The Church That Turns Visitors Away

Ask most people how they measure the success of their church and “growth” is almost always the first answer.  We generally acknowledge that a church “bursting at the seams” is doing well, while a church whose members are dwindling is looked upon as a sad, unfortunate plight.

And while there is a whole different discussion about the inaccuracy of our measurement of Kingdom growth (Jesus’ entire earthly ministry solicited less than 100 followers) as it relates to numbers, I find it entirely ironic and downright ignorant on our part that church growth is celebrated while family growth (where Christians should assume that added members will be discipled and brought up in the faith) is frowned upon and even discouraged.

Do we not ever think about our logic? Why can’t we at least be consistent?

What would you say (would you be bold enough to say anything) if when you arrived at church Sunday with a visitor, standing at the door is your pastor.

“I’m so sorry, she can’t come in.”

“Excuse me?” You ask. 

“We have too many members and quite frankly our budget won’t allow for another one.  Not only that but we’re just too busy to tell another person about the gospel.  What with all the new buildings and activities–we can barely keep up with the ones we have…are you crazy?  Do you honestly think adding another member is a wise decision?”

Go ye therefore, and ponder.

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41 Responses to “The Church That Turns Visitors Away”

  1. brenda says:

    Aha. Excellent point. 🙂

  2. Charity says:

    I think your point rings so true because we think of the “church” as a building with a steeple, not the body of Christ. A couple blessed with several children is adding to the body of Christ by raising those children in the faith. Who are we to take control of God’s plan?

    Wonderful thoughts Kelly!

  3. Diane says:

    My gracious… I have never thought of it quite that way before, but the parallel is very aptly drawn.

    And if I may take it even a step farther… folks shake their heads at me when I express a desire to adopt another child- even though my current brood of young ‘uns are reasonably well provided for (without government assistance I might add,) well cared for, and most importantly are being raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

    Now, I probably will not adopt again as it seems the Lord has other plans for me, but I find it rather dismaying when folks dismiss the idea out of hand… yanno?

  4. Ashley B says:

    Or how about “Doncha know what causes that?”

  5. Rachel Falaschi says:

    Wow! What a great way to look at it!
    We can’t let any new people in, our church building needs a rest. Too many new people too close together is really taxing on us…

  6. Mary Jo says:

    The lure in the garden was the serpent’s promise, “ye shall be as gods”. Since that time until this, mankind has desired to control every aspect of life, rather than trusting the Creator to accomplish His will.

    My entire life I have espoused the belief that God should plan our families. But when doctors told us that we may never have any more, I was devastated and heartbroken, sobbing openly in the presence of 6 doctors, some nurses, and a dozen other patients.

    The rest of the world sees my 3 beautiful daughters and can’t understand why I would be grieved, but the Lord convicted me that if I say I believe in letting Him plan my family, then that includes trusting Him when I don’t get as many as I wanted.

    This is still a struggle for me, and part of me fears that families with lots of children will look down on me (as we look at dwindling churches) and judge us for not having a quiver-full.

    May we all have humble hearts and truly “trust in the Lord…and lean not on our own understanding”

    • Theresa says:

      Mary Jo, Thank you for sharing this… “The rest of the world sees my 3 beautiful daughters and can’t understand why I would be grieved, but the Lord convicted me that if I say I believe in letting Him plan my family, then that includes trusting Him when I don’t get as many as I wanted.”

      8 years ago after the traumatic birth of my son I nearly lost my life. By God’s mercy I was spared but left without a uterus. I never thought about it this way before… “trusting Him when I don’t get as many as I wanted.” I guess that is where my problem lies though. It was what “I” wanted. I felt denied from what I thought “I” should/could of had. I see my sin in this now. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. Word Warrior says:

    Mary Jo,

    I have often encouraged mothers who are infertile or whose wombs have been closed just as you have shared here…believing in God’s sovereignty goes both ways….which is why I mentioned that “numbers is not a measurement” and why I repeatedly maintain (though am often accused)that it’s not about “seeing how many children we can have” or that a large family is “better” in any way.

