Unfriendly Churches

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.

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51 thoughts on “Unfriendly Churches

  1. I’m sad to say that this doesn’t only happen in Virginia. When GC2003 occurred, we fled to the nearest ‘Safe Harbor’ where we remained for 4 years. During that time we were never once invited to anyone’s house, were never encouraged to be a part of anything and when we left, the only person that wondered where we were was the rector. I give him total credit for that, he is wonderful. I’ll miss him.

    It is very much a club and if you are from the ‘right’ family then you are included in decisions but if not, you are left swinging in the breeze. The same people rotate positions on the Vestry so there is really nothing new that happens there.

    There is no education program in place for the children except some flaccid Sunday program that has lax if any attendance. No one really seems to want to instill God’s message, the one that Jesus died for, into our children. Someone tried to get a Pioneer Club going at church but it died from lack of attendance.

    I guess when there aren’t enough members of ‘the family’ left to pay the bills, they might look up and realize that the people that came and wanted to be a part of this church’s way, life and truth have found another way, life and truth where they were accepted and loved.

  2. I’m sorry to hear your story. To clarify, these aren’t just Anglican churches that we are visiting, they are all over the map. The only really welcoming church we found was AMiA in D.C.

  3. I’m not one to typically make an anonymous post. I do know intimately what you’re writing about and it is maddening! Especially when you’re in no position to change the MO of the parish. These cliques of the frozen chosen were the thing that caused us to leave a parish in NoVA.

    Keep fighting the good fight JMW

  4. Sorry to hear that anonymous. I think it is a problem that spans churches and locations. It doesn’t make any sense to me how people think they can be Christians without being involved in the lives of the people in their own congregation.

  5. Your article prompted me to write an article of my own, “Welcoming Churches,” which is posted on my web log, Anglicans Ablaze. The URL is http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com/

    The conditions that you describe are not limited to churches of one faith tradition but affect those of churches in a number of faith traditions.

  6. Your comment could have applied to us and maybe it was us…I came to the Fredericksburg, Virginia area in 1991, and really had a slow time settling in. The problem in part is that it is a really high growth area, lots of turnover with the military, and no one knows a lot of people. I went to Trinity Fredericksburg for a long time, and made friends there, but both Trinity and St. George’s are caught in the web of archliberalism that is the Episcopal Church. Trinity was neutral ground when Bob Boyd was there, but that is regretably not the case under new management. So I started going out the Church of the Messiah in 2003. I guess you could say I’m part of the establishment now, I’m starting in on my last year of vestry service, and one thing I’ve found is that no one, not even the regulars, has been there very long. So when newcomers show up, and expect to get welcomed into a fully formed church, that is not what they are getting into. We do see people come and go, but it is a little unfair to judge our church by its growing pains. We are pretty much stuck in the Episcopal Church, and part of what has been holding us back is the uncertainty the reigns in the wider church and the Anglican Communion. I think our leadership, both lay and clergy, have been very responsible and conscientious in negotiating these troubled waters…if someone wants to invest the time and effort to get to know us and stick it out with us, we do appreciate it. But a lot of our conservative Anglican brethren seem determined to shoot us in the back because we have not kept up with the revolution. Thanks, gang…

    Bill Riggs
    Church of the Messiah
    Spotsylvania County, VA

  7. Bill,

    TEC uses money to support abortion, hates the Bible and refuses to repent. There is no longer any reason to remain. I don’t know what ‘shooting you in the back’ would be, but there is no way that in 2009 I would want my family under the heretical TEC bishops. Read Thad Barnum’s *Never Silent* and get out! No matter what the cost!

    In terms of turnover and the like, that’s a lame excuse for people not to be friendly and share their lives with others. I was in a startup church that lasted for about four years total and we welcomed new people with gusto. We got together on a weekly basis to eat with each other (in our homes, not for a function). We called, we e-mailed, we talked to each other, we helped each other and prayed for each other. If you can’t get past saying hello and shaking hands and delve into real life with each other, than why bother doing church together?

