IT'S YOUR CHURCH-WHY LEAVE IT ?
(Trussville, AL USA)
"Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the Temple. And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have made it a robbers’ den.” (Mark 11:15-17)
Let me state up front, this is not intended as a beat-up on the church, for I truly love the full-gospel message of the church (1 Cor. 15:1-4), the message of God's plan of Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) (John 3:16), and the message of comfort (1 Cor. 2:10) (Acts 9:31) and conviction of God's Holy Spirit. (John 16:8-11) (2 Cor. 3:18)
Yes, I want to see the true mission of the church return to reality, not just some statement of faith on a much forgotten website. I want to see the church experience spiritual and physical growth, as individuals and collectively, in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. I want to see visitors not just attend one Sunday and never return, but continue as a part of a local fellowship. (Hebrews 10:25)
I have been fortunate to have taken part in a variety of church service formats for many decades. And the more I attend church, the more it seems that the churches are losing their parishioners. (2 Timothy 3:9)
I can fully understand those expected losses by means of death, age, sickness, job transfer, etc. Nonetheless, what about those leaving church because of a myriad of dissatisfactions? (2 Timothy 3:9) When this happens, who in the church is responsible to approach these particular individuals in an effort to reconcile these differences, be they differences of a real or fabricated nature? (Romans 14:19)
It's amazing that when a long standing loyal church member leaves the church, it always seems that it was the defector’s fault and not because of any particular faction of the church.
Often times the order of service seems to be geared to a particular age or demographic group. This mistake should be avoided at all cost. The purpose of the service is to include all attendees. The Apostle Paul was a master of pleasing the mixed audiences of Jewish and Greek descent. (1 Cor. 10:32) On occasion, He would even count on his young trainee in the faith, Timothy, to help him out. (I Timothy 1:3)
Never forget the young people, for they are the church of tomorrow. Where there are no young people, the church will quickly perish. You see, we old folk will not be around forever. Try getting the young ones involved in the service. (Proverbs 22:6) Have a youth Sunday, whereby the youth actually take over the service. Allow them to say a brief simple prayer, read the Scripture, assist with the offering or even lead a song on occasion. Oh yes, they will often fail in their endeavors, but when this happens just give them a hand clap of love and continue on. (Matthew 19:14) I can still remember many pleasant memories growing up in the church, when we young people would take over a service on any given Sunday.
Not only has the church forgotten the youth, but it is not giving the meat of the gospel (1 Cor 3:2) to sustain us older folk when we go out into this troubled, evil world. (Hebrews 5:12) I once heard an "old time religion" Deacon state, "It's not the sweet-by-and-bye, but it's the nasty now-and-now that I am worried about.”
Maybe the church has a leadership crisis. I don't necessarily mean the pastor, as the pastor can't do it alone. If the church is to survive, it must grow leaders who can meet the personal needs of its parishioners. (Exodus 18: 21-26) It seems that the church has developed most of its programs around “come here" rather than "go there.” The church must go meet the congregation’s needs. Designate leaders who will go outside the walls of the church and meet people where they are hurting and the church will grow. (1 Timothy 3:1, 7)
Is the church too big? Now just wait a minute. First the church is losing members and now it's too big. All churches, regardless of size, should be places in which all ages may feel warmly welcomed. A good idea is to have small worship groups, aside from the structured worship service, whereby one can plug in with others of like needs and experiences. (1 John 3:16-18) Pray that this will happen in your church, so that others will feel comfortable and not leave. (Titus 3:14)
Good sound preaching is crucial for church growth. (2 Timothy 4:2) For example, a church may collectively be told to have faith in all matters of life without being given a good scriptural foundation in faith. (Hebrews 11:1, 6) When this happens, and a member's faith seems to fail in troubled times, the discouraged member will most likely leave the church in search of sound doctrinal preaching. (1 Cor. 2:5)
One key factor of church membership loss is disorganization. All aspects of the church, especially the service format, should have a consistent clear purpose or church members will either move to another church or slowly drift away. Some church circles may just call this backsliding. (Proverbs 4:25)
One important factor in church growth is its visitors. Often times, an individual or family will visit a prospective church in hopes of finding a warm friendly atmosphere, only to come away disappointed. Visitors should be made to feel wanted, needed and appreciated. No visitor should ever visit a church without the pastor or a church leader obtaining the proper information for a follow-up visit or phone call.
