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Logo of Michigan Camp Meeting 2019: As a Witness, Matthew 24:14

Closing the Back Door - Part 1

Olan Thomas

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Conference

Recorded

  • June 17, 2019
    12:30 PM
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Father God we're here this afternoon to discuss how to make our churches stronger in the sense of keeping people once they join our Can our church community our we need wisdom from you we want the peace and the joy and the assurance that we are doing what we can to make the church what it needs to be so that people can remain there and Lord bless us as we discuss this afternoon we pray in Jesus' name amen. Absolutely. Well the f.b.i. to the already existing members of Congress really they. Know not how I want it that what we're talking about today I think new members. Though as you know it is written as an evangelism ministry right we love to see people join the $77.00 as church but as we've gone around and done evangelism in different places including other countries of the world we've observed that people come in again but then if you come back in 3 to 5 years there what where did they go where did they go and so that's what we want to talk about a little this week is what can we do in our churches to try to keep that from happening. And I'm sure that each of you and I'll give you an opportunity in a few moments here to kind of share some story you may have we don't want to spend a lot of time on that but maybe just a few things of what happens in your church what you've observed Why do you think people leave your church. And then of course that's we're going to talk about today is why people leave the church as we're talking about today tomorrow going to turn quite a bit more positive how do we how do we create an environment within our church where people want to be part of it on an ongoing basis what are some of the ingredients that your church needs so that people want to continue to be part of it what they need to be a continuing part of your church and so on so I'd like to start today with just a little story. So today our title really is an honest look at what's happening and we're going to look at some Adventists dis that this fix of church retention and so on and the question of course we wonder about is have we left the back door open sometimes we bring people in but then what happens that they slip away so quickly. And I think most of us are aware that one of the groups of people that regularly slip away are young people young professionals Young other ways and those people often slip away fairly fairly quickly so I'd like to share with you just a little bit about one story we're calling her Jane not her real name she was a graduate of an Adventist college she's been very active in our each ministry at college and through her teen youth experience however when she moved to a new area she and her new husband struggled to find a church that they could meaningfully participate in they often found the sermons lacking in spirit and content and the outreach of the church is minimal. When they finally found a church they tried to launch a group of collegiate young adults young people like themselves and that of course didn't go very far they then tried leading a ministry of Sabbath potlucks they would help coordinate the Sabbath potlucks and not only did people not support them and commit to helping them in that but sometimes people would come behind them and fix the tables and organize things as they should be done right and of course they realize that they were seen as doing it right finally when the pastor preached one Sabbath on the Kayasth stick structure of the Book of Ruth they decided that they weren't going to keep trying any longer other words the Kayasth 6 trucks or the Book of Ruth didn't seem very edifying right didn't seem very helpful. So they ended up in a non-denominational church and now here are her words in conclusion she says I probably will always have a soft spot in my heart for the s.d.h. or. It gave me my foundation in Christ provided many wonderful memories I even met my husband through it it's very much a part of who I am I know we are where we're supposed to be now though ultimately everything goes back to my to must haves so years this young x. Adventist saying what are 2 must have some are an outward focus in other words an evangelistic focus we reason to be and an outward focus and environment him place to welcome unsaved people. In my experience that's very hard to find in the s.d.h. or. Please don't say amen and that story is on line if you wish to find it so what are some of your stories and what do you think are some of the reasons that people may slip away and no longer be part of your church now. Can I. Read your grandma's. Were met more make up. One person. Because you're wearing me so I agreed or that wore a little too much makeup and a church member very very lovingly I'm sure I called and said you know really that's not what you should be doing here this job doesn't belong to someone who appears like you do right now Ok someone else yes. For. A line in. Ok Disney was Ok. Right but it was a very. Nice time. Everything the contrary. So for the recording will say what you've said is that new converts struggle with the lifestyle changes and especially those outside influences previous influences that tend to keep them where they were before and