I have to be honest, I wanted to name this blog, “Why Churches Can Not Keep Members.” Similar to almost any other kind of business whether set up to collect donations to sell products and services, the life of one’s business is their ability to build a clientele, and keep it.
The virability of one’s business totally depends on whether they have mastered being a solution provider. Many business owners call this a niche. Why do you choose Pepsi over Coke? Why do people choose one church over another? Why would people choose to stop at 7 Eleven to pay more for the same product that they can find in a grocery store for less money?
If we want to think of an advanced lesson, tell me, what is the difference between a trademark and a trade secret? I will tell you. A trademark is something distinctive about your company in logo or illustration that the public can see. They can not use your exact idea but they can improve upon it to create a new logo or illustration. A trade secret is the reason that some restaurants like Popeyes are still unique. Their cajun battered recipe for chicken and now fish, are not available to the public at all. Usually there is one person in the entire company who knows the recipe.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with church or Christianity. I personally believe that Jesus had a unique ministry. There is no one who can say that they are the Son of Man and the Son of God. There are some people who were hung upside down even on a cross, and some who were resurrected from the dead like Lazarus, but who can say that they did so for the remission of sins?
I believe that we serve a specific God, and that when he says that we are a peculiar people, he isn’t saying that to boost of self-confidence. I believe he is telling us who we are – extraordinary.
These five myths are important for atheists, new believers and those who are mature in faith. I do not believe this is a refresher course, rather a teaching in perspectives. Enjoy.
Myth #1 – That everything is changed instantaneously.
My story is not hidden. My father was a pedophile. He was a madman. As a result of his actions, my family was torn; broken. The event that lead me to the reality of this discovery was homelessness. So, child sexual abuse lead to adult homelessness.
I have always had a relationship with God, and my family all grew up in church, whether they stayed there or allowed it to change them or not. In short, change has not been instantaneous. However, I was turned away from church when I asked for counseling for my family. Many years went by before we were able to be supported through the church in this way.
When people come into your church do not assume a certain position. You need to know that a high percentage of prostitutes substance abusers, and homeless people (among others) were sexually abused. I believe that churches never get to the root of why their followers find difficulty with following you while you follow God.
We tell them not to walk in condemnation, but then someone condemns them for not learning fast enough, for not conforming to their idea of how they should serve God. There needs to be a clear distinction between correction and reproach, and in many churches the line is blurred.
Although everyone should know that God is indeed a healer, we need to understand that many times this healing does not manifest instantaneously. You can receive healing right now, but you may not see that healing working in your life right now.
I have examples of being healed “and suddenly”, and I have examples of healing that takes a while. Sometimes you’ll find that you have an immediate change in one area of your struggle but the root is not uprooted until you’re able to peel back all the layers. You may shed some ugly tears just like preparing a beautiful meal in the kitchen. Sitting down to eat that meal with those you love, eyes dried and your nose unclogged, free to breathe deeply orchestrates a deeper healing that can only be accessed in a spiritual illumination.
I like examples, so here is one quick example of a healing or transformation that is not instantaneous all-the-way.
A man goes to the altar at church sick with the effects of a heroine addiction. He is miraculously cured at the altar. He has no desire to continue indulging in his past addiction behaviors. After service, he is saddened. He remembers that he lives in a crack house where the drugs of his choice are freely available. He has lost friends and family. His addiction has successfully separated him from individuals who are healthy enough to help him stay free.
If he asks the church for help, and they have no answers, he will go home and he will binge – maybe not that day, but the day will come. You ever heard the term, you don’t put a crack head back in the same neighborhood as his pusher after he has broken free from his addiction?
So, what does this man do? I could tell you, but then you won’t read the other myths because of the length.
The church gets frustrated by members who they believe want to live off of the church but the truth is, the church isn’t providing the answers needed for members to survive beyond the altar.
Myth #2 – That Salvation Is Free
How do you get people saved? You lie to them! That is what some pastor came up with and it spread like wildfire. People responded in droves at the altar wanting to give their lives to Christ in exchange for absolutely no investment. This teaching is dangerous. It is a lie.
The teaching is surrounded around the fact that the price for your sins has been paid. At least that is the only logical answer that I was able to come up with for these shananagans.
