Being in church, I’ve seen many come and go. Some reasons has been, lack of growth, being hurt by the church, being overlooked, or even being too busy to attend. But no matter the reason for leaving , the church should always be a haven where a person can feel safe and loved.
The church is beyond four walls that create a meeting space for people to gather on Sundays -it's a group of people you choose to do life with. For some, growing up in church, it forms friendships and lasting memories of the “good old times.” However, after a while, as old faces get replaced with new ones. you may look up and see that all the church companions you grew up with are no longer around.
As this is a common thing in churches, we may think we know why people are leaving, but I’m not sure we do. Whether they leave inconspicuously or go out with a bang, what can we do about it? There are many articles and statistics on why people leave the church these days, but we rarely see any articles challenging church members to take joint responsibility. Church members may be partly accountable in the failure of being brothers and sisters to those who are hurting or lost. So, what should we do about it?
1. Have a Meaningful Conversation
One thing we can do when a member leaves the church is simply speak to them. This can help both before and after their departure from the church. Whether you were on the receiving end or have watched someone no longer make their way to service, people just want to feel as if someone cares.
Too often, we make it easy for people to leave church with no correspondence. You may think it is some executive member's job to keep in touch, however, God wants ALL of us to share love to one another. He wants us all to join the partnership it takes to build up our neighbors. A phone call or periodic check-ins may be just what the doctor ordered.
2. Seek to Understand
When speaking to people, we may be so eager to voice our thoughts that we don’t seek to understand, but to give an answer. Often, a person could leave church due to hurt, misunderstanding, lack of spiritual growth, or their unseen immaturity. No matter the cause, always seek to understand the stance of the individual, rather than leaving knowing we said all we needed to say. We should, speak a language they understand and leave the over-spiritualized idioms at home.
Lets listen to their reasons about why it was so easy for them to walk out of the fellowship of the church. We should make sure our words are seasoned with salt. (Colossians 4:6) This can help them to be more receptive and may help them see things that they may have missed. Everything may not be resolved in one day, but leave knowing that you understood them rather than abused them with your words.
3. Pray for Them
Christians are known for saying the phrase, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” or “I’ll pray for you,” and never actually do. It has become a thing you say when you hear difficult news. But, rather than filling the air with broken promises and Christian jargon, let us take the time to pray for them.
We know, for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [a]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Therefore, there can be more to this transition than meets the eye. Give time in your prayer to intercede on their behalf. Communicating through prayer is a direct way to speak and listen to God. We may not know what to pray for. Therefore, we should pray for direction on the matter and strength for them in this season.
4. Love on Them
Love comes from being compassionate. Our compassion can raise the awareness that someone truly cares about them. Love is not just asking someone else, “Where have you been?” Love can be stopping by someone’s house, lending a helping hand, or checking in on them. Love is what God asks of us -selflessly giving real effort to someone who needs it.
5. Push Them towards God, Not Church
As much as we want our fellow members to return back to the pew where we remember seeing them, it's not our job to force them to return to the church. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can tug on the person’s heart, to pull them where they should be. Our agenda shouldn’t be to convince them.
Our job is to be a brother or a sister to them. Let's make sure we push them towards God and His love and word. As a result our action may persuade them to return, or it may not. But we must stray away from taking it personally or being prideful. This matter is not about us, it’s about us sharing in the role of being a true Christian to a friend in need.
Do you know someone right now who may be in this position? Pray to God to give you direction on where you fit in the matter. Don’t be a bystander to the work of the kingdom of God.