    As I’ve said earlier in the thread, this isn’t unique to Messiah, I’ve seen it and heard about it all over the place. Perhaps Christians have forgotten social skills and don’t know how to be hospitable; perhaps they haven’t seen it modeled or lived it, so they don’t know what they are missing. I don’t have the answers. But in Messiah’s case you add an apostate church to a lack of theological depth and a pack of unfriendly people and you get a church that will continue spinning its wheels until it makes some moves and starts loving in deeds as well as words.

  8. This is exactly what our family is experiencing in Louisville of all places. We have been church shopping for a while-attended an Episcopal, UMC, and Lutheran church, noticing this. However, the lack of hospitality or welcoming was more in the UMC churches in the Eastern part of the county. We aren’t as wealthy as some of the church goers, but always try to look our best and fit in-greet others, yet they will not do the same. Also, some of the children’s programs are pathetic, and should be labeled as “play room” rather than Bible nursery-no Bible based activities, worship leaders and so on. I pray about this issue quite a bit, as a child I attended a small Baptist church and received a warm reception, though my DH doesn’t want to attend that denomination. There is such a difference in personalities in the church these days, and then you hear stories about the “Dying church” on ABC and other forms of media. I really know the reason-it is very obvious… Unwelcoming churches are going to run everyone out and then all you have left are a few members who have been involved since the church opened it’s doors.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Katie. I don’t any near-term solution to the problem. It has become apparent to me that people who care the most about church get hurt the most. If you are cool with just slipping in and slipping out, not knowing people and not caring how things are going, you will do fine. If you want to get serious about things and long for real community, you best resort to finding like-minded folks on the internet, because they usually don’t exist locally. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t see one.

  9. Your experience is not unusual. I have basically given up trying to make friends anywhere, let alone at church. I go to church to hear God’s Word and sing His praises. I don’t expect anything from my fellow churchgoers, nor do I place any expectation on myself.

    For years, I used to go with the pleasant hope of making friends. After 13 years of going to churches where people simply do not care if you live or die, I have relinquished any expectation of developing friends.

    I believe our rich, selfish culture (of which I am a prime example) does not value human relationships. I have dropped any striving to create friends, realizing it is simply not available to me or to my family (my wife and kids have had no lick developing friends or caring pastoral relationships either). My kids went to Sunday School. After attending and serving on the worship team, being part of a “care group” (note the quotation marks), we were asked to stop serving because a hew pastor wanted to renovate all the ministries in the church, used “attendance” as an excuse to eject us and several other families from the church. We left that church to go elsewhere, no one who claimed to “care” about us or our children ever phoned asking about them or us.

    Since then, I have tried over the course of the last 3 years to establish some friendships -in and out of church-, all to no avail. Most recently, I made an attempt to make friends with an assistant pastor at a church. We went for coffee. We chatted. We got along great. Then I noted that I was the one calling him all the time. So, the last time we met for coffee, I invited him to call me next time. That was over 8 months ago.

    So, in conclusion, don’t expect genuine friendships in this day and age in our embarrassingly rich Western culture. Love God. Don’t put the pressure of any expectation on your fellow churchgoers, nor try to seek more from them than a courteous (or curt!) hello.

    Stay Peaceful.

    1. Jason, your story is depressing and unfortunately common. I am also at the place of essentially giving up on developing something with folks at our church. It is possible to walk in and walk out, exchange pleasentries and go on with life. People don’t care, you’re right. After doing the pursuing for a long time, it gets old.

      What bothers me about this is that I believe in a definition of happiness or the good life as a life spent in community with the ability to contemplate God. This implies discussion, challenge, thinking and community life. Unfortunately, this life is not possible in most churches of whatever stripe in 2009. The suburbs seem particularly pernicious in this respect.

