Wednesday: Reclaiming Former Members
avatar

Backslider is a word we wish did not exist in the Christian vocabulary. It is a fact, however, that many people slide away from church and from a saving relationship with the Lord. Although people do, at times, leave us over doctrine, most of the time they leave over other things, usually personal disputes and so forth. Whatever the reasons, we need to do all that we can to create a loving and nurturing environment that would help those who join us want to stay among us, despite whatever personal issues inevitably arise.

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

At the same time, we should have a ministry to former and non-attending members as an intentional part of our witnessing and evangelism program. A quick look at the various churches’ lists of members will likely reveal that there are many more names listed there than who attend worship each Sabbath. These names could form the beginnings of a special ministry to people whom God has never ceased to love supremely.

Thoughtfully consider 2 Corinthians 5:18–20. Although the context is somewhat different from ours, the principle is important. In what ways is a “ministry of reconciliation” special to those who once followed God but have slid away?

Reclaiming former members is a special ministry. Furthermore, this ministry is as evangelistic as when we reach out to people who have never accepted Christ before. The very word reconciliation implies that there was a former unity and fellowship between humankind and God that has now been restored through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we are now given a ministry of reconciliation that includes reaching out to those who once worshiped with us.

In fact, one could argue that in Matthew 10:5-6, Jesus sent His disciples to win back members of the Jewish nation who had fallen away from a saving relationship with their Lord. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that we today also enter into a work for those people who have a special history with God and His church.

Think about those who have left the church and the reason why they did. Is there any one person with whom you could re-establish contact with, resume friendship with, minister to, and seek to reconnect them with the church? Pray about how you could go about doing this.

Share Button

Comments

Wednesday: Reclaiming Former Members — 7 Comments

  1. In using 2 Cor 5:18-20 the lesson author is using this verse in a very specific way but reconciliation is something that we should be doing in all of our evangelistic efforts not just in working with backsliders.

    In working with those who were once in the church I agree with the lesson. Mat 10:5-6 is talking about those who should have been in the community of faith but have wandered away. There are also several parables that Jesus taught that deal with this group of people. The best known is the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32).

    What is interesting here is the context in which the parable of the prodigal son is given. "Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them'" (Lk 15:1-2 NKJV). Jesus was not socializing with gentiles in this situation. These people were Jews that the church authorities considered backslidden turncoats such as tax collectors that worked for the Roman government. While others were doing things not considered socially acceptable within the Jewish faith. They were either disfellowshipped by the church or they left voluntarily. Either way they, they were once in the fold but no longer were.

    Before Jesus gets to that concluding parable He first tells two other parables about finding things that were once in the group but no longer are:

    What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them,`Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Lk 15:4-7 NKJV)

    Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying,`Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Lk 15:8-10 NKJV)

    In the first parable the sheep didn't know how to get back even though they wanted to while in the second the coin didn't even know it was in the wrong place.

    All three were about God's desire to find those that are no longer with the church. The parable of the prodigal son further warns those in the church against rejecting those coming back into fellowship and the ministry used in doing that.

    Like(0)
  2. I really have loved Mat 10:5-6. If every church and individual in every church can embark on outreach first to the backsliden brothers and sisters before teaming up to go to others of different faith than us, we really could be growing fast as a church. Let's first make sure no or few are lost first to those already knowing the advent faith before we reach out to non adventists.

    Like(0)
  3. Reclaiming members, "restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you." As Katukula stated we must first start inhouse, our brethern.

    The Bible says we were once lost but now have been found. its the power of love that reconciled us back to Christ. In todays world of institutional and positional security we have lost sight of true reconciliation which can only be found at the foot of calvary's cross.

