Churches of Christ: Why They Left: Chapter 5

Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ by Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr.We are reflecting on Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ by Flavil R. Yeakley, Jr.

Chapter 5 is called “Lost by Neglect.” It’s a vitally important chapter.

Yeakley first describes the many survey responses he received complaining of unfriendly Churches. People visited, attended the entire service, hung around afterward, and no one spoke to them. No wonder they weren’t interested in that congregation!

This is not a doctrinal problem so much as a heart problem, and it’s hardly unique to Churches of Christ. But it’s chronic. I’ve heard countless people voice the same complaint about a great many churches.

You see, we’ve turned God’s church into a social club, and so when we attend, we figure it’s time to mingle with our friends. That means no one mingles with the visitors. It bespeaks an utter loss of mission. There’s no surer way to kill a church than to become so inwardly focused that you aren’t hospitable to visitors.

Another common complaint is the readiness of many congregations to withdraw fellowship — to disfellowship — members for failure to attend, usually without so much as a phone call from a minister or elder. It appears that many of congregations are using withdrawal of fellowship as a mean of paring down their rolls — with very little concern for those affected.

This sort of conduct indicates a lazy, uncaring heart — it’s just so much easier to write a letter telling someone he’s no longer a member than to call and ask whether he’s suffered an illness or otherwise needs the help of his congregation.

Yeakley recommends that congregations adopt small group ministries so that members will be socially connected to the congregation as well as encouraged and strengthened in their spiritual walk by fellow members. Amen!

(Many conservative periodicals routinely sneer at small groups — or, at best, consider them barely tolerable. It’s great to see the GA publish a book that actually recommends them!)

Yeakley also recommends “exit interviews” of those who transfer membership. Again, amen! How will you learn how to do better if you don’t speak with those who leave? And sometimes people are forced to miss several services in a row, due to illness or business or such, and if no one calls them, they conclude they are unloved — and they leave.

These are not hard things to fix. They shouldn’t be doctrinally controversial. But sometimes the hardest changes are the ones that require a change of heart.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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5 Responses to Churches of Christ: Why They Left: Chapter 5

  1. Price says:

    My guess is that the “disfellowshipp” hammer for more than. Leaning up the rent roll. It’s been used as a threat for as long as I can remember. For many, the “theological expulsion” was a blessing.

  2. Dwight Duckstein says:

    Thank you again for a spot-on article. We experienced the cold shoulder ourselves when looking for a new congregation. Some were so extreme we wondered if we were invisible.

    On the other hand, there was one experience where we felt frantically clung to as a morsel to a starving man. Small group, desperately wanting to grow, but devoid of the attitudes and culture to make it happen.

    You’re right on when you tag it as a heart issue. We have to love our neighbor, our brothers and sisters, and strangers before anything else will work.

    Thanks for leading us through this research Jay!

  3. One difficulty with this testimony about unfriendly congregations is that everyone considers his own group an exception. Reminds me of surveys like this:
    >>>>>”In a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. drivers by Allstate Insurance, 64 percent of respondents rated themselves as either “excellent” or “very good” drivers. But… the respondents said that only 29 percent of their close friends and only 22 percent of people their own age deserved an excellent or very good rating.<<<<<

    Since nobody wants to believe that they themselves are guilty of being unfriendly, all the surveys in the world will do no good whatsoever. The only real result will be for us to continue to shake our heads at how bad OTHER PEOPLE are. Exit surveys just tell us how wrong those people are to leave, as they obviously have no clue as to what is going on in our church.

    Perhaps we could get God to sent Nathan back to us, to stick his finger in our own faces and say, "THOU ART THE MAN!" And even that might not be enough.

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  5. Adam Legler says:

    This article is spot on. We’ve been at a church for about 6 months and still hardly know anyone at anymore than a surface level because we have not been able to get connected to a small group (though I’ve volunteered to lead one more than once). I’m really wondering what the benefit is of going there since we’ve been unable to partake in good Christian fellowship. Bible class alone does not provide that. Because of this, we’re really not missed when we are not there for more than a couple of weeks. Something that really stinks.

    Now put this experience on to those who are disgusted with church but are trying to give it another chance. And I know the church we are currently at is the norm for almost all the others in the U.S.

    Exit surveys can be of great use. Like anything, you would have to read through things that might be the fault of those leaving, but to doubt their experience that they have taken the time to share with you would be foolish.

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