    It’s all about the openness to God’s will, whatever that may be. None, or 15…His plans are beautiful when the heart is turned toward Him.

    I pray you find comfort in that.

  8. Mary Jo says:

    Thank you, Kelly. The Sovereignty of God is truly a beautiful and most comforting doctrine and has greatly helped me in the midst of various trials.

    Please understand that I wasn’t accusing you or anyone else of judging- just confessing personal fears. I so appreciate this blog and the balanced viewpoints that I’ve encountered here. Thank you!

    ~Sola Deo Gloria!

  9. Darcy says:

    Very true! Thank you for sharing this. I have never thought of it in this way, but am glad to have another supportive reason for us leaving God in control of our family size.

  10. Word Warrior says:

    Mary Jo…

    No misunderstanding. I understood exactly what you were saying.

  11. Margaret says:

    I like that Kelly!

    {{{Mary Jo}}}
    Mother of “only” three here too. We’ve not been told there won’t be any more, but certainly three is less than I’d envisioned and hoped for. If anyone looks down on you, they have problems.

  12. Civilla says:

    As a pastor’s wife, I thought this was funny…however, I know plenty of church people who feel this way — are resentful of new people in church, especially if they take their pew or want to share in taking part in church music, or may threaten to take their church-job away from them. I had one lady who was our Sunday School director tell me, years ago, “I don’t want new people to come into our church…one of them may have an elementary education degree and will take my job as Sunday School director!”

    People should be able to have as many children as they want without people making rude comments. It is none of their business.

  13. Tracy says:

    Excellent point. Thanks!

    On another note, I have some questions about home schooling in Alabama specifically and was wondering if you would be willing to help me out. Sorry to get so off topic. Just shoot me an email if you have the time. Thanks so much!!!!

  14. Christie says:

    Whether 1 or 19, for me the challenge is the “godly” part of the “desires godly offspring”!

  15. Kelly L says:

    Amen…awesome analogy. A truly heart piercing point.

  16. Heather says:

    Interesting analogy, Kelly.

    It is also interesting to note how “territorial” Christians can be.
    On one hand, we want to protect our little plot of society from invasion.
    On the other, we often try to convert society to “our” way of thinking (frequently forgetting that soul conversion must accompany thought conversion in order for any permanent changes to occur). Then, we wonder why our churches are full of people who don’t seem to know what being a Christian is about–so, we revert back to “defend the gates” posture.

    Unfortunately, this misdirected focus is symptomatic of our still kicking fleshly side 🙁

    And the attitude does tend to carry over into other areas, like whether we are trusting in God’s perfect plan with our family size and His ability to provide for His own.

  17. BettySue says:

    Thank you, from a different perspective. God has blessed me tremendeously with eight children, but my church He has chosen to limit to a very small church family. We have done everything we can think of to make our “family” grow, but God appears to be limiting it to this small group. Thank you and Mary Jo for reminding me that God has His own plans.

  18. Amy says:

    I agree meaningful growth is not measured with numbers, but with the quality of fruit it produces. Also, didn’t Jesus feed his thousands of followers with the loaves and fishes?

  19. ycw says:

    It is definitely an analogy I have considered before.

    It is so true that (while it is often difficult) we strive to grow our churches, but our families we often seek to control the size of. And if a healthy church is a growing church…

  20. Carmen says:

    Great analogy! I’ll have to use that one! 😉

  21. Steve says:

    The assumption is that your children will grow up to be Christian. But that’s their choice, isn’t it. The strong likelihood is that some will, some won’t choose to follow Christ. After all, God was the original parent of Adam and Eve, and look how they turned out!

  22. Jennifer says:

    Adam and Eve sinned, Steve. They may have ruined Paradise, but they did NOT end up non-believers.

  23. Janne says:

    This is good. Thank you.