    "We all fall short of the glory of God" and the saints rejoice over one that is found. The kernal truth is that as true believers we must not equate God with any particular person or group. Is back sliding the trouble of undergoing internal transformation? We must be justified by the sanctifying grace of GOD there is no other way. As human beings we are not a discourse marker unless we choose to remove ourselves from the authoritive covenant of our Heavenly Father. ME KEALOHA PAU OLE MAHALO KEAKUA.(WITH NEVER ENDING LOVE FOR OUR FATHER JESUS)

    Like(0)
  4. The parable states that some seed fell among thorns, where the care of life has choked out the Word and we have lost our first love Luke 8:14 / Rev 3. Our churches are filled with church members living this half hearted Christian existence. Many find themselves like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son rejecting those coming back into fellowship because they have not accepted the Father's love thereby not knowing how to give what they have not received. It is a sad state to be lost and not know it. The lost sheep knew he was lost and far from home. How sad to be lost in the house and not know it. The Pharisees are a good example of being lost in the household of faith. Therefore as Paul reminds us we need to "Examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith" 2 Cor. 13:5. We can not give what we don't have. The only way to love those who have fallen is through connection with Him who is Love 1 John 4:16.

    Like(0)
  5. I've spent the last year looking for a church with a ministry like this. One that will listen to my issues with the church and with God and will help me work through them. I moved to a new state a year ago and am yet to find a church with any ministry like this. So far, I have gotten pastors who give me a pep talk in their office and send me on my way (with a book that turns out to be useless in my hands sometimes). The pastor feels that he has done his obligatory duty, has kicked me to the curb as the kids say, and a year later I'm in the same place where I was when I moved here.

    Like(0)
  6. Dear Natalie,

    I'm so sorry you have not found any church with anyone in it willing to talk to you about your concerns.

    The trouble is that churches are made up of people who are sinners like you and me. None of them are perfect. And most of them have "issues." I remember an old minister referring to the church as a washing machine. A dirty shirt came and looked into the washing machine, saw all the other dirty shirts in there and declared, "I'm not going in there with all the dirty shirts!" And he just lost out on his one chance of getting cleaned up and ready for the Sabbath in heaven!

    I suspect you may be on a different wave length than the people you've been talking to. They may not understand your concerns, and if they do, they may not have answers. After all, they're just another "dirty shirt." Sometimes an online group is a good place to post your concerns so that others can help you work through them.

    However, I also remember Christ's counsel to Peter. When Peter asked a question about John, Christ replied, "What is that to you? Just follow Me!" And I've found that if I take that counsel to heart -- not worrying about what others do (even leaders) and just focused on following Jesus, a lot of issues don't seem nearly so important any more.

    God has promised wisdom to all who ask. May He bless you with wisdom to decide what to do about your concerns. And may you experience His love in a tangible way.

    And it seems to me that if you can follow Jesus back into a church fellowship, you may be best qualified to minister to others who are where you were.

    In His love,
    Inge

    Like(0)
  7. Natalie I too am sorry for your situation. So many brothers and sisters in the Lord are isolated. We have no idea what goes on in a persons life. Besides on line community, try to start meetings from your home. If there is not a Bible believing Church near you where you can fellowship, you may have to take the bull by the horns and start a group yourself. Do not be discouraged if the showing is none or small in the beginning. The Church of the most High God started with 12 disciples who all fell short and after receiving power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost moved mightly. A small group can download lessons to share and have prayer and of course some fellowship after prayer and service is finished. Pray without ceasing on this and God will make a way "out of no way". It might start online at first. I dont know if this site allows us giving out our emails. I would love to stay in contact and although I go to my local SDA church, still would love to fellowship and do Bible study with you via emails or chat.

    [MODERATOR'S NOTE: Generally our policy is against giving out email addresses. We do that for the protection of our those who comment on our blog. However, there are times when someone would like another person to have their email address that would be beneficial for Christ's Kingdom. We will do that with written permission. Go to our contact page http://ssnet.org/fscontact-admi/ and submit your request.

    Even though we are willing to do this occasionally we do not want to become a clearing house for email addresses. That is not what we are here for. This blog is for Bible study and discussion on the Sabbath School lessons.]

    Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.