Christianity is a team sport. There are no free agents. There are no Lone Rangers. We simply cannot obey the “one another” passages of Scripture if we are not properly united with a local church fellowship to whom we are accountable and with whom we serve the Lord together. Frankly, Christians who are unaffiliated are stunting their spiritual growth in the Kingdom of God. They will be “stuck” right where they are until they make a change.
Lately, I have experienced a profound burden for two groups of people within the church I pastor — and within every church, for that matter. I named them in the headline, but they could be abbreviated as PP’s and BB’s. The essential difference is this: PP’s come but never join. BB’s have joined but never come. Why is it so hard to get across the idea that people need to do both?
For the PP’s who come but never join, I wonder how long is a reasonable length of time to visit a church before you either become a member or move on? Most churches, including ours, limit nearly all positions of real responsibility (think teachers, deacons and committee members) to those who are in the fellowship. These PP’s will never be able to exercise their gifts fully within the body, to grow in their service or to know others in the church more closely.
For the BB’s who have joined but never come, I am burdened by their absences. I do not serve a church in which it is even feasible to consider switching to the kind of “9 Marks” accountability in which we would disfellowship someone for only coming to church once or twice a quarter–or even once or twice a year.
Within traditional Southern Baptist rolls and membership policies, does anyone have any answers to this problem? Have you tried anything that has worked? What do you do about those who come but never join? What do you do about those who join but never come? Neither one is where they need to be. We’ve talked to them, encouraged them and prayed for them. Now what? Any ideas?