Then, however, seemingly out of nowhere, the new member is gone. The pastor is never consulted, but he is told by another member that the visitor was unhappy with something in the church, usually the friendliness of the people, and they are now seeking another church. Then begins the difficult and time-consuming process of sorting out what went wrong. Blame is placed on the church for her failures and discouragement filters to other members who hear the complaints.
I confess that after almost twenty years of pastoral ministry, I still do not learn lessons very well. After these many years, I should know by now that affirmations like this, and immediate responses that demand becoming a member of the church, typically have around a six-month commitment level, and then the silent departure follows.
The real issue, however, is rarely thought through: Did we really love the visitor with patient discipling, or was this a joint effort in personal and ecclesiastical narcissism?
We see this constantly in Southern California. Evangelicalism is in a drastic state of decline, and I suspect in the years to come that we will see record numbers of people who are currently involved in a broader evangelical church identify as exvangelical. There are those, however, who are genuinely seeking something more substantive. Reformed churches offer a radical alternative to the theological shallowness of many evangelical churches. Visitors attend, often after hearing someone like RC Sproul on the radio, and they are mind blown.
The problem is that detoxification from evangelicalism is a very long process and transition to a Reformed church is not an easy one for former evangelicals. You can take an evangelical out of evangelicalism, but it’s for more difficult to take evangelicalism out of an evangelical. In other words, we have to appreciate that coming to a Reformed church really is a new kind of “experience” for evangelicals—and living with “experience” is all they’ve known. The Word of God is expositionally expounded, the sacraments are valued, and the community is serious about the Christian faith all in ways often not previously experienced.
…There are certainly right and wrong reasons to leave a local church. But departures should not be because there was a neglect of the necessary time to train newcomers in what the church believes and confesses, and to help them integrate into their new community. If they are not willing to take the time to learn the doctrines of the church and the community to which they are joining, then there is nothing wrong with encouraging them to find a church where they can make this solemn commitment before the Lord. These efforts by the leadership will cultivate a more sincere commitment to the body of Christ at the local level. Read More»
Chris Gordon | “Thinking Carefully About Our Approach With Church Visitors” | January 23, 2023
- How To Subscribe To Heidelmedia
- The Heidelblog Resource Page
- Heidelmedia Resources
- The Ecumenical Creeds
- The Reformed Confessions
- The Heidelberg Catechism
- Recovering the Reformed Confession (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008)
- Why I Am A Christian
- What Must A Christian Believe?
- Heidelblog Contributors
- Heidelcast Series: As It Was In The Days Of Noah
- Heidelminicast Series: Contra Postmillennialism
- Resources On Eschatology
- Church Membership: The Assembly At The Foot Of The Mountain
- Is The Local Church A Tool Of The Enemy?
- Resources On Church Growth And Ordinary Means Ministry
- Why Love Is Not A Mark Of The True Church
- Two Years Is Not Enough
- Support Heidelmedia: use the donate button or send a check to
Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization