I recently read an interesting article entitled Eight Confessions of Church Spies. Churches can hire a consulting outfit to send “spies” (like “mystery shoppers”) to evaluate and critique them. It’s thought provoking article and a helpful reminder that we need to put ourselves in the shoes of visitors and be considerate of showing them the Lord’s hospitality. In a nutshell, the 8 confessions were:
1. Church websites are often outdated, boring … and useless.
2. Churches are not friendly.
3. Church facilities are not generally marked well.
4. Churches aren’t prepared for guests.
5. Churches are poorly equipped for protecting children.
6. Worship through music often needs improvement.
7. Preaching is often weak.
8. Churches are not always clear in “what to do” in response to worship.
I think #2 is especially where a congregation like ours can easily deceive itself. We love one another; we enjoy fellowshipping with each other; we each have friends in the church. But if a person is a visitor, especially if he or she is a bit shy about inserting himself or herself into a conversation, such friendliness may be perceived as hard-to-break-into cliquishness. It may not be intended that way, but it can feel like unfriendliness to outsiders. I believe that our Lord would have his redeemed children take the initiative to welcome newcomers and introduce them to others. So put your antennae up every Lord’s Day; keep a sharp lookout for visitors; consider how you might serve them and make them feel welcome; and mean it. Or, in other words, love your neighbour as yourself.