Members come and go. Some leave because they relocate. Others are compelled to leave because of doctrinal errors. Some leave not because the church is at fault but because they want to look for a congregation where their worldly practices can be tolerated.
There are those who leave because they are fed up with church traditions that are not necessarily bad. But the problem is sometimes we (church leaders) place our traditions above the gospel. We unconsciously become legalistic in the way we deal with the life and ministry of our church. We become more concerned with our traditions than with the Scriptures.
Yet, I think, of all the possible reasons people leave, poor preaching and lack of love are the two leading ones.
1. Poor preaching
Perfect preaching does not exist. Expecting our pastor to always deliver an A+ sermon every Sunday is not realistic either. However, if the preaching is poor almost every Sunday, most likely members will leave.
Here are some of the characteristics of poor preaching:
- too doctrinal with almost no practical or personal applications
- not engaging (preaching becomes like newscasting or reporting)
- difficult to understand (too technical)
- hard to follow (too unorganized with no clear direction)
- too shallow
Now, sometimes a pastor does not preach well because he does not have enough time to study for his sermons, perhaps because of his other duties at home and at church. This is why elders need to protect the time of their pastor for sermon preparation. If you want to hear good sermons from your pastor, don’t overwork him.
2. Lack of love
Members want to belong to a congregation that they can call a “home church,” where they feel welcome and where the communion of the saints exists. When the love of Christ is not felt in a congregation, people usually begin to look for a new church where they can find such love and experience the care of other believers. The Apostle Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up….encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:11–14). “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
Sometimes even if preaching is not the strength of a church, but if the gospel is proclaimed faithfully and the members feel loved, they usually stay. But if the preaching is poor and love is lacking, don’t be surprised if one day members leave. That’s why church leaders need to make a consistent effort to cultivate a loving environment in a congregation. Also, members are responsible to seek ways to become actively involved in the ministry of the church and to reach out to their fellow church members with the love of Jesus.