People Chasers

I saw this bit in Group magazine this morning…

“Jesus loved all people and challenged them to follow him, but he wasn’t a chaser.”

I hadn’t really thought about that before and it’s a good reminder for us ministers. Sometimes we are called to be “chasers.” Whenever someone starts missing church (or visiting other churches) we’re expected to call on them and encourage them to return. It’s a call I dread because the conversation is usually awkward and I feel like the “Attendance Czar” who’s calling them out for their lack of faithful attendance. I just don’t enjoy hounding people to attend church. Of course if I don’t call them then I’m accused of not caring or not doing enough to keep them.

I’ve never really thought about how Jesus would handle the same situation. Can you see Jesus calling people and begging them to return? I’m not sure I can. I see him as someone who welcomes people, loves people, accepts people and invites them to follow. But if they choose otherwise I think he would let them walk away. At least that seems to be the way he called disciples. Can you think of any examples where he handled it differently?

23 thoughts on “People Chasers

  1. John 6Jesus feeds people, they love him; then he teaches them things that are “hard to accept” and they leave. Jesus asked the twelve if any of them wanted to leave. Peter had the right idea, it’s not about what Jesus can do for me, but it’s the fact that He is the Beloved of God.

  2. I can’t think of a specific example, but we are to seek and save the lost and when we call them I think we are seeking them. I totally agree it is a very difficult call to make but I also see it as a very important call to make. Sometimes a little encourgement from a Christian brother or Sister can cause one to realize they need to start back worshiping God with the saints and that people truly care about them. This alone motivates people (at times) to get back right with God.In the case of visiting other churches, its good to know why they are interesting in worshiping elsewhere. We “may” learn how to better serve God by their response if they have some constructive critism to offer.Eddie

  3. Jesus told the story of the shepherd who left the 99 to go and find the 1 missing. I think that when someone begins missing there is normally a deeper problem than not coming to church. It usually reflects a heart issue. We need to seek to discover what is behind the new behavior.As far as those who are perpetually missing church I think we let them know we love them but to continue to chase after them is often vain. We can ask God to chase after them in our prayers. He has a better chance at convicting them than we do.

  4. I hadn’t thought of the 99. That’s a good example. I was thinking of examples like the rich young ruler or places where Jesus told people to “let the dead bury their own dead” or “shake the dust from your feet.” Maybe there’s something to think about in terms of whether its someone giving up on faith or just switching churches. If missing church is representative of a deeper issue and leads to someone leaving the Christian faith all together than we have to respond. But if someone is just leaving the church and hopping to another one than maybe we should let them go and not worry about it too much. I don’t know. Other thoughts?? Other examples??

  5. Russ,This does seem to be a catch 22. I knew a woman at a church I use to attend that would question everyone very hateful “where have you been?” She asked me once could I not get up in time to get to class. Little did she know that I was teaching a class. Then on the other hand you have people that miss and no one asks where they are. Come to find out they are having problems and need their church family. But one thing we must learn is to do it out of love and not an attendance chart missing some stars. Once you teach them, you love them regardless.Peggy

  6. From my understanding of Hebrews 10:24-25, we are to consider one another unto the encouragement of love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves as is the manner of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day drawing near.The assembly is supposed to be a place where we come and encourage each other through love and good works. This is not an explicit command against skipping church as some have taken it, but rather it is an exhortation of how we can continue to be encouraged and loved.If someone has quit coming to church altogether, it’s probably for one of two reasons: either they don’t like being around loving, caring, and encouraging people who are looking our for each other, OR the assembly has lost some of the love, encouragement, and concern which it is supposed to have.I’m not saying we should try to mold our assemblies around each person’s individual needs and preferences. I am merely suggesting that most people enjoy going to places where they feel loved, accepted, and encouraged, and I believe the Hebrew author knew that as well.Maybe we should focus more on making changes in the ones we can control (that is, ourselves) and make sure that we are concerned for our brothers and sisters, and that we love and encourage them every chance we get.

  7. Luke 15 offers three perspectives into people who leave the church. In the story of the 99 sheep who remain with the fold and the 1 who is missing we get the idea that the sheep may have just wandered off. I raised a few sheep back in the day and they are easily distracted and can get seperated from the fold. The shepherd leaves his flock to help reunite the lost one. Some Christians just need someone who can help them return to the church when they have wondered off.The lady who lost the coin realizes that it is her fault that the coin was lost. How she lost it is not told but it was her responsibility and she does everything she can to find the lost coin. Sometimes we may be the cause of someone leaving the church and we need to do everything we can to bring them back.The prodigal son had a rebel spirit and left the father. The father makes no attempt to save the son because he knew it would do no good but he waited in anticipation for the day his son would return home and showed him love and grace when he did. There are some who want to break away and there is nothing you can do to bring them back besides prayer and hope that they will return and when they show some sign of returning run to meet them and wrap them in your love.

