Welcome shouldn’t come with an asterisks

I recently wrote a blog about my thoughts on why church membership has declined over the years. The focus of that particular blog brought attention towards a message of “do unto others” and how we seem to have forgotten that everyone has a specific path when seeking a relationship with their God. After all, we are taught that God created all in his image. Rather than allow that particular message blend with our soul, we somehow became selective rather it be mannerisms, different behaviors, or ideologies to determine if membership and welcoming is qualifications for membership.

This brings me to today’s observation of church parishioners and leadership to particular congregations or perhaps denominations. There seems to be emphasis or expectation on how a person is welcomed into a congregation. Naturally, there are welcoming committees, interest cards to be filled and returned, and in some cases acknowledgment during a service to welcome new visitors. But are congregations and parishioners accidentally or purposely making the welcome feel somewhat unwelcoming? One Sunday I witnessed a car pulling into a visitor space reserved for new people at my local Presbyterian church. Most noticeable on the car rear windshield was an Obama decal. I watched the young couple get out of the car and greeted by a committee person standing at the doorway that could see the visitor parking spaces. The couple was met with a handshake, and the church member went back towards the door to watch for other cars that may be first-time visitors in the remaining parking spaces.

Standing in near the doorway I could overhear conversations as the area from the choir stairwell is adjoined to the area that the welcoming committee stands. What I overheard next from the welcoming committee to a fellow parishner was most disturbing. “Another Obama supporter. I doubt they will be back.” From the brief moment I was struck that membership and welcoming are how one makes and develops it. To some, this observation may be an overstretch of other congregations. But the message of how we receive any prospect of new members or welcoming others to seek whatever religious preference available has indeed become a select committee judging others by the tangibles rather than the merits.

It is as if by chance and constructive skill that some Christians view others in an unchristian like manner if they appear or support others that different than the greeter or congregation majority? A self-assessment would be if an individual at your church mentioned they went to a political speech of a high profile political speaker, despite your objections and opposition to the speaker, in general, would you view that person or member differently? If so, you are perhaps an additional reason church members will continue to decline.

Christian values and virtues should be met with peace, dignity, intercession, and supplication. It doesn’t imply that our personal compass must align with others. It merely means that we surrender at one moment when before our Lord or higher power that we may set aside the controversy and reflect our image of God as merciful and legitimately welcoming of all. Congregations shouldn’t have to become marketing and customer service oriented agents because we should be superlative in our welcoming.

If your congregation has an image of blue jeans, tee shirts, tattoos, unshaven men, or others that appear dramatically different than yourself? Consider your congregation to be lucky and privileged to retain those seeking a religious message of positivity and spirituality versus if they were never there at all. I am always reminded that the meek will inherit the earth. It doesn’t say anything about the best dressed and most successful is in the same line?

Customers Behaving Badly

Okay. I know I shouldn’t be ordering fast food but from a recent visit, I noticed something very bizarre. I watched three different orders placed with three identical outcomes. The first person ordered a cheeseburger. The next person ordered a meal with extra special sauce. The last person ordered a two cheeseburger meal. What made this whole encounter amazing is that each of the customers returned his or her food citing an error. The first person told another fast food worker she didn’t want cheese on her burger. The second person returned his food saying there were too many pickles on it. The last person claimed that she said she didn’t want onions on her burgers. I could clearly overhear the conversation because I had nothing better else to do. But it felt as if people are complaining just because they can. I was so interested in this rare form of people watching that I purposely sat and watched customers repeatedly do the same thing by saying an order and complaining about the outcome they initially never raised.

Is there some form of code or culture that allows us to waste products by laying false blame? I would argue that it is entirely acceptable to return French fries because they might be cold. But to turn away cooked food and have it remade because you didn’t specify how you wanted it prepared has to be the newest form of people behaving badly.

After my meal, I made it a point to ask a manager on duty about my discovery. The McDonalds manager told me that it happens all the time. In fact, she instructs her cashiers to repeat the order like they would in a drive-thru lane. The customer agrees and yet there is an inaccuracy complaint. She said, “people want to complain some of the time” but must throw away the food according to law and reissue the order. The only suffering is the customer having to wait a longer period to have his or her order remade. She did mention that fast food locations are testing new phone apps that allow a person to place an order and make custom orders like no onions or extra cheese. But will this change the culture or attitude of those that habitually want to complain about others errors? My guess is no.

%d bloggers like this: