Sunday, April 13, 2008

Drop Out Track

"This is the most insensitive church I've ever been in."

"We are looking for a church closer to our home.'

“Getting into your church is like going through a brick wall."

"Nothing ever happens at any of the meetings I go to."

'The praise team does all contemporary music."

"My children do not learn enough Bible in church school."

“'I'm really tired of not having small groups."

"I'm not sure I can do this job anymore.”

“The church is too concerned about program and not enough about spiritual growth."

"The leaders of this church never speak to me."

When I hear these statements I have a good idea that I am listening to “cries for help” from church members, church attendees, or frequent church visitors that are on the church “drop out track”. The cries are their pain and they want to express the pain by letting someone know that they are giving up and letting go.

These folks generally fall into two groups: the hopeless and the helpless. The hopeless say, “I am feeling no inner resources or strength to deal with the situation at this church, there is noting I can do.” The Helpless say, “I feel there are no external resources for help at this church, there is nothing anyone can do.” Generally, these cries are precipitated by a cluster of events or anxieties, which may not always happen in the church. The bottom line is these church members are in pain and seeking help.

What happens if they are not heard? Their cries for help will be at first verbal and indirect and then later behavioral. Their attendance will drop, participation will be discontinued, offering decreased and little or no prayer behavior. They will find a way to seal off their pain and anger about self and their environment.

Those church members who are observing or caught up in a person’s dropping out of church are confused and take a number of positions from, “fish or cut bait, get out or stay”, “give them some time”, “every church has its problems, get a life”, “what is wrong with the church”, “let us examine the situation, maybe they were never saved”, or “don’t shoot our wounded, love them and restore them”.

Every church has a ministry to “drop outs”, right? Wrong, usually the response is token or not at all. So, what should be done? If you ask “them” too many questions you might hear what you do not want to hear. What are the biblical images that come to mind, “withered branch”, “barren fruit tree”, “a weed”, “lost sheep”, or “fallen away”. Have you thought about these folks before today? How precious are these “drop outs” to you? If they are precious, what is your plan? If you deny the pain of the “drop out”, what will happen?

The heart in wonder, like a lonely wren,
Will sing a while, and then be still as long-
He waits an answer ere he sings again,
Who sings for love, and not alone for song-
The bird’s shy pipe will falter in the end,
The heart’s voice sicken if it be not heard.
They seek the absent, the beloved friend;
Song is for lovers, whether heart or bird.
So, if you hear me, tell me that you hear,
Lest I grow weary and forget to sing;
As in the sweet green season of the year
The bird that hears no answer lifts his wing
And far away, dejected and remote,
Tries other woodlands with his lonely note.
Robert Nathan

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

(The above is commentary is on the design and works of the Reverend Dr. John Savage)


Jim said...

I enjoyed this, Milt. Thoughtful as always.

Coffee Snob said...


I think I'm getting "God-smacked" with a 2 x 4 this week.

Just today, a friend at work told me about a situation at her church where a family left rather suddenly this past week. The way it happened left a very sour taste in everyone's mouths.

Sad to hear that it was so hurtful in her case.

Also, the Rob't. Nathan poem was a great commentary - the need for one's voice to be heard and for the person to be acknowldeged and recognized.