Friendliness – a potent instrument in evangelism
Last Sunday, while attending an Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) conference, in Brisbane, I worshipped at a local Anglican Church with the other participants.
After the service, I started talking to a person who I assumed was a regular parishioner. It turned out that he was ‘church shopping’. He wanted to reconnect with a church community after many years of absence.
I walked with him over to the hall for a ‘cuppa’ and introduced him to a group of chatting parishioners. When he was leaving he came over to me with a smile on his face and said, “They were all very friendly.”
I encouraged him to make sure he came back because we all need the comfort, encouragement and support of others if we are to live the Christian life. We need to be people in community.
By coincidence, in this week’s edition of Pulpit Resource, there is a short article about churches and friendliness, which I reproduce here in part:
“I think you’ll find us to be one of the friendliest churches you’ve ever visited,” a person said to me. Friendliness has always seemed to me a rather modest virtue for a church to brag about. Isn’t the church supposed to be more than simply “friendly”?
I’ve decided of late that while the church may be more than simple friendliness, it is certainly not less than that. In a society of great loneliness, anonymity and detachment, a church that offers open-handed friendliness is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps society has become so impersonal, detached and lonely that a simple act like friendliness can be blessed by God to be a potent instrument in evangelism.
Every church ought to assess how it appears to those who visit. Most churches think of themselves as friendly, but too often that means that the members are warm and friendly to each other.
Perhaps your congregation is not filled with a group of great lay theologians. Perhaps you don’t have the greatest liturgy or musical leadership. But there is a good chance you can at least be friendly, extend a warm welcome, come forth and embrace those who risk visiting your church.
God is likely to bless such efforts, to take such a modest virtue like friendliness and work it up into a sign of salvation for those languishing in a culture of loneliness.
Bryan Stone, a writer on evangelism, says that if the effective witness of a community can be “measured” at all, it can be best measured by “how well a community prepares a place at its table for those who are not there yet, for those who have not even heard, much less heeded, its invitation”.