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.
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.