In one small church I pastored there was an elderly man who loved for people to visit the church but who also loved his seat.  Occasionally a visitor would get there before him and sit in his favored spot.  When he came in he would go over and shake hands and introduce himself.  He would then say “That’s my seat.  Don’t move, you can sit there today, but that’s my seat.”

  Most people saw the humor—I mean he was an older guy and he was trying so hard to be friendly.  He just couldn’t keep from letting them know they had his spot.  He always set there and planned to continue doing so.

  Unfortunately, there are many people who are just like this dear man, but without the nice attitude.  They might not say anything to the folks in their pew, but they would be seething within and might say something to others.  Small churches deal with petty issues like this on a regular basis.  Turf wars are all too common.

  So what should the pastor do?  You can’t just turn your head the other way when people are doing something in the Lord’s house that is displeasing to Him.  Do you confront them?  Rebuke them?  What’s the solution?

  I wish I could tell you there is a quick fix, but I’m afraid this is one of those long term deals.  The answer lies in educating your people about what is important and what is not.  That means teaching and teaching is not a one time shot.

  Once when I was a college student I was asked to preach for a youth Sunday at a rural church.  God laid a rather stern message on my heart that hit a number of different things that unchurched people might see church people do, causing us to be a bad witness for Christ in the community.  It really was a blistering message—not my usual cup of tea, but you preach what God tells you to.  You would have thought that after the service folks with those kind of issues would have been at least a little bit humbled.  But I still recall one man grinning at the pastor and myself as he drove off laughing “he didn’t say anything about dipping (smokeless tobacco).”  In other words, the sermon had not influenced his behavior at all.

  The point I am making is that for your people to learn better habits you are going to have to invest in a long term process of teaching them the right way.  Just preaching a sermon on the subject will not likely change anything.  Habits are not formed overnight and they certainly are not broken that way. 

  If you want your people to be more friendly, less selfish, and more in tune with the Lord’s will for those who visit your church, you are going to have to train them.  We know that people don’t automatically know the things of God just because they get saved.  Well guess what—they also don’t know how to behave in His house just because they have been members for years.

  I know that there are many other things your would rather spend your teaching time on.  But when you think about it, isn’t this an important issue for the future of your congregation?  If so, then it is worth your time spent in training.

  Let’s work together to make our small churches the most warm, welcome places on earth.  We feel that way about them, so let’s labor to help our guests feel that way too.