In a recent survey of 10,000 persons concerning 20 major denominations, Southern Baptists ranked the highest among those surveyed in friendliness. On a scale of 1-100, denominations were ranked according to how friendly they were. The median on the survey was 64. Southern Baptists scored a 77.
Of all those surveyed every denomination that scored above 64 was a growing denomination. All those below 64 were dying denominations. To put it simply, GROWING CHURCHES LOVE AND LOVING CHURCHES GROW!
Just as plants must have the proper environment to grow so churches have to “create” an atmosphere conducive to growth. The number one complaint of the unchurched is that churches are unfriendly and cliquish. We all know churches that are more cliques than congregations.
Often the large church is criticized for being large. It is said, small churches are friendly and large churches are unfriendly. The truth is, you don’t get to be a big church without being friendly.
Church growth experts tell us that 30% of visitors choose a church by the Pastor, 17% by the people they meet. In other words, 47% choose a church based on their impression of people! Only 15% go somewhere because of programs, 12% by location, 12% according to doctrine, and 7% by denominational alignment. The advent of the automobile and paved roads have made location less an issue than ever. People don’t mind the distance if they find a difference.
People are going where they are loved, taught, and encouraged. We must accept the fact that denominational background is becoming less and less a factor in persons choosing a church. They will change their denominational affiliation if they are loved. This is not necessarily good, it is simply reality. We live in a need-oriented society.
When a person visits our job is to help them relax. We need to offer unconditional love to the seeking and searching. They may have never darkened the door of a church before. Or, they may have been in church all their lives but never felt loved and accepted. The truth is, on every pew there is a broken heart.
We must say to this broken, battered, beaten and bewildered world, you matter to God and to us. We need to reach out with arms open wide and say without apology, “Whosoever will may come!”
The church should always seek to provide the kind of environment where growth can take place. Not just numerical growth but spiritual growth. The reason many persons visit Sherwood is because they are tired of attending churches that fight, bicker, and argue over carpet, budgets, and non-essentials.
By God’s grace this fellowship is marked by love, compassion, grace, and mercy. We must never take it for granted. We must diligently guard it and preserve it. We are the exception and not the rule.
When folks see our contagious love, they will want more. They will come back. They will tell others. They will long to get involved. We are called to show the world the agape love of God.
It never costs to be kind, gracious, friendly, and warm. I love our times when we have a few moments of holy hugs. Romans 14:19 says, “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
To quote one of the early church fathers, “In essentials-unity, in non-essentials-liberty, in all things-charity (love).” I am grateful to pastor a people who are not straining at gnats (Lord knows we’ve got enough gnats in South Georgia). It is a mark of the Spirit that we can walk hand in hand without always seeing eye to eye.
Dr. Havner said, “Not tongues nor faith nor prophecy nor knowledge nor martyrdom nor philanthropy, but LOVE is the Christian’s mark of distinction. Love is the essence and life of the Christian faith. When we love as He first loved us, we give and we forgive.
Let me make a few suggestions. One, smile at everyone you see. They need the encouragement and your face needs the exercise. Two, be generous with hugs and handshakes. Three, give those you meet a pat on the back. Four, say “I love you” to at least seven people every Sunday. They may not have heard those three words all week. Five, find tangible ways to express your love. Write notes of encouragement, pray for folks by name, make a cake, offer to help them with a project (you get the idea).
Profound Thought…”I am determined that I am going to love everybody, even if it kills me! I have set my heart on it, I am going to do it.”- A.W. Tozer
©Michael Catt 1994 (from I Left My Mind in Mississippi, pg. 68-71) All rights reserved.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.