Matthew R. Perry

Do Church Attendees Want to Blend In or Dig In?

In church, church attendees, church membership on March 17, 2008 at 10:28 pm

Recently, we had a couple visiting our church who truly love the church and loved the people. They had even expressed interest in joining. They had left their former church because of some turmoil and felt God was calling them to move on. Over a two-hour lunch one Tuesday, I explained to them the vision of our church and the direction I felt God was calling us to go. They seemed very interested — but ended up not joining. I was told later by someone else that they wanted a place where they didn’t feel they were expected to actively contribute at this point.

Others have left our church in order to attend bigger churches that have a more “dynamic” worship time and more activities for the children. As a church, we are considered small (160-180, depending on the time of year) which means our budget is limited in certain areas and our workers are limited as well. The bigger churches offer more — in some aspects.

In a conversation with a Sunday School teacher this past Sunday, she mentioned that some go to these bigger ones because they just want to “blend in.” Bigger churches, for all their pluses, are places where people may be able to attend, but where there is more of an opportunity to “hide.”

In smaller churches that seek to be a true “family of God” guided by the New Testament distinctives and geared by the faithful proclamation of the Word of God; in smaller churches that seek to provide a greater amount of accountability because we are, like the theme song to that old show from the 1980’s, a place “where everybody knows your name.” Once we get too close and the biblical church starts getting to “personal” or even deemed “intrusive,” the temptation is to move on.

My question is “Do church attendees want to blend in or dig in?” Over the next few days, I will be posting on the temptations and trends of too many in evangelical church attendees. But do any of you smaller church pastors struggle with this? What are you doing to address this issue?

I look forward to hearing from you!

  1. I have a question. We’ve been attending a Church for 9 months. We enjoy the worship service. My wife and I have been believers for more than 20 years. We recently asked if we could lead a bible study in our home. The target group for the study was anyone wanting to strengthen their marriages.

    We were told we could not teach, lead or have a bible study in our homes unless we became members of the Church. This Church insists in Baptisim my immersion and neither my wife or I have any desire to be baptized a second time. So we don’t see ourselves on a membership track.

    Is this a common issue regarding churches where attendees are not allowed to use their spiritual gifts to serve the body unless they become members?

  2. Rick:

    Great question. Actually, this is a very common issue for a number of reasons.

    For one, many New Testament local churches believe that the only proper mode of baptism is by immersion. They would say that the word ‘baptism’ means to ‘dip or immerse’ so they would say that baptism by immersion is redundant. That could be an issue.

    For two, many churches (ours included) believe it is a matter of accountability to have those under the banner of a church to belong to a church before they do a ministry of the church. By joining a church, you agree to link arms with the other believers but also that you agree with the doctrinal statements and convictions that this church shares with the world. So it’s not just about you exercising your gifts, it’s about a willingness to identify with a church and be accountable.

    Lastly, whatever church you belong to, you have willingly submitted to their doctrinal distinctives and are now under their spiritual authority. THe Apostle Paul wrote to local churches about their local issues and even set up overseers and deacons to provide spiritual leadership to local congregations (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9, among others). So, again, it’s a spiritual accountability and submission to the doctrinal teachings of that church and a commitment to the believers who have already committed themselves.

    Hope this helps.

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