I've told people for many years that the hardest thing we do as a church is weekly worship! How do we as sinners rightfully enter into the presence of a holy God and offer Him any sort of suitable worship? It boggles the mind to consider what a privilege this is ... and also the responsibility we have to do it rightly and in accord with God's Word. Surely not something to be taken lightly.
But other than this primary and fundamental difficulty of worship, there are other matters that make it tough! We have to consider the style of music, song selection, elements of liturgy, seating, room temperature, dress, logistics, childcare, opening and closing the building, and a host of other things. How do we manage all these things when folks have so many differing opinions, preferences, likes, dislikes, traditions, and backgrounds? Again, these are nothing when compared to the seriousness of entering into God's presence, but nevertheless are matters we must consider.
Here's another thing that makes Sunday worship hard ... how are we to treat the guests who come and worship with us? I just read an article by church researcher Thom Rainer and he listed the "Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests." Want to guess what the top two were? ... the first is essentially the church is trying to be too friendly (specifically he identified the "stand up and greet one another" during worship time). The second reason is the church isn't friendly enough (in his terms "unfriendly church members"). So should we be friendly? How friendly should we be? We'll offend folks if we come on too strong ... we'll offend folks if we don't come on strong enough ... where's the balance? How should we welcome the Sunday morning guest? How can we make everyone happy? Of course, I know that we can be very welcoming without having the awkward "stand and greet" time. Though there are some exceptions and slip ups, I think for the most part Community does a pretty good job with this.
But know that I'm not writing about a welcoming strategy. I'm actually thinking more of the way we worship ... our mindset, perspective, focus, posture, etc. before and during worship. If our focus is on "how to make everyone happy" then we're going to fail miserably at the whole deal. Both our worship to our Father and our relationship to guests will be seriously hindered and flawed. Perhaps our focus needs to be on Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church, our Redeemer, Sovereign Lord, and Savior. When our gaze is fully on Him we will most certainly treat others, including our guests, with great respect and love. The more pure our worship to Christ, the better will be our "welcoming" posture toward one another. How can it not? The more enamored we are with God's love for us in Christ the more loving we'll be toward one another.
I'm not saying we shouldn't be intentional and welcome our Sunday morning guests ... we most definitely should ... so please do! But most importantly, fix your eyes on Christ and insure that your encounters with others are the natural outgrowth of a heart saturated with the Gospel. I suspect that when this occurs our guests will neither feel overwhelmed by artificial friendliness nor put off by a lack of friendliness!