Since moving to Virginia we have unfortunately visited a great deal of churches. With a few exceptions, these churches are all unfriendly. They are polite, very polite, but not friendly. Well, in some cases they are polite, not all.
And most of these churches are not large churches where you get lost in a crowd, they are small to moderately sized places. What blows me away about this is that when we were part of a start-up church in Idaho, we swarmed visitors. If new people came, which was rare, you asked them who they were, invited them over for dinner, and got to know them. But here we are in church after church where no one *ever* invites you over for anything. We went to one place for several months and knew next to nobody by the time we left. A small, struggling church that was in the middle of a big program to figure out how to grow and what was lacking. I almost laughed! I felt like standing up and saying, “how about saying hello and getting to know visitors instead of ignoring them?”
Do people not want their churches to grow? Do they not love their neighbors at all? If this only happened occasionally then I would think it was just me, or that we had hit one or two bad places, but it happens time and time again. We’ve been at the current church for about three months and the people are generally nice. We love the pastor and his wife, they are very welcoming. However, Sunday after Sunday I walk past people who don’t give me the time of day, or else politely say hello and move along. When the service is over, bam! – they are out of there. We went to a get together at someone’s house with tons of church folks there and basically one couple talked to us.
The glaring exception to this trend is Sovereign Grace Ministries. I don’t like a lot of what Sov. Grace stands for and I find it almost cultish in imitating C.J. Mahaney, but man, those people get it when it comes to hospitality. We went to two of their mega-churches with several thousand people. I’m talking big. And in both cases we were mobbed by people who somehow knew that we were visiting, and in one case were invited to lunch the first day. Now, I’m not the kind of person who likes going to lunch on the first visit, I want some distance so I can politely not return to the church! But those people GET it. And lo and behold, their churches are enormous.
I’m not advocating getting to know people as a church-growth strategy, although I believe it is a key component. I would think that it is Church 101. You might want to know the people sitting in the next row from you, teaching your kids, or singing up there. And don’t give me a bunch of stuff about ‘you have to go to small groups…’ If I can’t even talk to people and establish some sort of working relationship with them on Sunday morning, then why would I want to go to their small group?
So, this is really making me mad and I just don’t get it. Is this what we have arrived at in the modern church? Show up, sing, listen and leave? I might as well stay home if that’s what it’s about.