement as saying that the reason people don’t want to be at church is because they would rather hang with their friends. Or they might read something into the “friend” part of the statement and assume that the “friend” is Jesus. Neither of those had anything to do with why I posted the statement.

I was looking at some articles about growing a Sunday school class and that included an article on church growth by Josh Hunt who quoted Rick Warren. The statement resonated with me because I am terrible at being “friendly.” It’s not from lack of desire or from a lack of trying, I’m just bad at it. I have friends who say things like, “I have to force myself to be friendly.” Yeah, I tried that and I can’t seem to get it to work. But there’s more to it than just me trying to give up trying to be friendly.

When we think of someone who is friendly, we think of someone who is kind and pleasant. We think of someone who has a quick smile and who always asks things like, “How are you this morning?” If you’re looking for a greeter, that’s the kind of person you want standing at the front door. But it gets more interesting when you ask yourself, “Are my friends friendly?” All of them? If you think about it, I’m sure you can think of at least one friend who isn’t “friendly.” Oh, they may be friendly to you, but you know them well enough to know that they are rude at times, especially with people they don’t know. So, keeping that person in mind, ask yourself, “Would I rather go to church with a bunch of friendly strangers or with my unfriendly friend?”

A friend isn’t necessarily friendly because what we look for in friends are those people who will spend time with us, who will come to our aid at a moment’s notice, who have things in common with us. Sure, it’s nice to have a friendly face greet you at the door. It’s nice to have a person seated in the row in front of you turn around and strike up a conversation with you, be we all know those are fleeting things. They’ll turn their attention to their friends and forget about you. What people really want to find is people who are willing to bring them into their lives.

That is much easier said than done. For some people, being friendly comes easily and they are friendly to everyone they meet, but no one is able to develop deep lasting friendships with everyone they meet. Even Jesus had people he was closer to than others. That is just part of life.

When it comes to church growth, being friendly isn’t a bad thing, but people don’t stay at a church just because there are friendly people there. People are more likely to stay at a church if they have close friends there. People are more likely to join a church if they have friends and family there. And if they don’t’ have friends there when they first attend, they are more likely to join if there are people who include them in their circle of friends.