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It was just a few weeks ago and I was thinking I was the most accessible and approachable pastor on earth. Forgive me – that’s what I thought. I do breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners, late coffees, counseling. I welcome people in the lobby and outside of my church on Sunday morning. I stick around after the service and pray with people and talk with people. I have game nights, fight nights, cookouts, go to the movies with guys from my church – catch ballgames. I thought I had all my bases covered from my uncles advice of “Walk slowly through the pews.” Then I got the phone call.

A friend of mine in the church called me and said he thought I was under attack. He mentioned a few people that were upset with me. As leaders, we know this is bound to happen and one of the costs of leadership. However, one thing he said got my attention. He said an older gentlemen at our church had left our church because I didn’t speak to him in Walmart. Say what?

Now obviously, this guy has some issues and is pretty immature to leave a church over something so minor, but it got me thinking. Do I walk slowly through the aisles of Walmart and try to make eye contact with people and say hello to people I know? It’s a small town! The truth is I can’t stand going to Walmart. It’s crowded and busy and I just want to get in and out and move on with my life – but ever since my friend told me that, I’ve been stopping to look around and make sure I don’t miss someone I know. Make sure I don’t miss an opportunity to smile and greet someone from my church or in the community in an environment outside the walls of my church.

Am I paranoid? No. I obviously didn’t see the man he was referring to, but I am trying to be more conscience and aware of my surroundings when I’m out in public. Here’s the truth: This is true for me in a small town. We have a good size church in a small community so a lot of people recognize me. This is also true of my mega-church friends that pastor thousands. You never know who’s watching you and what their impression of you is as you go through a drive-thru, check out at the register or order in a restaurant. We need to be constantly on guard (not fake) and mindful of our attitudes toward people we encounter in public. You can’t just “turn it on” in the pulpit and then go hide in your office. Don’t be that guy!

How about you? Have you ever been in a rush and doing something outside of your church and find out that you’re actually talking to and interacting with someone that attends your church?

Greg Atkinson

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