I am trying to get a grip on why some people attend one church, or another, or none at all. There are few weeks when we either don't enlist people into our fellowship or grant their membership elsewhere. With all the churches there are to choose from, what criteria do people use to choose whether to stay or go on? This is difficult for me since as a pastor I do not have the freedom to shop. My congregation tends to look negatively toward me joining or even attending elsewhere. :)
I am convinced it is not always about worship style. That has been debated since the first upright piano was placed carefully on the church platform where once only the pulpit was allowed. People's tastes will always favor one style over another, but I am convinced it is not the primary reason for people to choose a church. Too many people move from one church to another that has the same style of worship for that to be a major concern.
Sometimes, we preachers of the Word, want to believe it is the skill or passion of the preacher. The problem with that is that I have seen strong growing fellowships with only adequate preachers. I really believe God empowers His Word regardless of the skill of the pastor if his heart is inclined toward truth. Conversely, there are some gifted preachers who are not winning people to Christ, nor serving in growing churches, because of a proud spirit that God will not bless.
This morning I heard a wealthy Christian businessman make a profound statement that helped put my thoughts into proper perspective. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick fil a said; "I do not remember the price I paid the last time I visited a Chick fil a, but I do remember how I was treated."
An experience today may have helped me further determine at least a contributing factor why people choose one church over another. I cancelled my subscription to Netflix. I expected the hassle I had from AOL several years ago. Instead, they had a button to push on their customer service page to cancel my membership. The only delay was an additional button that would allow me to pause my subscription instead of cancel it. I chose to cancel by hitting the next button and was promptly sent to a page declaring my membership had been canceled. They said they hoped I would reconsider someday, but for now our relationship had been terminated. That was it. I wasn't told what a bad person I was for depriving my family of quality movies. They did not make me wait for another billing cycle. They were just as prompt to let me go as when I had joined. It was actually a pleasant experience.
Now what if we treated people at church with the same kind of dignity? What if we treated them as nicely after they were there for a year as we did the first week they came. At Dallas Bay you get a letter from me the first week you visit and then again the first week you join. You will also receive a phone call from another staff person on each of these two occassions. After that we encourage you to pick up a newsletter to hear what is going on around here. We encourage you from the pulpit to get involved in a small group, but we have no way of knowing if you ever did. We encourage you to support the church financially, but we rarely ever tell how that money is being used to help the Kingdom.
Personal touch is not easy in a big church, but is often the reason the church grew large in the first place. I don't want to become a victim of our own success. I'm not sure how I'm going to fix these things, but I am committed to meet them head on. I have some ideas, but they are pretty radical. Let's just see where the Lord leads on this one. I'll keep you informed. Hey, even if I haven't talked to you personally lately, please know that I love you and am praying for you. God bless, Pastor Ken.