The Forgotten Christian in Our Midst
I wanted to share with you the story of the forgotten Christian.
I remember hearing the story of a pastor who was sitting at home one night surfing on his computer when he received an email from a member of his congregation. The email read quite simply, “I’m emailing to let you know that I am leaving the church”. The pastor’s eyes widened in shock at the thought of someone leaving the church!, One less soul saved and during a week when membership had failed to increase! One less tithe in the collection plate! He frantically began typing back, “my dear brother in Christ, why would you leave the church?” Boop! The answer simply said, “my uncle, to whom I was very close, passed away two months ago”. The pastor was confused and responded, “I’m so sorry for your loss, but why would that make you want to leave the church?” He hesitantly hit “send”. Boop! The response was short but powerful, “my uncle went to your church for 20 years. He usually went to the 10 o’clock service. He sat on the left side of the church by the choir. He did this week after week, month after month, year after year. When he passed away, no one from the church bothered to call us, no one stopped by, no one offered their sympathies. It was like the church had simply forgotten about us. And that’s why I’m leaving the church”.
That family felt forgotten. We all know the forgotten Christians. Maybe you are even one of them. How many people today honestly feel that if they stopped going to their church next Sunday that anyone would really notice? And if you missed the next four Sundays in a row, would you get a phone call, a text, maybe a postcard asking what happened to you? Would anyone check to see If you were alright? Had you gotten ill? Moved? Do the people you sit by every Sunday, do you know their names? Other than church, do you ever see them outside the pew, at a church function, maybe even in the supermarket? One of my personal favorites, and the millennials will love this one, have you ever sent a social media request, a friend request, an Instagram follow to one of the church “leaders” or a fellow churchgoer you see every week, and they delete it? Maybe even block you. That one sure makes a person feel welcomed.
Most churches devote their limited resources planning and doing programs and events for a small number of its members. Usually, they are the big donors, the best volunteers and, in all fairness, it makes a lot of sense. But, it also reeks of a social club, not a community of believers. Then, they take what is left over and place it in a big pot to reach the popular buzzwords, the “lost” or the “unchurched” because that is what all the fancy books by the big names in Christianity tell them to do. What we’re missing is that ne group that probably makes up 75% or more of your church. You guessed it, the forgotten Christians. The man or woman, or that family who is 2 to 3 weeks away from throwing in the towel and bolting out the door because faith has become a chore or a rut and they just don’t feel like they belong.
Is it really surprising that statistics show overwhelmingly that the “lost” and the “unchurched”, those folks that churches are spending tons of time and money on, the ones we are all so desperate to reach, were actually once regular and active churchgoers, who gradually moved from the “forgotten Christian” category, still attending church, but feeling isolated and marginalized to leaving the church altogether. If your church is ignoring the “forgotten” Christians in its midst, it’s probably not doing a very good job with the “lost” and “unchurched” either. At its very best, it’s simply creating a cycle of people coming in, staying for a little while, and then going right back out the door when they can’t find a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ or their fellow believers. And that is a huge waste of church resources that could be used to really make a difference.
So how do we reverse this alarming trend? Let’s have a conversation. Leave your thoughts and comments. God bless you.