it makes real. Life inside the church. Now on a different subject. So they were. So you're saying we're not. Yet you know. And we're not quick to give them assignments give them responsibilities like the potluck part here we don't. Want to extreme or the other. Are we put them on a church board where they hear all of the whatever that yes Ok Any other thoughts. I posted a. Yes. Then. You know. You. Write Ok I'm trying to get the recording so we mentioned divorce is one reason and the problem with divorce and the church is that church members sort of feel like they have to take a side not that they're taking a side but they tend to be friendly with one party more than the other and so it kind of is interpreted that way and then you're saying that we missed it or a lack of friendships lack of friendship or not really well and we can be quick it yes you know we have our friends we're happy to talk to them but if you're not one of my per Prendes then you wait. To get there. Ok. Sometimes detritus. So to try to summarize we did maybe what you're saying is sometimes we don't identify their spiritual gifts and tap into those ask them to use those and encourage them to use those both ways. Yes absolutely. Ok and somebody else was another hand here yes. So a call to the church again to be even more supportive of that where one spouse has become a member and the other spouse didn't for whatever the reasons behind that yes you know really really. Allows. A really. Good reason why happens. I mean you know well. I mean and you know. In our south they're nice strong and you know ourselves. I mean. You know we are all in the. Numbers. Here yes. So the comment is that we need to be strong spiritually to have that connection with Jesus ourselves so that we can develop that welcoming warm relationship within the church that people need and recognize spiritual needs as well as spiritual gifts that we have to. Thank you and I think. One stuff only does the other stuff. Right. Now now so there are lots of reasons so let's look at the studies a little bit as to what they find from research as to why people leave the church and we've hit a lot of these already so firstly we'd like to say as we have said that there's really no one reason obviously that that this happens but there are many reasons so it's really a journey and for many people and most people we're talking about Adventist Church is not most people don't leave the Adventist Church by choice most don't leave by choice will look at that in just a moment. So we've talked a little bit we could mention names of people that have left the church that we each know and so on. And maybe we'll just go over this little activity. Because we've done it kind of in a general way that we're not trying of course to judge or critique anyone in anything we've said here. So for every 100 new members gained into the 7th the evidence church are statistically 49 eventually leave the church. So that's that's a stern statistic in other words if you sit in this meeting tonight in the main auditorium I don't know how many will be that's just say there's a 1000 of their assists suppose and they're all Advent let's just suppose they're not let's just suppose a 1000 we can presumed that 1020 years from now 49 percent for hot 4900 of those people will no longer even be active add then it's what should that do back now to the spiritual that should drive us to our knees shouldn't it and that also it should be a warning to us because you or I we could be one of those people and what can we do to keep that from being being us keep that from happening to us amazing statistic that. Right. A man. Made. My order to not allow someone who don't think thoughts of mine those. Numbers don't even recognize. When the person giving. Me. In that group Well that's right because the 1st lady many times Dr. Wright not. Sure. Any troops I've been to them before we need Sure hear you. We're going to want to do your part with our experience what God brought us yes sure they need real. I have to say that you're kind of getting ahead of us but but that's that's very good and you know you're exactly on point the problem is that generally speaking people who leave the church no one's talking to them right that's the issue yeah that's the issue no one's talking to them they just sort of slip away and disappear Yes and. We're. Everybody. And as long. As. I don't. I. Yeah. I'm. Sure sure you know. My story and that is when I was pastoring in a certain part of Michigan not where any of you attend perhaps. I was ignorant as a pastor I only knew they gave me this church of names right church members we call them and I just started visiting those people and I didn't know that. A 3rd half of them were really hadn't been in the church for a while and so I went and I went and I went to this one young man and his name was similar to a lot of people in the church was very interesting same last name is several people in the church. And so finally I found him one day and he lived in a lovely little country hideaway so to speak not that he was that but he just he worked for one of the people of the church and so on and as I chatted with him and just told him I was his pastor and I hadn't seen him at church in a while and I was just curious you know how he was doing I felt a responsibility for him as his pastor even though he wasn't attending I'm still responsible and invited him of course to be come part of us again and almost in tears