A DISTURBING TREND

There is a trend at work in the American church that is disturbing to me. Many independent churches and quite a number of Baptist churches do not have membership rosters. This might seem like a little thing, and it is easy to take a spiritual tone and suggest that God knows those who are his, but this trend adds to the lack of accountability and engagement that is so desperately needed in order to be a healthy church. Let me describe real situations in my own community. A family whose home I have personally visited on more than one occasion disappeared from attendance several years ago. I had baptized the children in the home, counseled the head of the household in an important career decision, and called them by name every time I encountered them in the community. When I called to check on them they told me that they were “attending” another church. This church had loud music which the kids loved and a larger youth group etc. I simply told them that I was sad to see them leave, but was glad that they had not simply dropped out. I continued to see them around town. They are still on our roll seven years later. The church they attended does not ever show the courtesy of informing former churches of their pastoral care to families that depart. This is becoming epidemic. So who calls if they stop attending there. Just a few weeks ago that family was back. In following up with them, I discovered that they had indeed dropped out for awhile. (I have permission to tell this story without the names.) When they did drop out, they were never called or even missed by the other church. The children, now in college, to this day have not had a single contact made from the congregation they attended all through high school. Do you see my point?
Now let me say that this same story could be repeated at Crestview. Here is the difference. If they were in a bible study, they would likely be missed and contacted. They would continue to receive mail. They would likely receive email. They might be visited by a visitation team. They could be visited by a staff member. They would never have their names removed from the roster unless they asked to be removed or unless another church ask for confirmation of their former membership due to their involvement elsewhere. What I just described is a process of accountability which safeguards to some extent the phenomena of people dropping out. I estimate there may be more than twenty thousand drop outs living in Georgetown. These are people who once worshiped somewhere with some degree of regularity and now never attend. When I first came to Georgetown, I began to personally visit inactive members. I remember one older couple who informed me that they became discouraged with the church and would not likely be back. I had a pleasant conversation with them and then I said these words, “Even if you never attend, I want you to consider me as your pastor. I am applying for the job. If you need me, please call. Thank you for allowing me to visit with you.” I then had a prayer with them. They were in church the next week and attended until poor health made it impossible. They went on our homebound list and were regularly visited by myself and others until they passed away. What I just described could not happen in many churches today where people are never even enrolled in a concrete way. We need to take membership more seriously.

Dan Wooldridge

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