Most churches have a good stable doctrine of "What we believe" tucked away somewhere in the church’s by-laws. So why not preach it, reinforce it and teach it from the pulpit? (Colossians 1:25) Subsequently, the congregation will have a firm scriptural foundation when times get tough, and times will surely get tough. Having a good scriptural foundation will tend to encourage members to stay with a well-grounded church.
Now we have the "Name it and Claim it" doctrine. This new "best life" doctrine of "every day is like Sunday" mentality will surely fail as one gives in to this world's Satanic frame of mind. (Matthew 7:15) This attitude leaves very little room for the correction of depression, struggle or doubt. (2 Timothy 1:7) What happens then? Fellow church members, when realizing the church has failed them, will then secede from the structured Sunday morning church service to the beach, the golf course, or the shopping mall. (Proverbs 14:14) Life is not always happy, happy, happy. (2 Cor 12:10) ( 2 Cor 12:10)
The church has traded a historic, objective gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9) for a mind-set based on achieving certain goals by just following a matrix of "new age" life strategies.( 1 Timothy 3:2-5) And then we wonder why the church is losing its members. If the church is simply a place to achieve a better lifestyle within the community, then it doesn't need a crucified Jesus to redeem mankind from its sin nature. (Romans 5:12-21) One would need only to tune in the latest Internet social media outlet. Sad to say, this new gospel of self-help saves no one. (John 14:6) Thus church members then leave the church, as they are given a more convenient choice. (Acts 26:28)
In conclusion, does your church have a clear vision; a vision of physical expansion, a vision of membership growth, a vision of developing a good praise and worship team, a vision of mission support, and most important of all, a vision of seeing poor lost souls being rescued for Heaven? (Romans 2:6-8) If so, it's very important that these projects be followed through. Not following through will cause existing members to doubt the church's objectives and discourage prospective members from joining the church.
So what are you, as a member of the body of Christ, doing to grow your local church? Just a hint: please read how the first church prospered. (Acts 2:41:47)
So in answer to this blog's title question, should the only reasons of leaving a church be that the church is not preaching the true gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), that the church is preaching heresy (2 Timothy 3:1-9, 13) (2 Timothy 4:3-4), that the church is failing to live up to the standards of the first church? (Acts 2:41-47)
My family and I are very fortunate to have had a positive track record of attending good churches, including our present church fellowship. However I must say, the church is only as good as its members. It's kind of like a good meal; you get out of it only what you properly digest. If you eat too little, you may leave the table still hungry. If you overeat, you will wind up being miserable. If you fail to chew your food properly, you will need a big spoon of that pink stuff called Pepto-Bismol. Can you parallel these remarks to your church?
I do realize one need only to surf the Internet to find any number of reasons why people leave the church. However, most of the articles are written by pastors, not lay church members. It is unavoidable -- people will leave your church, sometimes for valid reasons (Psalm 92:12-13) ( Psalm 52:8), sometimes not. (Colossians 4:14) (Philemon 1:24) (2 Timothy 4:10)
When a close associate or friend leaves your church, it should never mean an end to your friendship. Pray that he or she will find a church that gives them spiritual growth. Simply ask God to heal their spiritual heart and guide them to the right worship surroundings. By praying for that friend, God will not only enhance their spirituality, but yours as well.
Bottom line: you only get out of your church what you put into your church. Amen! So go into the whole world and preach the gospel, through the proper channels of your church. (Acts 1:8) (Matthew 28:19-20)