It is true that “Jesus Paid It All”. He was bruised for our iniquities the scripture says. These are true statements, however this does not mean that we have no responsibility in our salvation.
Your investment in salvation is your entire life. According to Romans 10:9-10 We must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. As a result of this heart belief, and mouth confession and profession we will be saved from eternal damnation.
Many preachers, in an effort to generate more numbers for saved souls than usual will say that salvation is free so that people who would not have given their lives to Christ are enticed into doing so.
Here’s the deal. If you give your life to Christ, you can not escape the scripture mentioned above. The saying, “God knows my heart” is absolutely true because if you are getting saved, just to mark this off as something you’ve done “right” in your life, or something that appeases a family member like your mother, you both are going to be sadly mistaken when the world ends.
God does know your heart by your relationship with him. Do you know him? I’m not talking about hair of wool, proving his physical identity, do you know his heart? Salvation is not free. It costs every fiber and cell of your being. Becoming saved is an awakening experience like no other. You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body. We are three-part beings, and without this kind of inside knowledge, you may walk around misinformed about your salvation. I will never judge whether someone is really saved but you can judge yourself.
Do you really believe that Jesus hung on a cross for you? I believe that if you truly believe this, you’ll never be the same. There will be a heart transplant spiritually that takes place in your life.
Myth #3- That All Ministers Know How to Minister to Members
This is the myth that will address the issue with churches being a revolving door. I will answer your questions about why Christians don’t stay in church. Many Christians either in their judgment or ignorance make statements that new member Christians do not want to serve God. I believe this is the contrary.
Last night I was at a girlfriends birthday/housewarming party in the Washington DC area. There were a few older ministers there, who while thirty-somethings cooked up a plan to play taboo, entered a conversation about why Christians come in and out of the church, without every really committing their life over to God.
I was so good. You would not believe that I did not add my two cents. Not once. I promise, and I have witnesses! I really sat there and listened appalled at the arrogance and ignorance and said nothing. I do not believe for one second that there was any ill intent, I think they were just blinded by their own “spiritual depth”, and were not able to see the real problem.
Here was the scenario that this lady (who does not know me or my family in attendance) shared out loud. She is a minister/elder in a church that holds classes for new believers. This is a different class than the one held to familiarize people with the mission and vision of the ministry. This class is strictly for those people who really have a desire to learn more about God and to develop an intimate connection with him.
This minister lady said that there is a girl in the class whose best friend that she grew up with and attended school together decided to stop speaking to her because she chose to get saved. The minister was visibly confused as to why the woman had an issue and could not move on to another friend easily. As confused as she seemed by this, she continued saying that the woman is the god-mother to her best friend’s children, and that her best friend is the god-mother to her children. The children are asking for answers as to why the relationship ended.
The minister probably did not realize how insensitive she was being. The conversation went from bad to worse when other minister friends and husbands began chiming in talking “prophetically” about us being separated (from everyone) in the year to come.
Here is the thing. As a person who does not know God, who wants desperately to understand this awakening, this yearning that lead them to the altar, at your ministry, why in God’s name would you expect them to understand being set apart? Ending relationships?
The initial thought is fear, isolation, abandonment and intense loneliness. Who wants to choose a God that would make you feel that bad? Now, listen I am not saying that the emotions one feels is true, I am saying that without proper teaching one is unsure where the emotions are coming from, or how to have a proper perspective about such emotions.
I teach my daughter the word. Sometimes it is in the car, and usually when I’m answering one of her many questions. She never quite grew out of that phase, neither did I encourage her to.
After hearing the ministers talk she too had questions. Here is the thing. I never had a best friend. I remember crying and begging God for a best friend. And, to be honest with you many Christians are fake, judgmental and possess all of the things that remind you of the world. Why would a new believer trust that if they get rid of their best friends, God would respond with brand new, and better friends at their door tomorrow?
And, did God tell them to get rid of there friends in the first place? I think that when you live for God, you are lead directly by him. There will be some that you cut off inevitably, but I also believe that those you cut off would have been permanently dismissed for something else if it were not a faith issue.