    2. Oh so true for me…Jason I have been going to the Catholic Church in my community for fifteen years and if I dropped dead in the pew no one would notice-might be slightly irritated if I was blocking the aisle. Other than the hollow coutresies of the church we are left to our own. This behavior of coldness used to absolutely gall me but I have come to get used to it and even prefer it. I do not need friends in the same way I did when I was young. Do not want chit-chat with anyone or get-togethers and I like the church rituals and who cares if the priest ignores me. I’ve given up on seeking human warmth in this culture. Best friend is one’s own higher self-don’t you think? and concentrating on how to reach that self-call it God or what you may.

  10. I’ve been thinking about this lately too. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find a group of friends at church through a 20s and 30s group, although I don’t live close by and will eventually have to find a church closer to where I live.

    But even with Christian friends it still doesn’t always mirror the idea of a group of people that are truly in community with each other. Our group at church is still a lot more like a collection of individuals and it’s hard to get people to really care about the group as a whole in addition to the members of the group.

    Since I go to a large church, I’ve heard it said that some people see anonymity as an attraction. It’s hard to imagine Paul writing to one of the NT churches and saying, “If you want to breeze in and out, that’s cool. We’re here for you.”

    I think that you’re right that the value that we place on privacy in suburban life has something to do with it. I can also feel the strain of our more long-distance lives that probably draws us away from investing ourselves in a local community.

  11. Scott, thanks for adding your experiences here. I tend to think that mega-churches are inimical to developing true Christian life. I think there should be several small and more localized parishes rather than one mega church. The only way those kind of places work is to have a church within a church which seems to be what you are describing with the 2os and 30s group.

    How far do you drive to church in time, not miles?

  12. Well, it would be a little over an hour from where I live, but I usually stay at my mom’s in the Chicago suburbs on the weekends, which is 15 minutes away from church. This allows me to see my fiancee since we live too far apart to see each other during the week. As you can imagine, we are looking forward to getting married, settling down in Kankakee, and really having our lives located in one place.

  13. Sometimes that’s true Mark, but not always and everywhere. I’ve been to plenty of good churches, my current one just isn’t one of them.

  14. My story is I have joined the chorus in a local UMC for 2 months. I go to the church for rehearsal every Thursday evening. I feel more and more uncomfortable with the Music Director, who is not friendly, even not polit. I feel he has been ignoring me from the first rehearsal day. He makes conversation with other people who are inside of “their group” It seems he does not accept someone like me who is outside of their ‘group’. He doesn’t even care to greet when I arrive there, He laughs at me sometimes. It seems I am an idiot in his eyes, and that means he doesn’t care about how he treats me. Yesterday, he gave everybody the music sheet except me as if I was not there just in front of him. Until I said ” number 1, please” ( Number 1 this is my number), he gave me it without saying sorry, and instead, he said: “oh, whatever you said”. What does that mean? He haven’t heard me? I hate to say this but my sensitive nature makes it hard to accept such treatment in Church.

  15. What can I say Joel? He would probably say: well, sorry, I am not doing this intentionally. I don’t know I have offended you. It’s just the way who I am. Then what, things will change? I don’t think so. You know, people can not help for their personality. I want to quit the Choir and may also find another church, where I will be treated the way I deserve.

  16. Amy, You may be right, he might say all that and maybe you should leave. All I am saying is that you should try talking to him and/or your pastor before you bolt. I know these situations are terrible, but if you at least alert people to the problems then maybe when it happens again your pastor will know that there is a problem.

    You might want to look at this article:


  17. Joel,

    Greetings, Joel. I linked to you from a John Armstrong facebook comment. This is not only a problem with “visitors.” My family was part of a church for almost 15 years, where we were very well known, and were involved in leadership and every conceivable ministry. Yet we went about four years without anybody even asking us over for a meal. We tried our best to forge relationships, yet to no avail. We discussed the matter openly (and embarrassingly) to a number of people. We had some difficult problems in life and really sensed the lack of desire to help. We left and have had only a handful of people call as a result of realizing that we’re not there anymore.

