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Church - the Friendliest Place on Earth?

If your next-door neighbour attended your church for the first time, how confident would you be that they would receive a warm welcome?

On a scale of 1-10, how friendly is your church?

Here's one way to think about it - if your next-door neighbour attended your church for the first time, how confident would you be that they would receive a warm welcome?

And if they went on their own, without you there to introduce them to the people you know, how would that affect your ranking?

Visitors to church will put up with a lot. Unreliable PowerPoint. Uncomfortable seats. Long sermons. Instant coffee. But few visitors will tolerate cold fellowship.

It is a horrible feeling to walk away from church after few if any people smiled at you, spoke with you or even seemed pleased to see you.

People expect a warm welcome at church - and so they should! Churches should be the friendliest places on earth! Where else do you encounter a room full of people who have experienced the extravagant, undeserved kindness of God?! Where else can you be surrounded by people who have the very Spirit of God dwelling in them?!

Churches are unique gatherings and our experience meeting with the people of God should be like no other. The way we love each other is compelled by God and is a sign to the world of Who we now follow.

Perhaps this is why it's so jarring when churches aren't warm and welcoming. And this can be the experience not only of first-time visitors but of people who have attended a church for weeks, months and even years.

As Christians, our impulse must be to warmly draw near to the stranger because God first drew near to us - when we were His enemies. Every interaction is an opportunity to share and demonstrate the love of God.

And let's be honest - it doesn't take much to smile and say hello. Yes, greeting strangers pushes some people out of their comfort zone more than others. And yes, there is always the risk that you will be rejected or somehow embarrass yourself. But Jesus has gone before us and been rejected and ashamed. This frees us to act selflessly, confident that our identity is now secure.

So here are six simple ways to be friendly at church this Sunday:

  1. When you see someone looking for somewhere to sit, smile and invite them to sit with you.
  2. When you take a seat, smile and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you.
  3. When you drop off your children at the kid's program, smile and speak with other parents who are doing the same thing.
  4. When the service ends, turn around, smile and say hello to the people sitting behind you.
  5. When you are getting morning tea, smile and offer to pour a drink to the next person in line.
  6. When you see people leaving, smile and say goodbye.

How would it feel to be the person on the receiving end of those interactions? Would you come back? Would you bring your friends?