Friday, September 18, 2015

Can You Handle the Truth? 3 Reasons Your Guests Aren’t Returning

All pastors know the feeling. A new couple visits on a Sunday morning. Maybe they just moved to the area and they are looking for a church, or a friend invited them, or they decided to give church a try. They seem really sharp, exactly the demographic you are trying to reach. You have a great conversation in the lobby. They promise to be back next week, but they’re not. They never come back.

Another family comes three weeks in a row. Each weekend you see them in the lobby after church and it seems like they are really connecting. They miss the fourth week, but they’re back on the fifth. And then they never come back.

What happened? Why didn’t these families connect? Why do so many people flow through your church without sticking? You’ve read the books, been to the conferences and tried everything you can think of, but the back door of your church is always wide open. What is going on?

While I haven’t been to your church, or if I have let’s pretend I haven’t, I have visited scores of church across the country and I know why many people don’t stick. Sometimes the music is really bad or the preaching is really boring or the children’s ministry is really awful, but there are other, less obvious, reasons people don’t return.... Read more


Charlie J. Ray said...

If your axiom is church growth, you are liberal. The axiom of Christianity is Sola Scriptura! Teaching the Scriptures and the truth is first and foremost in a biblically based church. The whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Robin G. Jordan said...

We have had this discussion before. Certainly teaching and preaching Biblical truths and principles is central to the ministry of the Church. However, it is not the main task of the Church, which is proclaiming the gospel and making disciples from all peoples groups. Teaching them Christ’s commandments is part of that task as is baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

If we look at the Scriptures, we see the Holy Spirit working in a number of different ways. We see a number of people for whom their conversion was a gradual process.

The Scriptures tell us that process of sanctification is a gradual one.

The Holy Spirit and the Word are the means by which an individual is converted and sanctified. The process begins with the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit.

In the parable of the unfruitful fig tree Jesus suggests that God does not abandon us if he does not see immediate results. He takes his time. He digs around our roots and loosens the soil and spreads fertilizer.

A good gardener pays attention to things like the soil and the like as he knows that these factors will contribute to the growth of a fruit-bearing tree that he has planted and how much fruit that tree will bear. If the tree does not bear fruit right away, he does not cut the tree down and throw it on the fire.

Jesus told his disciples that they should emulate God. This applies not only to individuals but also to congregations and churches. The difference between God and ourselves in this regard is God created the fig tree. He germinated it from a seed. He knows that it will bear fruit. He also knows how long it will take to bear fruit. We, however, do not have such knowledge. We must act on faith, doing what God has commanded us to do.

Paul also points out that some gospel workers will plant, others water, and others harvest. God may choose to work through several people to accomplish his purpose.

Robin G. Jordan said...

Among the implications is that pastors need to be mindful of how their own congregations may work against what God is doing in the heart and mind of an individual, how they rebel against being the instruments of God’s purpose that they were meant to be.

Geoff Surratt identifies what are three serious obstacles to the gospel, which where they are present are indicators of a spiritual unhealthy congregation.

The first is the congregation that is absorbed in its own fellowship and is not open to newcomers. In essence, it is working against God who is calling people to himself. Instead of welcoming those God brings into its midst, it ignores them. In subtle and not so subtle ways it turns them away.

The second is the congregation which by its actions says a lot about how it value not only people but also God. The message that members of a congregation who are habitually late for services conveys to newcomers is that they do not see the worship of God as important enough to come to services on time. They have other priorities.

The third is that the congregation that is not willing to make room for newcomers not only in its worship gatherings but also the life and ministry of the church. It is reasonable to assume that God is working in those who seek to gain admittance. In turning them away on the pretext it is full to capacity, it is essentially turning away God who is at work in them and who brought them to its door.

The Scriptures teach that we are not to be just hearers of the Word but also doers of the Word. The local church is not a hot tub in which the members of the congregation soak themselves in the Word Sunday after Sunday—hearing the Word, absorbing it like sponges, but bearing no fruit. What is important, Paul points out in his letter to the Galatians, is faith expressing itself in love. The Word that brings about no transformation in those hearing it is seed cast on rocky ground.

The inability of a congregation to keep the people that it attracts is a symptom of a much more serious spiritual problem. The symptom will disappear if the underlying spiritual problem is addressed.

When a congregation is spiritually healthy, it grows in two ways—first spiritually and then numerically. The numerical growth is a by-product of the spiritual growth. If it is doing what Christ commanded it to do, it will naturally see an increase in its numbers. Spiritually healthy disciples reproduce. They produce more disciples. Spiritually healthy congregations reproduce. They produce more congregations.

A church can increase its Sunday attendance artificially by various methods. But this kind of growth if it can be really considered growth is ephemeral. It is essentially building a house on shifting sand.