Monday, January 12, 2015
Five "Short-Timers" Who Won't Stay at Your Church Long-Term
For some reason, that experience got me to thinking about the signals that get sent by people who won't be at your church for very long. If you are a Pastor with a true shepherd's heart, its always painful to see people depart from your church. But sometimes, its especially surprising and hurtful because we just didn't see it coming.
Pastors, here are five people who, if they join your church, are unlikely to stay for long.
1. The "Big Fish" The big fish is the guy or gal who comes to you from another church, usually nearby, who felt their position and influence at their former church was no longer welcome and decided to take it elsewhere. Usually, the big fish was a board chairman, or a deacon, or a prominent Sunday School teacher, or maybe all of the above! While in some cases a person with this kind of background is someone to be excited about adding to your roles, be wary of anyone coming into your church who cites their credentials in the first conversation.
The best way to discern the true motives of someone like this is to quickly assign them something that requires a servant's heart. Once while planting a church, I had a gentleman and his wife visit us. On his way out the door he informed me that he had lots of skill and knowledge about how a church should operate, and would love to help us out. In response, I literally handed him a toilet brush and asked him if he'd be willing to help our volunteers clean the bathrooms. We never saw him again.
If the pastor is any kind of genuine leader, the "big fish" won't stay.
2. The "Recovering Patient" Hurting people are everywhere, and many times the source of their injury has been a church. When these people find their way through your doors, they should also find an opportunity to heal. But once that healing takes place, don't be surprised when they head for the door again.
This can happen for all kinds of reasons. Perhaps the healing process produced in them a desire to go back to their former church and patch things up, or perhaps they are a little nervous knowing that the guy preaching to them every Sunday has seen the contents of their psychological underwear drawer. Either way, don't be surprised when they start to leave. Any good shepherd hates to lose sheep, but in this case, you do want to be gracious, and ensure that they land safely in another pasture where they can be fed.
3. The "Lobbyist" The Lobbyist has an agenda, but unfortunately, its not Jesus or His Great Commission. Fortunately, the lobbyist is usually easy to identify because the issues he/she cares about are normally plastered on his or her shoulders like placards on a stock car at the Daytona 500. When the first conversation a pastor has with someone involves questions like "How often do you preach explicitly about the doctrines of grace?" or "what supports do you have for my home-schooled kids" or "what do you believe about the rapture" or "Can I talk with you about distributing voter guides to the membership about efforts to take our guns away," well, you have a lobbyist on your hands. Nearly everything in the church has to take second place to their poverty initiative, mission trip, or theological agenda. Such a person will only hang around for as long as he/she feels the body is appropriately feeding his/her agenda. They are there for themselves, not the overall health of the body.
4. The "Early Adopter" It always strokes the ego when someone very quickly falls in love with your church and seeks membership. But beware: with rare exception, people tend to walk out in generally the same way they walk in. Allow and encourage people to take their time when considering a church. Membership in a local expression of Christ's body is viewed by the Scriptures as a covenant relationship--not at all unlike a marriage. So don't get too excited when people treat your membership process like a Vegas wedding chapel.
5. The "Peacemaker" Yes, Jesus said clearly that those who make peace will be blessed to be called children of God. But too often, peacemaking is sorely misunderstood as meaning the avoidance of all conflict.
At the risk of stating the obvious, there is no peacemaking unless there is conflict in which peace can be made! Yet there are some who believe that a the bride of Christ should never be seen without her makeup, and when honest, and sometimes needed conflict enters the fray, they will bail because "we don't want trouble." Help such people mature as much as they will let you, but those who seek to avoid all manner of conflict don't generally hang around very long, because genuine intimacy REQUIRES conflict. They want to keep everything at surface level because to them, this is "peacemaking."
Pastors should be kind to all who enter the churches they shepherd. But they should also be wise, and tough enough to realize that you can't count on everybody to be with you for the long-haul.