he said to me I don't get it he said and remembers families in the church family members are members of the church he said nobody in nearly 20 years he said is Avar talk to me about missing that I'm not there anymore and that they would love to have me back and so on I understand the family thing sometimes doesn't work so well and we all understand that or should sometimes it comes better from someone who's not part of the family and that's Ok but my point is how could that happen in a relatively large Adventist Church that somebody who's even on the books and so we know their name we know their address we know their phone number we know they're a Jew We know a lot about this person but nobody. Somehow took the individual responsibility to do something. And we assume that they didn't come because they didn't want to or they didn't whatever so let's go then to our next thing so we're 49 out of a 100 of us statistically will leave this message we gotta pray about that before we are. Yes I guess you could say it that way but really it's the same but as we were a new member once too so technically you're right. So here's another way you can look at it then out of existing members this would be I guess if you counted us here today you know one in 3 of us is likely to leave these By the way our statistics from an a.d. this was given and then and a d. report for studies they were able to do for 2013 to 2015 this is our church now if you bring it down to young adults it becomes even more and that is 70 percent of our young adults nationwide are leaving our church do you think it's relevant. Us very relevant. Yes. And especially. And what I find we tend to do is we say to our young people your the Church of the future. You're the Church of the future it's our church now it's our church now but in the future it will be well when is that future how old does a young person need to be to take some responsibility. Of course it depends on what it is but. We do need to get them involved and we're going to we're going to get to that So the real question then is have we really left the back door and the side door and the other door wide open Yes. And then of course realistically we understand my son and daughter in law just went through this where they took a job in a totally new area not an Adventist community at all and they relocated there now they have to find a church and that's the perfect time to get lost because nobody would know except the parents who live far away and so they can just disappear in this case they're seeking a church and amazing to me it looks like they're choosing a very feeble if I can really say it honestly a very small feeble church and I was there just a week or so ago and this is the way they do church in that little church the elder stood up and he said So do we have a children's story today. I mean that's the plan so my daughter in law she said Yes I'll tell a story and so she did she wasn't planning on it but she said after she said I knew if I did it what it would be if I left for somebody else she says I. Could be anything right so what but unless we get them involved so I told the elder afterwards I said Now look these are 2 young professionals I said if you ask them in advance they can do anything this church might need now of course you don't want to Somebody said give them too much that can be a problem too but if we ask these young people if we ask they're talented they're skilled they're educated most of our young people I'm talking about past college age so 22 on even before but 22 on their they're professional people they they know a lot I mean obviously they don't have life experience that we old geezers have but they have they have knowledge they have enthusiasm they have energy they have creativity they have a lot of things to bring to our churches and I write but we keep saying to them it's your church you are the Church of the future so wait wait we're doing this now we're doing this now in fact the same son is David he he says you know. Pastors don't retire now until they're 75 or 80 even conference presidents and division presidents and so on they don't retire and so how do we speaking of now this young generation how do we get started if if the old folks don't vacate the positions and give them an opportunity how do we get started valid argument valid argument so let's continue. So the study this may shock us the studies show that only 5 percent of those who leave the church leave over doctrinal disagreements is that interesting in other words I would say our evangelism is very effective in other work can teach in people well what the Bible says we're giving them good information they came in for good reasons they came in understanding who we are as a 7th Day Adventist Church and they believe those things and they want to be part of that so only 5 percent leave now can we do much about those who leave over doctrinal disagreements maybe. Pray for them yes but we're a little challenge there specially come right in especially most of us as laypeople we don't quite know how to meet those doctrinal disputes or debates perhaps So what I'm trying to lead us to is that 95 percent of the people who are leaving or do leave the church leave for other reasons let's see what those reasons are maybe they're even easier to deal with the largest portion from the studies 28 percent say they left because of what. Just drifted away in other words they missed one Sabbath maybe they went to