“People are saying bad things about our church,” said a Shepherd of the house church for singles. He went on to say that it is a struggle to invite non-believing students who recently came to Houston to house church meetings, because they have heard so many bad things about us. And the sources of these rumors are people who used to attend our church but left for other churches in the area.
I had a similar experience myself. Several years ago, I invited pastors in the Houston area who attended the House Church Seminar for Pastors to dinner, to test the possibility of having regular pastors meetings. It was a very candid evening. I learned that some pastors were simply not interested in the house church. Others wanted to convert their churches to house churches but could not because their lay leaders opposed it. Some lay leaders were afraid that their church members would leave their churches and go to Seoul Baptist, it being a model house church. Others argued that the house church was a Baptist system and against their denominational traditions. But the strongest opposition came from former Seoul Baptist members who left because they didn’t like our house church system.
We cannot help people who want to leave our church because they do not like the house church, because we cannot simply abandon house church principles for their sake. But if people leave for reasons other than disliking the house church, we should do something about it, because witnessing becomes more difficult if they say bad things about our church after they leave.
We want our church to be a church that gives instead of taking – not only in terms of money but also with people. When someone says he is leaving our church for another, we didn’t even bother to ask why. Instead of trying to persuade him to stay, we congratulate him for going to another church.
But from now on, I would like to ask Shepherds and their spouses to find out the reasons when their house church members decide to leave our church. If they have to do with church policies or regulations, let their reasons be known to our church leaders so that they can address them. If they involve their relationships with their Shepherds, the Shepherds should apologize and find ways to make amends.
Of course, Shepherds need not ask them to stay when they have already decided to leave. But send them off nicely. Perhaps the house church can throw them a farewell party, or their Shepherds can have dinner with them before they move.
It’s not easy to leave one church for another. Some of the people that have made that decision may have been hurt. We should at least help to make the leaving easier.
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