my wife and i visited a couple of church services last week. we don't get to do this very often, so we were more than interested in the kind of experience we would have. its been over 30 years since we visited a church to see if we would like to make it our church home. (side note: in the past 30 years, i've been a pastor in three churches...)
when we walked in the door of the first church building...actually, it was the front door of a middle school cafeteria...we were greeted by a really friendly woman. she was obviously the designated greeter. outgoing, gregarious, huge smile, syrupy sweet, over-the-top chipper. i was still trying to figure out if i was fully awake... oh, well.
she did everything right...at least according to what the training manual for church greeters mandates. firm handshake and good eye contact. she introduced herself and paused appropriately to let us introduce ourselves. she asked us what brought us to their church that morning and told us how glad she was that we had chosen their church to come to. she pointed us to the auditorium and wished us a good morning experience. as we parted, she told us that she hoped to see us again.
like i said, she did everything the way the book says. but for me, it didn't seem particularly real. it felt like she was doing her job. don't get me wrong. i think we need people to welcome new people and try to make a good first impression and give them a warm introduction and all that. but it was what i didn't get that made the biggest impact on me.
after the initial greeting from the designated handshaker, nobody said much of anything to us. people walked right by us to talk to their friends, catch up on the past week, and make plans for where they were going for lunch after the service. it was a church of about 150, so it wasn't like we were lost in the crowd.
they had a nice service. the band wasn't slick, but they were well prepared. the worship leader was sincere. they lead four or five songs. they had communion and offering. they had a sermon that was understandable and challenging. even tho he was a guest preacher, i got the feeling that it was similar to what the regular guy was like. like i said...it was a nice service. the people obviously liked each other. it was casual. it wasn't real churchy.
if i lived there, i don't think i would choose to make it my church home. i'm not too sure i would even give it a second chance. i know this sounds critical, but it just felt like everybody was going through the motions...letting the designated people do their designated responsibilities. the greeter, the children's pastor, the worship leader, the preacher. i didn't sense anything particularly real.
i don't think i was looking for friendly. i was looking for friends. i was looking for genuine connection. or at least the potential for that kind of connection to happen. i wasn't looking for a friendly designated greeter. i was looking for undesignated, genuine people who would really show an interest in me and who really...i mean really... loved their church. i found neither.
i know people ought to be coming to worship god. trust me, i can worship god anywhere. it's just that i would choose to go anywhere else to do it.
any thoughts? does this sound like any church you are familiar with?