    I think in some churches, there is an excitement in getting to know brand new people, but then when they stick around a while, they just become part of the landscape.

  18. I can see you, though I don’t know your name! Yes, it is a problem. We are going through it again right now and I can’t stand it. I’m about ready to quit church frankly. I feel your pain, to quote Bill Clinton.

  19. I’m inclined to echo Primo in the movie “Big NIght” who says of his failing restaurant with great cuisine, “They should come for the food.” They should come to church for the Word and the Sacrament. But they don’t just come for the Word and the Sacrament, not in this relationship starved culture. It’s one of the toughest lessons to learn, and I struggle continually with this. Can we expect more from the church than its surrounding culture? Can we expect openness in church among people who live in a closed society behind locked doors in gated communities?

  20. I have been blogging my church visits in Anchorage, Alaska for over 3 years. My experience parallels what you’ve described. Very few churches own up to this problem. Occasionally I’m even attacked as if it’s my problem. 2nd visits reveal it’s a pattern and not just a “bad day”. Email and comments I receive from the hurt and broken show this lack of warmth is not uncommon. Offers of consulting to assist churches with addressing this problem mainly fall on deaf ears. A few honest pastors address the specific issues I point out, but for the most part they do not. I feel this issue, in no small part, is a contributing factor in the decline in congregations and attendance.

    God bless you in your Christian journey.

    Chris Thompson, Church Visits Blogger
    Anchorage Daily

    1. Chris, thanks for stopping by. I looked at some of your posts and will read more later. It seems like you are coming from a different place, in that you are deliberately visiting churches and reviewing them. Nevertheless, what you say points to the fact that it is a nation-wide problem, not a localized one.

      Frankly, I think that churches which cannot exhibit some level of warmth will die over time. And I don’t mean programmatic, phony warmth. Greeters, help desks, name tags, etc. don’t cut it. I mean people who are interested in one another at some level. I am becoming more of a misanthrope as I get older, but I am trying to at least reach out to a circle of people and make an effort. We are now very fortunate in being part of a great church in a great family of churches:


      People are friendly and we have made friends quickly. With that said, maybe we should search for who (if anyone) in our society actually does this right? Perhaps the problem is systemic and results from the broader cultural trends that make us enjoy isolation and limited, favorable exposure to others.

    2. IMO, the church hopping that people do in Protestantism greatly contributes to this phenomenon. Going to church isn’t supposed to be about us. It is supposed to be about God. Community should form as a natural outgrowth of common belief. To focus on how people treat ME on my one visit puts the focus totally on the attendee as consumer and inverts the natural order. If somebody came up to me after one visit and asked me to lunch, I would have to ask myself what is wrong with them and how long they will be at that church. It connotes instability in my mind. You can’t always focus on the new person. I often try to go out of my way to greet newcomers who hang around after mass, but friendships are formed over years, not minutes. The biggest part of forming those friendships is just showing up, week after week, year after year, even if somebody offends me. After all, I come to worship God, not my fellow man. I had my son’s Sunday school teacher uninvite me to bring my kid because she didn’t like me showing up 5-10 minutes late 75% of the time. I was sorry she didn’t understand how difficult it could be for me to get a 4 year old and 6 year old out the door for 8:30 am sunday school, but I’m not going to get my knickers in a knot over it or change churches because this one is “meeting my needs.” The focus of Christian community should not be on me as a consumer of relationship and worship experiences, it should be on God who humbled himself, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, suffered, died, was crucified and resurrected. The petty slights we receive are incomparable with the sufferings of our Lord and the focus should be on Him, not on us. The church hopping that happens over things like that are precisely what mitigates against the formation of a deep and enduring community. In my opinion, this idea of worshiper as consumer makes people much more likely not only to quit a church when the going gets tough, but to quit things like marriage, and is a big contributor to the divorce rate for Evangelical Christians being much higher than for Lutherans, Mormons, Catholics and Jews… not to mention atheists. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700112586/Christian-divorce-rates-disputed.html?pg=1

      1. While I agree that church hopping can be bad, I don’t agree that a focus on worshipping God solves this. Our vertical relationship to God should result in corresponding horizontal relationships with fellow believers. If this isn’t happening, then I question how effectively congregants are understanding their God-given duties. You cannot implement the “one anothers” such as “bear one another’s burdens” unless you actually know each other and care about each other.
        There are congregations that are very loveless, and there are those that aren’t.

