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Is ‘Friendliness’ Next to Godliness?

24 February, 2010

Check out this insightful article from Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, entitled, “Should Churches Be as Friendly as a Bar?” Some juicy excerpts:

Perhaps I’m unusual, but I don’t want my pastor to be my buddy. Faithful preacher of the Word, yes. Discerning spiritual guide, yes. One who effectively leads me in corporate worship with dignity and grace, yes. A priestly presence in the hospital and at the graveside, yes.

But I don’t want a pastor pal—a chatty, affable, smiling, glad- handing cleric who becomes friends with everyone he meets.

Compare religious leaders in the Bible. Would any be described as friendly, even as friendly as a hairstylist? This doesn’t describe Moses. Nor Isaiah. Nor Jeremiah. Nor Paul. Nor Peter. Nor James.

Nor Jesus. Pick a Gospel, say Mark, and read through it at one sitting and then describe Jesus. Words like astonishing, awe-inspiring, perplexing, authoritative, intimidating, compassionate, honest, wise, serving, and self-sacrificial come to mind. But not friendly.

Where did we get this idea that the pastor’s job is to be friendly?

But the larger question is, why are we so taken with the idea that the church should be seen as friendly? Why do we conduct surveys about it and chide ourselves if we are not as friendly as a bar?

Let me put it another way: We all recognize how much cultural cache the church has lost in the last century. The reasons for that are broad and complex, but I wonder if one reason is that too many churches strive to be perceived as friendly.

Think of any vital, critical institution in our country, and the representatives of that institution. Are we primarily looking for friendliness in our bank teller? In our senator? In our therapist? In our oncologist? It’s a bonus if they are nice, but what we really want from the emergency room or Congress or our bank is an institution that is competent and which takes us seriously.

Could it be that the culture no longer takes the church seriously because we don’t take ourselves seriously? Could it be that the more we strive to be as friendly as a bar, the more we’ll be viewed as seriously as people view a bar?….

It is startling, in fact, how little emphasis the Bible puts on friendliness as such. One of the few times the idea comes up explicitly, Jesus says this: There is no greater love than that a man should give up his life for a friend (John 15:13).

You cannot take another more seriously than that.

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3 Comments
  1. 24 February, 2010 9:15 pm

    I agree:

    I want my pastor to be my pastor., I am at
    church for his preaching not for his friendship.

    Pete.

  2. bruce settergren permalink
    1 March, 2010 10:49 pm

    I’m not on board with this one. A healthy two-kingdom approach would allow for a person to function in one realm (culture) differently than he does in another (cult). If I want to be friendly (make a person a friend) that’s what I’m going to be/do. Why would I draw a line between myself and the teaching elder (or ruling elder for that matter) in the church? Besides, as a member of the church, it is required of me to show hospitality to others in the church. Neither the teaching elder nor the ruling elders should be excluded.

    • David R. permalink
      10 March, 2010 7:57 pm

      Hi, I think you missed the main point, which is: “Are we primarily looking for friendliness in our bank teller? In our senator? In our therapist? In our oncologist? It’s a bonus if they are nice, but what we really want from the emergency room or Congress or our bank is an institution that is competent and which takes us seriously.”

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