In the 80's and 90's churches spent a lot of time trying to become more "friendly." I have no doubt one of the reasons such a pursuit fails even today is because even if nearly all of the church is committed to being "friendly," hospitable, or encouraging (words I like far better), people who are allowed to spew spiritual venom, negativity, gossip, or slander around the church can overpower a church-wide effort with their ugliness.
It really only takes one. In fact, the reason a church may need to become more friendly is because a person or small group of people has been creating a culture of ugliness for years. Don't get me wrong…almost every church can improve their hospitality. However, the reason so many churches feel unfriendly is because everyone inhales the second-hand verbal smoke from certain people.
Many churches fail to recognize the smell that one bad egg can create in a building on Sunday morning. It's not freedom of speech. It's not "just their opinion…and everyone's entitled to it." It's sin. Jesus said that we will be held accountable for every careless word we utter. Paul told us to only say that which was useful for building up. That means that even when we challenge or rebuke one another…the goal is redemptive. Our words and attitudes should testify to that goal.
When a person or others are fouling the air, I would suggest that church leaders confront them and deal with them as soon as they become aware of the problem. Remind them of what Scripture teaches about our speech. Remind them of the negative impact they are having on others. Call them to repent. Unfortunately, many churches think it best to let people speak freely…no matter how destructive their speech may be. They think, "it's just one person," or "that's just Joe being Joe." This is a big small mistake. It's an abdication of leadership, a failure of nerve, a failure to recognize the power of words and ugliness, and setting the table for such foulness to become contagious.
If we say to guests and members alike, "nevermind the smell," we will reap what we've sown: the preservation of "freedom of speech" and the absence of godly speech. Leadership will set the bar on this. If leaders can't manage their mouths well, the church won't either. If leaders role-model godly character through words ripe with the Fruits of the Spirit…well, they will create a culture, and the air in the building will smell like freshly baked bread…without a hint of sewage.
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:34b-37
Question: What's the most outrageous thing you've ever heard a person say on a Sunday morning?