  21. I have been attending choir for almost a year and have been fed up with the jealousy, sycophantry, hypocrisy and backstabbing of some of the members (I had the best voice and this did not go down well with some of the longer-standing members). All the choir members are either married or related to each other except for me (I am divorced) and I have consistently tried to be friendly and sociable yet found it very hard to get any reaction from them at all other than silence. Another girl who was also single has now left and joined another church. The trouble is that the choir director is a very moody individual and I feel much to emotional fro the role – I’m not sure he likes me very much point blank – and surrounds himself with yes-men, which means that our performances are talked up as “wonderful” even when they’re most definetely not up to par (not sure he always rehearses us sufficiently) fosters an atmosphere of cronyism and gossiping about each other – I stay out of it because I can’t stand it, like someone mentioned I find the attitude very “suburban” and “materialistic”. I’m not even sure they “believe” themselves although they all dutifully file up to Communion – one of the pastors apparently found another church that he had to do a baptism at didn’t have any baptismal oil – so he made some out of cleaning product LOL – I rest my case!!
    I emailed the choir director about the whole “attitude” within the choir over this weekend and I think I will probably leave at the end of this term, due to other commitments and the fact that I really don’t want to deal with the extra stress of chucking my energy into a black hole. I do tend to find church groups less open than other social groups I know and on speaking to other people I have found they feel the same. Ah well…

    1. I used to sing in the choir too and my experience mirrors yours…Everyone trying to be the star finally I left because singing there was too miserable an experience. In fact as I write these blogs I am getting mad all over again.
      The cleaning oil for babtism is hilarious!

  22. Kayleigh, I don’t really have any advice to give you. It’s a real mixed bag our there. Sometimes I think that the best we can do is keep attending and worshiping God despite all the problems.

  23. Wow. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has experienced this. I just moved to Virginia not too long ago and have been going to a fairly good sized church ever since I came here. The people are nice and polite but like you said they never invite you to anything or even chat very long with you. They have their group of friends they hang out with and that’s it. They’re very ostracizing.

    1. Depending on where you live, I would suggest you visit our church in Arlington. We also have a small group in Manassas.

  24. I live in Texas. Sad to say, I’ve experienced the same thing. We have attended many different churches, and let me tell you, when it’s Pentecostal people who are claiming to be apostolic, and yet, the very things that have been described here on this web site are going on, it’s “double” irritating. I don’t know what the problem is. My church has about 300 people, and it seems like the people who are in their 70’s and 80’s have more warmth and are friendlier. It’s discouraging that my wife and I are 41 years old, our children are 10 and 12, and all four of us are pretty much “outcasts.” The Sunday Schools are full of little “Dr Spock” specials, little spoiled, rude monsters that vex my children. The people, from age 20 to 50, all seem very standoffish, and these are the age groups that we should have the most in common with. Topwater polite, but that’s about it. The Pastor’s wife and kids are among the most rude in the whole church. It’s gotten to the point, that the last couple of years, as I teach my kids about Christ, and the wonderful Christian heritage of this nation, using things like David Barton’s “American Heritage” DVD’s and FOXES Book of Martyrs, I tell my kids that what they see among modern Christians is not the way it used to be. It’s almost gotten to the point, where I’m afraid that my church will eventually turn my kids against Christ. Thankfully, so far, I see no evidence of that. That being said, like many on this board, my wife and I have completely given up making meaningful friendships and church. One useful tool that I’ve used to sort of bring it all together, is the video documentary Agenda, Grinding America Down. http://www.agendadocumentary.com . This video describes so perfectly what has happened to America’s institutions, including our churches. To me, it explains a lot, as to why our churches have become as they are.

