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Some people would ask me why I encourage newcomers to check out other churches. It just seems so counter-intuitive. They say, “Pastor, aren’t you suppose to grow the church instead of shrinking it by asking people to check out other churches?” I have my reasons and I am going to try to numerate them in this blog entry.
Usually in the month of September, IT IS THE MONTH to reach out to all the newcomers to the university and the Ann Arbor area. There are many who will come through the doors of our church to check things out. In fact, we usually have some of the highest attendance records during this month. This month is a HUGE window of opportunity.
As many people come to “check out” our church, one of the first things I say (after publicly welcoming them) is to encourage them to visit other churches.
Here are my reasons:
2) Our goal is not to build the largest church in Michigan (even though we wouldn’t mind growing some more). So often we measure success by the numbers – and please don’t get me wrong because I think numbers are somewhat important, especially as we see that word appear many times in the Book of Acts. God’s Spirit worked powerfully and as it transformed lives, people were “added to their number daily” (Ac 2:47). But we are so consumed and committed to our mission of seeing God “transform lost people into Christ’s disciples who will then transform the world” that we filter everything we do with this lens. To be frank, in the past, we have lost some people who did not or could not agree with how we went about accomplishing our mission, therefore they moved on and it’s ok because it is a win-win for everyone.
3) Our heart is for people to grow in their relationship with God. No matter how much you try to adjust things (without compromising on the vision and mission), there will always be some people who will not excel or prosper in your ministry. Maybe the best way I can present this concept is through the example of coaching. There are some players who excel and do well under a certain type of leadership or culture of an organization, while there are others who fail miserably and never reach their full potential. We want everyone to succeed in their relationship with God, therefore our church will not fit everyone and we need to release people to other churches that might suit them better. It is a win-win for everyone.
4) There are some awesome Christ-centered and Bible teaching churches in the area. Since, I know a lot of the pastors in the area and I can confidently say that the newcomers will be in good hands if they decide to choose one of their churches. People have choices and options, which is not always a bad thing. But the most important thing is to find a church that you feel like God is calling you to and then COMMIT to it. The big problem I have with some people is that they are church consumers. They bring this consumer mindset into the church and when things don’t go their way, then they leave and go to another church. As I have said many times before, “if you find a perfect church, then don’t join it because you will ruin it.”
I know there will be several results that occur after I tell people to check out other churches: 1) They decide on another church, therefore if I don’t see them in this lifetime, then I will see them in heaven; 2) After 3 or 4 weeks, I will see them again, which indicates that they checked out other churches and they have decided on ours; 3) Sometimes I just end up seeing some people week after week because they have come to the conclusion that they don’t need to check out another church because they know that this is where God wants them to be.
The bottom line is that God will grow His Church. Of course we will need to do our part in terms of human responsibility, but ultimately it is God who works in the hearts of people. As pastors and leaders, we need to let go of our insecurities and trust that God will bring the right people to your church. This has been our church’s testimony and I don’t think we will do it any other way. God is truly faithful to build up His Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Mt 16:18).