I had just come home from a ten-day trip and beheld an amazing sight. One hundred 10 pounds of fuzzy Alaskan malamute was doing figure eights at full speed. Each display ended at my feet, as he would roll over for me to tickle his tummy. When I would do so, he would begin another figure eight. Every cell of the big dog was saying, “I love you and I’m so glad to see you.” I got the point along with a third of a pint of dog slobber. I like Kodiak, because he likes me. I want him to know I like him. And while, with two steel and Teflon hip joints, the figure eights would give me a little trouble. I do reach down and hug his big head to my leg every time I get the chance.
In the mail the same day, I received a letter from one of the churches I had visited telling me they were glad I came their way. Enclosed was a report card for me to fill out grading them. One question asked was, “Did more than five of our members welcome you and introduce themselves?” My answer would be yes. The next was, “Did at least one of our members manifest such friendliness that you recall his name?” The answer again would be yes! If I lived in that area, I would like to be a member of that church. It is a thriving church and I am sure that one of the reasons is their friendliness. I am also sure that knowledge of the report card helps remind the membership of the importance of friendliness.
Friendliness is a fulfillment of the royal law. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (James 2:8) I think I would not want to be a member of a congregation that was selective in its friendliness – one that said. “Sit here in a good place” to the wealthy or famous. One that said, “Stand thou there” to those dressed in shabby clothing. Read James 2:1-13. I would believe such behavior to be a phony act without true regard for the worth of an individual – behavior that is friendly only if there is hope of gain. And it would be downright embarrassing to be invited to. “Sit under my footstool.”
Christ was a friend to the poor, the needy, and the outcast. His true followers will be the same. We should like it that way since we come to Him desperately needy, with nothing to offer except our poverty riddled spirits.
One who wishes to help the congregation, of which he is a member to grow, takes seriously the business of manifesting friendliness. We can get a full dose of unfriendliness almost anywhere these days. If you don’t think so you haven’t circulated around much! At worship is the very last place where unfriendliness should be encountered.
Doing full speed figure eights and rolling over might be a ludicrous spectacle in a crowded church foyer. But a smiling introduction wouldn’t hurt. And what about a sincere, “We hope to see you again?” Or a “Let us know if we can be of any help?” No, it wouldn’t hurt at all. And it might do a world of good!