    1. Some people just seem to “get it” and some don’t. Perhaps there are men you could meet with weekly? I suggest just trying to find at least one family that you can develop a relationship with and work from there if possible.
      I don’t know much about Pentecostal circles, but my guess is that it might be ever harder there (I’ve been around a lot of charismatic stuff) because people might think they have to fake some sort of elevated spirituality. I could be totally wrong about that.
      On the undisciplined kids, you’ll find that everywhere. It’s all over our society and reflects societal breakdown. Kids end up drugged because their parents fail to discipline them.

  25. I live in a small town south of Dayton, Ohio, and the majority of the posts that I have read here sound eerily like the conversations that my wife & I have concerning how unfriendly churches have become. I find that the older folks late 50’s on up tend to still understand what friendleness in church means. When you get below that, it is rare to find.

    Most mid size to bigger churches idea of friendly is the greeter shaking your hand at the door or handshaking during the official turn around during the service & greet your neighbor. I have seen cases where people would go around you to greet their friends. If you really want to test how friendly folks are, stand by the front door after church & see how many even acknowledge you. I worked in a plant for years that had over 1000 employees & even there, people would at least nod or say hello when one passed them in the aisle.

    I have had more fun & fellowship with the parents & coaches on my son’s baseball team or at the roller derby than I have had in years at any church.
    I understand what folks mean about no one inviting you out to lunch or to dinner at their home. We have done both many times & rarely had the favor returned. I grew in a church where folks watched out for one another & fellowshipped at church & at home. My parents were always entertaining people from the newcomer to the visiting evangelist. Isn’t it sad that one can sit in what passes for God’s house & feel so alone?

    The ironic thing about all of this is that I am an ordained minister & have filled in at many different churches over the years. I would enjoy sharing & swapping more thoughts and stories on this subject. I have some crazy stories to tell.

    1. Mark, feel free to share away! We have had people from different social strata and regions of the country comment and many share the same set of concerns. Fortunately for me, I am now in a church where this is no longer the case, but I know it is a vast wasteland out there. I am sorry for the pain this has caused you.

  26. Well here is an update on the church situation – I left the choir recently (explained to the choirmaster why, as I had been there a year) – it turned out that at least a couple of people in the choir had serious mental health problems!!! (which I now believe is why choir was continually leaving me feeling so drained).
    Another thing, one of the women who was nastiest to me has now come down with cancer. She has also left, although she and her husband left before me and I don’t think she’s aware I’m no longer there. She sends me and the rest of the choir updates on how her condition is progressing – despite having treated me with contempt and disdain before. I respond to her emails briefly, positively and politely, although what I would really like to do in my heart of hearts is tell her to F- off – though I would feel incredibly guilty to do so – as when someone has cancer, what can you say? In a way I kinda hope she feels really guilty at my pleasantness – as she knows how she treated me – and I know that if I were in the same situation as her, it would be unlikely that she would give me the time of day.
    I feel my good nature is being taken advantage of, and I resent this. I am not a Christian by the way – but I feel that I am almost behaving better than some Christians I know! I try as hard as I can not to feel angry and bitter, and to remain stoical about the situation – I do find it ironic how everyone that is nasty to me seems to end up coming a cropper of some sort LOL!!!

