Some church members will leave, but all can be sent

August 30, 2021

Over the last few generations, many pastors have observed that church membership is becoming increasingly temporary. There are a number of reasons why people do not remain in a particular church.

Members die. Churches do well to remember and remind that death is no respecter of persons and is not reserved for the elderly and infirm. Accidents, tragedies and unpredictable health crises affect those of all ages, and death leaves its mark on every congregation.

Members move. Recent statistics indicate that the average American moves every five years and will move between 11 and 12 times in their lives.

Members leave. Consumerism drives people to “shop” for the church that is most convenient for their lifestyles or that offers programming and ministries to meet their felt needs. People also become disgruntled and find it easier to transfer their membership than to deal with the root issues.

Members go. God calls many church members to ministry and mission in other places. Sadly, this last category of departures represents a significant minority of those who depart from our congregations. While bygone generations often celebrated charter members who were faithful from the cradle roll to the cemetery, modern life moves at a different pace and in a larger sphere. Recall that, even in Scripture, God is always on the move and moving His people according to His sovereign purposes.

Since it is inevitable that many church members will leave, leaders should transform their congregational culture toward intentional sending. That way, those who relocate or leave under less than pleasant circumstances are able to join those who go in response to a divine calling. All are sent to make an impact for the kingdom of God.

God may be calling you to let His people go!

Three major shifts in thinking are necessary to accomplish this focus on intentional sending:

Leaders must create the expectation that membership in any one congregation is likely a temporary station.
When church leaders embrace this reality, they can prepare members to expect and even celebrate these transitions. In order to be truly celebrated, another shift has to occur.

Leaders must shepherd members to embrace their identity as ambassadors for Jesus, not as members of this particular church.
This particular church is the context in which God has providentially placed them for a season of equipping and preparation. In new member orientation, the expectation must be clear: “The day will come when we will send you out — to another church, to another city, to another country or even to heaven. We will invest in you so that you are well prepared for that transition.”

The church must be intentionally and perpetually focused on reaching lost people.
Sending is easier to celebrate when it is coupled with a steady flow of new life from the harvest field.

A recent study of more than 1,000 churches highlighted in the book “Move” found that many church members who feel dissatisfied and disconnected are among the most spiritually mature. They have a desire to do more than give and serve in programs and ministries that no longer hold their interest or have become ineffective. They sense a calling to serve and sacrifice.

It is incumbent upon church leaders to bless and send them to other mission and ministry fields where they can follow and serve King Jesus.

Some will go as pastors, planters or missionaries; some will go as members of other churches or supporting partners in new works. Some of our most faithful members will sense God saying that it is time to go.

Some church leaders will choose to play the role of Pharaoh and not let the people go due to selfish and hard-hearted motives. Others will welcome the opportunity to play the role of Moses and shepherd God’s people to the place where He has called them.

God may be calling you to let His people go!

by Russ Reaves  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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