I had a “friend” tell me that she couldn’t be my friend (years ago) because I was in sin, yet she was friends with my sister who was pregnant out-of-wedlock. This is not a shot at my sister but the ignorance of the “friend”. She made it sound real holy though. Years have gone by, she is elevated in ministry, and I still don’t care for her at all.
I remember years ago, one of my friends was off the chain. And, I wanted to grow closer to God. We talked about penis a lot. I knew details about every dude that she dated. I knew their Grandmother’s business. Now, that is not a reflection of me, my friend admittedly can not hold water. I have tried to help her with this, but here is the point, when I was serious about growing closer to God, and my friend did not come up with me, I told her that I felt God wanted me to pull back from our relationship.
She was hurt, I was hurt. I don’t know if she cried but I did. Several months went by, and I was indeed growing closer to God, but I was sad that I could not share this part of my life with my friend of many years.
The truth is, your friends are not “all things” to you. As I get older, I realize that all of my inner circle friends are different, and each are my friends for different reasons. I don’t event think that they would hang around each other without me. Our relationships are unique, and divine for a purpose. I recognize that. I did not in my youth.
In short, when I felt a release from God, I called her. One of the things the separation taught me was why she was in my life. She is one person who will always celebrate with me. I did not have that. She is always understanding and loving toward me. She loves me no matter what, and there have been times that we did not necessarily agree.
We missed each other like crazy! But I have to admit it wasn’t the same because I wasn’t the same. We overcame that patch. And went on in our friendship for years. Then, I became homeless. She decided not to be there for me. Imagine that. My absolute best friend would not give me her couch to sleep on with my child! I say to hell with her. But, two years later we reconciled, mainly because of her relentlessness. I missed her, but because of how she treated me I would not have ever spoken to her again.
We are now still friends. We have been through a lot especially as it pertains to spiritual growth, and commitments to God. God has her in my life because she has qualities that help me to be a better person. And, she feels the same way about me. Her sin is not my sin, and vice versus. We are individually responsible for our relationships with God. If you choose to be mature about this, clarity will invade you.
Jesus hung out with some folks that were imperfect like Judas and Peter. These were people who betrayed him, and while I certainly do not advocate this (because Jesus had a different purpose for doing this), the reality is that we are not all the same, even if we do believe in the same God.
I think one of the benefits of friendship is that you have someone who will admire and correct you all in one. We don’t need yes men. We don’t need legalistic religious people who really don’t care about you, they just want to be “counted in the number” for all of their great works. Not everyone who says that they love God and have a heart for him actually do.
My friend to someone else may not be living perfectly right but her love and desire to grow closer to God is so strong. What kind of person would I be to judge her? I would miss out on a relationship that God has for me. I am speaking specifically about a relationship that I have with a friend. These are not broad statements and may not apply to your situation.
The lesson in this is that the minister discouraged the woman from staying connected with her friend and I do not agree that this was her place to do so. As an alternative, the woman (despite her friend’s resistance) could reach out to her with love, explaining that although she is desiring to grow closer to God, she will not impose this on her friend, and that she still wants to maintain their friendship.
Instead of Ladies Night Out at the club, they could go to a lounge. Instead of going out at all, they could stay in, and start a new tradition of family dinner. Maybe they could go get their nails done every two weeks together. There are different ways to advocate that they spend time together to replace the sin opportunities in their relationship. This may even convert the friend (without directly trying to do so).
Ministers, no matter their title, position, or length of service, do not all know how to relate to people. I think it’s crazy that many of them hold such critical positions as teaching new believers how to live for God.
This woman feels spiritually tormented about her decision to live for God, and has expressed that she’d rather go back. Instead of teaching her why she should abandon her friend, why not teach her the benefits of her friendship with God? Why not encourage her to stay open to friendship with the friend she lost but create boundaries that help her to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy?
I don’t like when ministers tell you what to do. Suggestions are awesome but here’s the deal, if God gave us free will to serve him, people should not try to control you. Too much of this can become a form of abuse which is very dangerous, and does not advocate the liberty that we claim.
We should be free people in God. I wish I had more time.
What do you think? Any other myths you want me to dispel? Did this article make you think of any questions you’d like to ask?
Ressurection Graves is a licensed minister and relationship mentor. She is a child sexual abuse expert and healer. Please subscribe to her blog —–>