      1. Well, my argument would be that Christians NEED non-Christians (especially since attendance is slack in many churches and they need all the bodies they can get). The very fact that I wasn’t a Christian made my contribution all the more worthwhile, since of course I didn’t “have” to be there!!
        I wouldn’t however have gone if I didn’t myself get anything out of it, and initially I did. I loved the music, the artwork in the church and we had an excellent speaker in our pastor (before he was himself “targeted” by the congregation and his sermons lost momentum).
        But goodness and genuine feeling are more than art, music and words, and much as some might have attempted to express religion using these mediums, the “goodness of intent” (presumed to be at the core of Christianity) didn’t really shine through in their attitude towards me or their fellow men. I won’t say I’m perfect, not by any means, but I didn’t really feel anything sincere in that environment (which would transcend ALL religions by the way).

          1. I don’t “believe” in the teachings of Jesus, bottom line, because I don’t agree with many of them. I don’t, moreover, believe he was the greatest teacher, and whilst his spirit (as all of our spirits) may have been immortal, his body most certainly was not.
            I find that there are others who communicate a path to a higher self in a more satisfying way, and not necessarily through “philosophy” but through other gifts, such as art, music or poetry (for example, Rabindranath Tagore), including those men and women who for whatever reason have remained anonymous down the ages, and have made contributions to higher consciousness using whatever methods they saw fit.
            Nevertheless, some of the music and artworks connected with Christianity do communicate a sense of tapping into this higher self, and perhaps they do this better than words do. Perhaps this is what I enjoy.
            I believe there is a (newly published) book by a guy called Alain de Botton called “Religion for Aetheists” which addresses similar issues.

            1. As many have said, he was nothing but a liar and a fraud if he didn’t rise from the dead.
              There is no basis for higher or lower, good or bad, outside of the transcendent God. All is matter, atoms smashing against atoms.

  27. I know this is an old post, however, it’s so relevant to what my husband and I are experiencing. We’re brand-new to an area of Wisconsin and we’ve found that the vast majority of the churches are very unfriendly. I’m really not sure why we’ve come back to the one we’re now attending, but I guess it’s mainly because the preaching is quite good. Otherwise, the first four weeks we visited literally NO ONE talked to us but one couple we knew before going there. Even during the “fellowship break” we would just stand there with our coffee and look at all the little groups of people standing around talking. And, like others have said, this is not a huge church – in fact, probably only about 125-150 people.

    Now that we’ve been going for a little while again I thought that I needed to give it more of a chance. So we signed up for a small group. They were supposed to begin last night (and were announced at church yesterday morning) but about two hours before it was to start we received a call saying that it was cancelled. Then the guy went on to say that they’ll send out an email letting everyone know where it’ll be next week (even though it says the address in the bulletin – I guess something came up?), but he went on to add, “Well, of course, you’re welcome to attend if you want to.” Okay – don’t mean to read into stuff too much, but the impression I got was, “You can come,, but since we don’t even know who you are, we’re alright with it if you don’t either.” I mean – what’s wrong with making sure someone feels welcome by saying something like, “Well, we hope to see you guys next week?”

    I’m very disheartened. We came from a church which we attended for many, many years and raised our children there. We were very involved and like someone else here said – when new people came our congregation swarmed them. I was almost afraid sometimes that we’d scare them off by smothering them! But, anyway, most visitors would get an invitation to dinner by the second time they visited. I just don’t understand this area at all! Maybe it’s because it’s an affluent area and our roots are just more humble-pie.

    1. Sorry to hear it. I wish I had an answer but I don’t. I think this is part and parcel of our late modern condition in the USA. I suppose it is best to just try and find a good friend or two and not expect much from the broader congregation.

  28. I’m an ex Roman Catholic. I’ve started attending a LCMS Lutheran church about 25 minutes away and they are the coldest, most lifeless bunch of humans I’ve ever encountered. I really like the Pastor, a young guy of about 30, and the Church is beautiful. But the people are the definition of UNFRIENDLY. The Pastor last week made a poiint to say “Make sure you greet the people around you as you leave”. The woman in back of me briefly looked me in the eye and immediatly turned away and walked off. Was it my sort of long hair??

    As I said, I like the Pastor and he teaches the Word in a way that would make Luther proud. I’m going to keep going, maybe the dead will awake….

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