  24. As a mom of a dozen children (10 living) we have been critiqued on the size. However, what caught my attention to your post here is that one particular church we attended DID put their foot down about parents wanting to keep children with them during the service. If the children were disturbing (even needing discipline) and we walked out with them, we were not allowed to go back in with them. The church WAS closed!

  25. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Janneul, Diapers4Three. Diapers4Three said: A friend (i.e. S.L. 😉 dared me to post this, so of course I have to: http://bit.ly/cZZrVy — how often do we reject God's other blessings? […]

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  27. Oh, I just love this! Thank you. May I put it on my blog, giving you full credit??

    Wonderful!

  28. Melissa (mom to 3, hopeful for more) says:

    I came across your blog via Amy’s Humble Musings. Very thought provoking post — I reposted to my facebook page.

    My husband and I have 3 children and would like more. At the church we currently attend, the norm is 2-3…although there are a few families with more. It is sad for me to see couples my age, who could have more children, happy to stop at 2, and essentially choose to buy a house, or other financial goals, over keeping open the possibility to have more children. It really breaks my heart. I cannot see into their hearts, but can hear what they tell me, and it is simply that 2 is *enough* mentality. We trust the Lord with our daily needs, and trust that if He provides another child, He will also provide the means to raise that child.

    Blessings,
    Melissa

  29. Qtpies7 says:

    Great, great analogy!
    We trust God with our family size. It wasn’t always easy to do thinking we could end up with 20, but we did it. Now we are learning to trust through not having more. It is funny how our hearts changed in the process!
    We learned that the more we gave God control over our family, the more He provided to take care of them. We are doing better income wise than we ever have.

  30. Melodie says:

    While my husband and I welcome more children (currently just have 2)I never thought about it the way you have put it. But we really are making disciples for God, aren’t we? Love the post!

  31. […] Isn’t it hypocritical to refuse new members into the family but beg for them in the church?  To turn away “visitors”, potential disciples, from our marriage union?  Would we want to be known as “the church that turns away visitors?“ […]

  32. Angie says:

    I have actually been involved in a discussion with a pastor that is not too far off your example. One would like to think that an exaggerated example, but it happened to us. In another situation when a discussion was going on with a pastor about the little children that need discipleship in a large family, the pastor said that the children don’t contribute financially to the work of the church. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. Sometimes we can be so far off the path we don’t even remember that there was a path.

  33. joe holman says:

    Great point. We have often been asked about our family and why we have so many children. Shouldn’t the real question be, “Why don’t you have more children?” Having children is natural. We have to interfere with nature to NOT have children, yet when we have a lot of kids people think it is unnatural.

    Loved the analogy.

    Joe Holman

    • Sue M. says:

      Dear Joe,

      I understand where you are coming from but your question, “Why don’t you have more children?” could be hurtful to a husband and wife who have a small family (say 2-3 children, or only 1), and desperately want a larger family. They very may not be using any contraception at all and are not doing anything to limit their family size.

      This happened to my sister-in-law and her husband. Probably against the grain of most the readers of this blog, they did use contraception until they wanted to have children. They had no trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant and sis-in-law delivered a healthy baby girl. But a couple of years later when they wanted to have another child, conception didn’t happen. Doctor visits confirmed what the problem was but they didn’t want to use artificial means to conceive. They eventually decided that if God gave them only their delightful, healthy, happy daughter, he must know what what he was doing.

      However, they did get some cruel comments from people who should have known better about why they only had Ellie (daughter) and why haven’t you given her a brother(s) or sister(s).

  34. Jennifer says:

    Frankly, both questions are rude. That’s the couple’s business.

  35. Cindy says:

    Oooh, nice shot. Yep.

  36. Ken Cook says:

    I think that there is a bit of a False premise here. People don’t become Christians simply by being born in to Christian Homes and State Churches. Look at Europe.

  37. Anita says:

    After having 3 children and a miscarage(sp) God did bless with 2 special needs children he sent our way which we adopted, He works in wonderous ways!

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