the woods went camping they came back nobody mentioned you know we missed the last 7 you know whatever they came back they missed another Sabbath for whatever reason went off to visit Gramma came back and they missed 2 Sabbaths. And little by little it became easier to not come than to come. Maybe it's that little baby that needs the nap in the morning you know are little things we're talking about the younger generation and of course there are the little things that we can do to kind of encourage them not to come back but 28 percent so almost one in 3 of those who leave the church simply just drift away they didn't intend to leave and they have no beef with the church they're not unhappy with the church they just lost it as a priority something that they must do and perhaps it's partially because the church wasn't somehow and of course a lot of differences in churches so we can't be too specific there yes sister so the sisters saying that sometimes people feel like they weren't really persuaded and in today's world the younger generation we need to understand this all of us they're being taught that. That. There isn't truth and error there isn't right and wrong there isn't absolutes and that is a challenge for us but God's words will not return to Him void right he's promised that if we proclaim the word that people will respond to that proclamation. It's effect So let's look at some of the other statistical reasons they found from the studies about this $11.00 out of 4 left because they didn't feel compassion in the church or they didn't feel love but if we have Christ in our heart then we can leave the door open for people to grow right you're going to hear that from Pastor Bradshaw later this week what we need is Christ in our heart and then no matter what the person looks like or how they behave God will eventually deal with that can we be patient with him and let God do His work that's really what it comes down to So can we be compassionate even when that person isn't meeting our standard followed I mean we all have our standard this is what this is what an Adventist looks like this is what a Christian looks like right you have that if I asked you you could every one of you and you know what the interesting thing is there's 30 of us here maybe we have 30 different descriptions of what an adult minister or a Christian looks like Am I right so how then am I ever going to meet your 30 different standards so don't apply them to me right don't apply them to me let's. Apply that to us because usually when we have that standard it has something to do with us right something to do with our experience our need our lack our failures you know the think about that there's a parallel there often So apply that standard to us to me personally and let God deal with the rest of you of course I'm going to fire my pastor I'm an elder I'm a deacon a deaconess I might be times when I have to lovingly sit down with someone and have a conversation but if it's done with love I mean obviously they can make the other choice but they're less likely to object or refuse to be counseled or encouraged or Hell I saw a hand or 2 and then I walked over you know but a lot of people who leave the church are not new babies if you valuate your church. The biggest I mean one of the large challenges is again are young people they grew up in the church they know how to behave in the church they know what the church expects of them but they haven't perhaps made it their own for whatever reason and so what are we willing to show them compassion are we willing to love them until they can get over whatever that is that is is a challenge for them. Technology Yes Yes And we're so especially the younger generations are so into the technology that it can keep us from being people to people right maybe if we had more outreach type activities going on we could direct some of their energies into that and it's not. Compromising your church's standards as far as the leadership so as we go along this week we're going to try to answer some of these questions as far as specifically how we can apply some of these things but what I want to see today is number one we have a challenge don't we I mean I think we know that or you wouldn't have come here but statistically what we're seeing is the challenge probably isn't as big as we might have thought in other words if our churches could really become places where people are loved and where we find ways to express that somebody is missing even if they're away for a legitimate reason doesn't hurt for them to get a call or text message back to technology or an e-mail or something saying Hey I noticed you weren't there I trust you had a good Sabbath wherever you were and we'll look forward to seeing you next step and then of course that means you have to recognize the next that was whether they're not but that doesn't hurt it doesn't hurt a thing but somebody that means me has to take that responsibility to do that to look after somebody now of course that means somebody has to look after me too right so it goes around but the point is we can be compassionate we can notice when people are there and are missing but we often don't do it because like somebody said we always think somebody else is and then the Sabbath school or in the Hispanic community they're using small groups as an accountability tool we've gotten to where most of art I mean that's a little too strong many of our church members don't come don't