Making God’s House a Home
On February 18, 2021, the Carolina Conference hosted a Zoom presentation on reclaiming church members entitled, “Making God’s House a Home.” Over 70 people joined the virtual event to hear Jim Davidson, executive secretary for the Southern Union Conference. The information he shared was eye-opening and caused a moment of soul searching and reflection for each listener.
Davidson shared that people just don’t wake up and say, “This church that I’ve been going to for 15 years, I just don’t want to be there anymore.” It’s a process. And there are as many reasons for leaving as there are people who leave.
Some of those reasons include:
· Theological differences such as music, worship style, applause in church and eating out on Sabbath can become a point of contention
· Unrealistic expectations, such as expecting the pastor or members to be “perfect.”
· A wounded heart. They have been hurt by someone in the church.
· Unequally yoked. Of those individuals who marry a non-Adventist, 70% end up leaving the church.
· Not being involved in the work of the church. This leaves them on the “drop-out track.” Anyone who decides to “take a year off” is putting off a danger signal.
· Guilt. Bad habits that keep them away.
Most of the people who leave the Adventist church still have a strong connection, and only one in six end up joining another denomination. Most plan to reenter the church later in life, which is all the more reason why this reclaiming ministry is so vital. To add to the issue, Barna studies show that a good number of faithful attendees will not come back to church after this pandemic.
The first step in reclaiming members is to truly understand grace. Less than 70% of Adventists worldwide have the assurance of salvation in their heart. Graceful churches are those who perceive prodigals as a blessing to have return. Only by love is love awakened.
We need to be more than “Foyer friendly.” If we can be just 1/10 as loving as Jesus, people will be drawn to the church. A Christlike life is the most powerful argument for Christianity. People will be much less likely to believe what the minister preaches, but instead what the church lives.
Keep in touch—be aware. It is a lot easier to reconnect with someone who has not been there for five weeks than someone missing for five years. We cannot command or force them to return, but we can love them, and when we do, love will be a way into their heart.
They may not be friendly. They may unload all of their sadness and anger. Do not try to defend the church, but instead empathize and validate their feelings. Let the Lord work on changing their way of thinking if that is necessary.
When people do return, they are generally apprehensive about how they will be received, but we can ensure that when they do come back it is a positive and joyful experience.
More than 80% of those who leave say they have never been contacted after leaving the church. If they are important to God, they need to be important to us. They are not numbers, or a project, they are of infinite worth.
— Rebecca Carpenter, director of Communication for the Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists