Tell me, what is harder. Is it harder to get a church member or to get a church member back?
It is harder to get a church member back. When someone leaves they usually have a reason to leave because people do not actually like to change. People who change do so because someone gives them a good reason to change.
The reasons may not be as good as the leaver thinks or as bad as the abandoned person feels. The reason(s) for leaving may include loss of interest, feeling discarded or some variation on this theme. The foundation problem is loss of community, I believe.
Some churches are like the dying denominational apparatus to which they may be attached, however loosely. Conventions and associations are trying to decide how to reverse their undeniable declines.
To elect or appoint another ineffectual committee to decide on how to share the unpalatable with the uncaring will probably not suffice. Committee action will probably not include the hard choices necessary to deal with the rotting dinosaur carcass in the parlor. To reinvigorate dying democracies, one will probably need to offer things like:
- Votes that matter
- Jobs that count
- Understandable, consistent policies
- High quality policies
- High-mindedness and nobility
These things are probably not forthcoming from a status quo committee action. In fact, critical care is needed.
There is a loss of community in the religious world, in particular among Free Church entities, who must choose to cooperate in the first place. No less a worthy than George Mason called for an end to "side taking" in a recent convention sermon in the Southwest. He sagely noted the confrontational approach of the last thirty years. Left unsaid is how the politicizing of the electoral process has ended the collegial community of the past, replacing it with an adversarial metier sure to continue for a generation.
In point of fact, it is almost certainly too late to cry for a return to the old ways in the near future. In fact, it is unlikely the old organizations will survive, let alone thrive. What will replace them?
Someone will have to find a way to tie people together. I advocate doing what we can for ministers, in hopes that healthy ministers will help churches, as conventions and associations seem unable or unwilling to do.