participate in Sabbath school. Myriads of reasons but they don't so the only time you regularly see them even if they do participate is on the Sabbath worship our. And one church I pastored we've in reverse the services for other reasons thinking that my thinking as just my thinking. Those who weren't coming to Sabbath school but were coming to church I thought if we did Church 1st they'd come to church and stay for Sabbath school what do you think happened. Anyway. How do you explain that how do you explain that but that's what happened they still came to church at an earlier hour but when church was over they went home even though they were already there would have been very easy to say. Different classes and Yes yes absolutely. Early large church. So I'm not sure so much what this one is the moral failure I don't think it's referring probably to the one who leads a whether it's something they observed in the church or witnessed that way but some left because of moral failure 18 percent said they didn't fit in that's one again where we could help you know find ways to sit with them maybe they just need someone to sit with them you know again we sit by home we sit and we don't even think about this this lady who recently lost her husband who's sitting there alone 1st time in her life to be sitting alone nobody notices I mean apparently and so there she said and so just little things like that they don't fit in and then 14 felt there was too much of a focus on minor issues again can we deal with this we can really make Christ the center of our churches make the fellowship sweet. Exactly exactly and a little leaven can fix the whole batch too right and so I feature one of us become a committee of one to make things better to try to notice these things be observant. So the question though is how do we deal with that now the words is there something we can do to to help them to bridge the gap until they can deal with this problem whatever it is we all are sinners right I mean there's a stinky smoking habit but mine is is backbiting and gossiping about people but I'm not disfellowshipped and I'm not look badly on because I do what I do but we do look badly on them right because of whatever Yes Mr they think we do it please that's right Wow that's a person of prayer Yes Ok let's move along here so. What did you notice about each of these reasons people leave the church most of them there are things we could do in our churches and that's what we're going to talk about more this week the lack of compassion we could help with even the moral failure we can visit these people we can encourage them we can offer them to pray with them and God's forgiveness you know God forgives all of us for our failings right no matter what it is we don't want to condone whatever the person is doing of course but we can still offer them God's forgiveness not fitting in we can help them with that we can be close to them focus on minor issues. We talked about this I think that people move it's a high risk time because an easy time to just disappear unless they make a specific choice marriage of course can be that if they marry someone in a different church different place different neighborhood as what often happens in our school young people marrying the come from different places and the easy for them to kind of slip away course divorce is another stressful life event which is an obvious time an easy time for people to slip away we talked about that death in the family is another one. Unfortunately we often do nothing. It's very sad many people even they feel like at least they're not even noticed no one reached out to them no one called them whatever so the good news is most people who leave the church aren't hostile with the church they're not unhappy with the church they don't have any beef with the church they just they just slipped away and need need some some compassion a total of 58 percent that under certain circumstances they would be open to reconnecting with the church look at that. This is 6 out of 10 under certain circumstances what does that mean I mean if somebody cared if somebody would talk to them if somebody would pray with them if somebody would let them know that there is hope for them somebody would let them know that they're missed that they're welcome back that whatever was said to them I mean as a pastor I've had to apologize to people for things I never said someone else did and you've got to try to patch that up and say they must not have meant what they said they certainly wouldn't but even if they did I'm sorry that they said that to you because it wasn't right even if it was true they shouldn't have said it to you so I'm sorry I apologize for that you all can do that but still we can apologize for the way they have understood it right we're not saying. We're not saying that what they say was said was said were merely saying that they perceived that that message was communicated and we apologized. And there are few relationship that's right there's no harm in in apologizing even if it was a figment of their mind it's Ok not that we're putting the blame on someone else no we're not holding anyone so let's look at this for a moment Jesus has given the parable of the lost sheep for our study the true shepherd leaves the 90 and 9 and goes into the desert at any expense to himself at what expense any expense what are we willing to give to bring back one of these people who has wandered away. Continuing how