Towns and Porter deliver a slap to the face of most of us when they write, “Most churches consider themselves a friendly church because church members feel the warmth and friendship of others in the church family. It is not uncommon to see groups of people gathered throughout the church facility before and after services laughing and talking together. But often the warmth of Christian fellowship is turned inward to others in the church family and seldom experienced by outsiders who visit the congregation” (Churches That Multiply, 108). The painful question for us to ask is, “Does that describe us?” Where do we direct the bulk of our attention? How often do we reach out to non-Christians, visitors, new Christians, and Christians who are not “regulars”? Does it matter to God if we are making the effort?
This is not about what kind of personality I possess, be it introverted or extroverted. It is not about what I feel to be the most comfortable or easy path. It is about thinking souls at every assembly. Every person who comes in through our doors is telling us, “OK, I am here. I need to know if I matter to you as I try to decide whether or not God, Christ, and the Bible matter to me. Ignore me and I will not return. Love me and I may never leave.” See the power for good or ill this places into our hands?
Church leaders must take the lead here. If the ministers, their wives, elders, their wives, deacons, their wives, and other, recognized leaders and their wives would seek out and try to connect with our visitors and struggling members, it would make a monumental difference. Yet, it also points out that not everyone is doing that at present. Barna, the consummate church researcher, contends, “Theology matters, but in the minds of the unchurched (and, quite frankly, most of the churched), the friendly and caring nature of the people matters more” (Grow Your Church From The Outside In, 91). We may bristle at the idea that our visitors value friendliness over a “thus saith the Lord,” but Jesus warned us it was so. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). “One another” undoubtedly includes fellow Christians, but does it exclude these others that come among us?
How we need to be reaching out, day by day, to friends, family, co-workers, and others that we may bring with us to the assemblies and to study God’s Word. But, what are we doing with those golden opportunities, those who are walking right through our doors? Will you rise to the challenge and think about them, and share the love of Jesus with them! They may be eternally grateful to you!