This past week I spent many hours in airports across the country. My sister- in-law married a US Navy Sailor in Groton, Connecticut, and they asked me to perform the ceremony. My journey began in Austin, Texas where I boarded a flight to Dallas. The next morning, I boarded a flight in Dallas where I flew to Washington D.C. In Washington D.C., I boarded another flight for Hartford, Connecticut. The following day, I left Hartford and landed in Charlotte, North Carolina where we were delayed for hours due to weather. Finally, I boarded another flight in Charlotte where my final destination was Dallas. With all of these different flights and beautifully scenery of terminals, I made some interesting observations.
When we left Dallas, for the most part everyone was very friendly. I was one of the last passengers to board the plane, but another man ran up to the gate gasping for air. It was obvious that he was running late and having a stressful morning. The agent took his boarding pass and said, “It’s ok sweetie, everyone is going to make this flight.” When I landed in Hartford, the “southern charm” had disappeared. People were as cold as the weather. At Thrifty rental car, the agent did not say, “Can I help you?” but rather, “What do you need?” Even at the hotel in Groton, I was speaking with the concierge and she said, “You’re so nice, I’m probably coming across very rude. I apologize, it’s just natural.” Apology accepted! As I was sitting in the terminal in Charlotte, exhausted and delayed due to weather, I made some more observations. The flight we were waiting on arrived from JFK airport in New York. The passengers de-boarded, ran through the airport, and pushed slower travelers to the side. I also noticed that the passengers waiting to come to Dallas were tired, but fairly up beat. Needless to say, I was ready to get back to “Chicken Fried” everything.
Now, I believe it’s wrong to be “stereotypical” people, and I think the Bible warns us against it. I’m only making observations from what I saw; it’s not always that way. Many of my friends at Harding were from the north, and they were some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet. But, it did get me thinking, “How do guests see us when they visit our churches?” I’ve heard different metaphors to describe the church. Some will describe it as a “Country Club” where everyone fits into a mold that only a few can match. Some view the church as a “Pep Rally” where everyone’s happy beyond reality. Others see the church as a “Hospital” where everyone’s broken beyond repair.
I don’t think the church can ever display only one “image.” But, why don’t we make this “image” our goal? We’re a group of imperfect people who love another, and love our God even more! That’s an “atmosphere” where everyone will feel welcome!