By Lloyd Perrin
The church that I pastor in the U.S. state of Oregon has an official membership of 491 people. But only 38 percent of those members are active, a number that inches up to 44 percent if you include elderly members who are house-bound because of physical or mental disabilities.
That means 56 percent of our members are inactive – a figure that I haven’t found to be unusual during my decades of pastoring churches in the United States. The problem is not limited to U.S. churches. Worldwide, nearly half of all people baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church over the past 50 years have ended up leaving. But the church has an obligation to shepherd the flock. The apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (NKJV).
So, we started going through our membership records at the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. I will distribute a list of these missing members to each church officer. We will pray daily for each missing member by name and ask God to help us reconnect with them.
Surprises abounded when I gave a similar prayer challenge at my previous church in Spokane, Washington. About three weeks after we started to pray, I received a letter from a woman who had left the church 15 years earlier. The woman had quit church after failing to return a storybook from the church library. She had moved to another state and, she wrote, had been too lazy to find a way to return the book. But guilt had gnawed at her heart and then grown into a cancer that poisoned her relationship with God.
The woman wrote that she had suddenly remembered the book and felt convicted to reach out to the church. She apologized for taking the book and enclosed $50 to cover the book’s cost and 15 years of interest on its value.
I called up the woman immediately and learned that her sense of conviction had only begun growing when our church had started to pray 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) away. I put her in touch with her local Adventist pastor, and she became an active member of that church.
Soon we also will pray for missing Milton members. We need to find our missing sheep and invite them home.
Lloyd Perrin is senior pastor of the Milton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and the Blue Mountain Valley-Mission Church in Athena, Oregon.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org