Focal Passages: Acts
2:41-47; Hebrews 10:23-25
When my husband Jack retired
from ministry, we began serving interim pastorates. One church had no young
adults except two whose parents remained in the church. We located absentees
who lived in the area, retrieving as many as possible through telephone “exit
We discovered that many
loved God and enjoyed daily quiet time with Him. Some even expressed gratitude
for our attempt to lure them back to the church.
Absenteeism is not a disease
but a symptom, and, thankfully, symptoms don’t kill; they merely serve as aids
in diagnosing problems that can kill a church (Heb. 10:25).
Among the diseases we
discovered were disbelief (faith “educated out of them”), love grown cold, lust
resulting in feelings of unworthiness, and worldliness.
One explained, “I thought
everybody expected us to leave church once we entered college,” and another
confessed, “The weather’s too beautiful not to play tennis.” A few griped to
justify their absenteeism, but most agreed they had simply drifted away without
any axes to grind.
Sadly, their names were
listed as “inactive” in the back of a record book. First, they were out of
sight, then out of mind, and finally off the church’s collective conscience and
forgotten._ÑŒWith nurturing, however, some returned.
We found de-churched members
harder to reach than un-churched prospects. The un-churched often agree they
need the church, while the de-churched have tried church but have given it up,
filling their time with other matters.
When our interim church
called a pastor, Jack and I left behind a healthy Sunday School class of
formerly absentee church members. Today, one of them is a deacon.
Many modern churches would
be humiliated if they compared their church to the early church described in
Acts 2:42-47. I suggest you list the nine characteristics of the early church,
underlining those that define your church. Then talk with your pastor privately
about incorporating any missing characteristics into your church, and state
your willingness to help.
Mimic bird hunters. Instead
of aiming at the whole covey; target one at a time. Jesus’ favorite number was
one. He called His disciples one by one. He healed one blind man, forgave one
adulteress; witnessed to one woman in Samaria (Jn. 4) who won one entire
The early Church grew
because her members experienced a togetherness that attracted others. No wonder
their hearts were glad.