many of the wandering and lost sheep have you sought for and brought back to the fold with a heart full of pity and tenderness forgiveness and love I told you the story about the young man who hadn't been invited or noticed that he was missing for some 820 years the rest of the story he started coming back to church he met eventually a Bible worker and married her and they have children now and I'm not sure where they live here in Michigan. The success story just somebody reaching out and saying your myths We'd love to have you back we never know what the fruit of that will be sometimes it may take more than one visit I can assure you it may take a lot of effort and that's Ok how much effort do we put into bringing in a new person a much do we spend to do an evangelistic series and bring in 3 people or 10 people or whatever why not invest a little bit in trying to reclaim some of these that have slipped away so so so easily how many words of encouragement Have you spoken to the wandering she that have cost you that have caused you pain anxiety and much inconvenience Have you spoken soothing words of hope and courage and pardon bearing the Wanderer Hallman your shoulders read Joyce seeing at every step and saying read Joyce with me for I have found my she which was lost. Rejoicing in having over one sinner that repents right one think about it 11 last Sabbath they baptized 9 at the Pennsylvania campaign by now I think of it now I was huge what rejoicing haven't had Hopefully 9 churches were rejoicing over that 9 people I don't know how many we baptized here probably more do we have that burning desire in our hearts to reach out to these kind of people a story or 2 and I'll let you go Jim used to be a member of a city church but it drifted away new pastor decided he tried to reach out to former members yet 37 in his church and my I can assure you your church has plenty of them any church clerks here yeah so you know there's plenty of them right for every 2 attending there's probably one Mar less according to our statistics 37 this pastor had he decided he would try to visit them and encourage them back unfortunately this particular person Jim was never home when the pastor came by However he did receive the young man person did receive an invite to a church social function that the church secretary mailed out. Something prompted him to calm and he came the pastor had a chance to connect with him as the result the pastor met Jim and his wife and started visiting them once a week not only did they both come back to church within about 2 years Jim was serving as an elder and 2 years later became the head elder of the church former church member brought back a much effort I don't want to say it was little effort but it can be done it can be done and this is a true story by the way I can give you the churches name if you would like of the 37 former members 8 of them What's that statistically one in $48.00 of them came back to church as regular members and many more started attending on an occasional basis it says that same year the pastor held an evangelistic series good thing 2 and 2 people joined the church so 8 were reclaimed 2 from the evangelistic series that means that 4 times as many people came from the reclamation ministry as came from the evangelistic outreach another pastor shared how he called every former member and asked them what suggests Jones they had what was wrong with I don't mean what do they suggest that the church should be should do to be better and what suggestions he could implement he did and when he did that he would call them and say you suggested we and then he would invite them and say we're going to do that why don't you come and see what we're trying to do and would you believe it worked one of the former members for example said they'd love to have more music at church. And so he got some music going and had some special music and he invited that former member back and they've been coming ever since and she has become I think is a she has become the coordinator of their special music for every sob about that sometimes it doesn't take a lot how do we close the bag door Firstly what we're trying to say today is by noticing by noticing that there is a back door and that we knew we can do something about it we can't leave it to the past or the Sabbath school superintendent or the elder we're going to have to each think about it who can I be friend who is no longer here that used to be here that I could reach out to. Or maybe we need to team up in our churches will talk about some of these things going through the week and God will multiply our efforts Let's pray together Father God thank You that you are trustworthy thank you that we can lean upon you and with our. Following of your instructions we can help to close the back door of our church father we are thinking of people right now who need to be back with us in fellowship they need the fellowship the encouragement we can offer them and we need the encouragement that they can bring to us so bring them back Lord help us to find simple little often inexpensive ways to reach out show them that we love and care and invite them back thank you Lord for loving us today in Jesus' name amen. This media was brought to you by audio force a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse or if you would like to listen to more sermons please visit w w w dot audio Verse dot org.

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