Ok, I'm sure that sounds weird and if you're reading this you might be making a confused face, kind of like this one:
But do me a favor and bare with me for a minute...or two.
I see a lot of people walking away from church, but not necessarily walking away from God. It would be super easy for me, or anyone, to just chalk it up to "church hurt" and therefore the problem of the person leaving, I don't think it's that simple. We should never just dismiss someone's experience without first hearing their side. (Proverbs 18:13) I think everyone deserves to be heard. I think most people want to know they matter and nowadays the world does a great job at giving people the impression that they don't, which is contrary to what the Bible teaches because we ALL matter to God. (1 Peter 2:9, Jer. 29:11) God has plans for the lives of each and every one of us but all to often, what trips us up is other people. Now, before you start thinking "But we aren't supposed to look to others for approval and all that." Yes, I get that--really I do. But I'm dealing in facts and reality right now for the purpose of this blog post. The Bible also tells us that we aren't to cause another to stumble (Romans 14:13-23). I think we are so busy telling others not to be offended, not to let others define them, etc.. that we are ourselves forgetting that we aren't to provoke one another and we are to educate with complete patience and teaching (Gal. 5:26. , Phil. 2:3, 2 Tim. 4:2) If we are true Believers and followers of Christ then it is our duty and our call to teach others with patience and understanding.
So, what do I mean by church branding? Your brand is what people say about your congregation when they attend a service or other event at your location. It's what people say about how they feel after interacting with you and your congregation, the leaders, the greeters and so on. It's the feeling they leave with and carry home. (and before anyone blasts me for talking about feelings--again, this about reality, not what we WISH people would be like. They don't come in all nicely wrapped up in a neat little package ready to be all spiritual and Christ-like--- WE are supposed to TEACH them those ways--don't forget that.)
They need to connect with the PEOPLE before they can connect to the cross.
What words do you want your members and visitors to associate with your church?????
What lifestyle are you promoting and modeling for members and visitors?
Is the rhetoric that you speak bigger than the life that you live?
You can't expect visitors, or even new members, to come in "renewed of mind and spirit", ready to add something to your organization; That's not why they came or why they stay.
Even an already born again Believer, coming from another church or having moved to the area, is looking for something they didn't find elsewhere. The question is, does your church have it?
Your role is to develop them into their purpose by helping them grow relationship with Christ and to do that, they need teaching, instruction, help, examples and encouragement. People are messy and they are coming to church with their messes hoping to find a community that will help them figure out their mess and get their life on track. I don't think they expect us to do it for them, they want someone to show them the way. That's our calling and responsibility.
These people aren't walking in the door "ready to lead".
This goes for non-Believers as well, probably even more so! They KNOW that you will be talking about God--it's expected! That's no surprise! They are going to STAY because of how they are received, treated and how being in YOUR presence makes them feel. They are searching for something different from what they are currently experiencing in the world and if they don't SEE or FEEL that difference, they will walk away--and that's on us. WE are Christ's representation on earth and in the church. If you want them to stay, YOU have to BE the difference they are looking for.
Jesus lived His TRUTH.
He knew the cross was enough for salvation but He also knew that He had to demonstrate the difference to the people.
Jesus had 12 disciples that He sought out. They didn't come to Him. They were His closest helpers and companions. Andrew, Peter, James and John were all fishermen. Thomas, Nathaniel and Philip may have also worked as fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. Simon was known as the Zealot. And as a Canaanite. Judas was thief (and Jesus knew he'd betray Him later on and called him anyway). There is no information on the professions of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Thaddaeus or James. Paul, who became an Apostle after the death of Jesus was a Pharisee. Folks, these aren't the cream of the crop or the pick of the litter. They are plain folk, some with questionable back grounds or professions in those times. But Jesus took these men and turned them into teachers, preachers, and doers of The Word. They needed instruction, guidance, teaching and an example they could see.
If you want people to stay, then you have to give them a reason to do so and stop being the reason they leave. You can't keep excusing your behavior while people are hurting, looking for answers and you have them but want them to "get themselves right" before you will treat them with the love you are commanded to do so by Jesus. If you want to turn them into Hearers of the word, doing the word, then YOU show them how.