  8. Church attendance and spiritualality are not connected in the sense that it earns me favor with God. They are connected in that it is often an indicator. If you go to the gym every day and then you suddenly stop going and or become more sporadic it is an indicator that something in your life has changed. It may be that your working more hours, spending more time with family, or that your tiring of working out.Our attendance is a lot like our prayer life and devotional life. They do not earn us favor with God but they often are an outward sign of an inward attitude. Church attendance is the easiest to pick upon because most of us do not see others private time with God. We need to discover why someone’s behavior has changed.

  9. “They are connected in that it is often an indicator.”Sounds like stereotyping. Not like a congregation is the Church anyway. Maybe the person from the gym got a home system?

  10. Anonymous has several good points and well rounded thoughts. Your comments are easy to follow as well.However, I agree also with Ben, maybe the person just got a Bowflex to work out with at home.Checking someone’s attendence is a false indicator of their heart. Only God can judge what matters, the heart.”We need to discover why someone’s behavior has changed.” I understand your direction with that statement but it opens up a can of worms. There’re probably more people who attend church everytime the doors open that need more attention than the ones who don’t.

  11. Ben and Rodney,Unless one is to write a thesis that no one would take the time to read due to its length then we cannot explore every reasons why someone may not be attending church like they did previously. The point I am trying to make is that when a brother or sister attendance pattern changes then we should talk to them. It may not be a spiritual issue but what if it is? We do not have to chase them down and come up with a strategy to “win them back”. If we do nothing then what does this say about us. It would be like a family member who suddenly quit coming home for Christmas, wouldn’t want to discover why? I do not believe that church attendance equals spirituality. It does not earn us favor with God. I am blessed by your attendance and you act as iron sharpening iron when you are in fellowship with me. If you suddenly changed your attendance pattern I would care enough to ask. If you show me or tell me that you do not want to have that conversation then I will not chase you down and make it my mission to discover why and try to win you back. I will let you know I care enough by asking about you. My wife occasionally misses church due to work and she ask me every time did anyone ask about me. She wants to know if anyone noticed she was gone and if they care enough to ask. If she missed a month and no one called and checked I have no doubt that she would pack her Bible and be at another church whose members care about her enough to say we missed you.

  12. Dude, if you only care that I am at the building at the same time as you, then you don’t really care about me or my spiritual life; you care about my attendance. If the only time I cared about my family was when we get together at Christmas, then I don’t blame them for not showing up.

  13. Ben,You seem a little argumentative and I don’t understand why. Even if someone said something that you DID agree with, would you find a reason to argue. I think being concerned that about a fellow brother or sister not being at worship is an important issue. It shows your love and concern for your family. I bet that you would want someone to show you the same courtesy if you weren’t there. It doesn’t mean that you are any less spiritual, it just means that people care about you and want to make sure that you are okay.

  14. Um, it’s dialog. You are saying that if someone misses a worship then they need to be called, I’m saying that my concerns should be larger than what a person is doing three hours a week.However the better question is “Is this person missing a worship, or leaving God?” I can miss worship, did for a month in fact because of work, no one called me because they knew ME, not the fact that my chair was empty.Again, it is a matter of relationship verses rules. If it is about a relationship then there is no need to hound, if it is about rules then I would expect people to call me “when the doors are open” and I’m not there.And the point of Russ’ post was a question about Jesus begging people to follow Him not people who “miss church.”

  15. Anonymous and Ben,You both have equal sides I think. Although, Ben, you seem to be a bit confrontational about it.If someone is there on a regular basis, I think it’s appropriate for someone close to them to call to check in. Everyone likes to know that they are missed.I also understand your point Ben that when we get in the business of being the church police it can be intrusive.Good discussion.

  16. I think that “Anonymous'” point is that it is about relationship. I agree with you as well Ben. I think that you both are making the same points. I think the bigger issue is to make sure that when people come through the doors of the church we make them feel welcome. Whether it’s been 3 days or 3 years since they’ve last been there, they should get the same cheerful greeting. If they feel condemnation in their Spirit, maybe that is conviction from God? Our goal should be to help them plug into a small group. When you have meaningful relationships with other believers, you DESIRE to be in their company. Usually, if absences mount up, then someone in the small group knows what’s going on. A phone call from a friend just because you care doesn’t seem like chasing to me, it feels like an act of friendship. I know when I’m gone and no one calls I don’t take it personal. However, if I missed several weeks in a row (or quit going to social events w/ my small group, outside of the church walls) then they would call b/c of concern, not conviction.Not to put words in either of your mouth’s, but I think this is the point both of you are making.

  17. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. I’m not comfortable with the “attendance equals spirituality” mindset nor am I comfortable with the “I can do church by myself at home” mindset. Faith is intended for community. Community includes attendance but it goes much deeper than that. Good discussion all.

  18. This is my two cents.Church was created for US, not God. We are iron sharpening iron when we are in Christ-centered fellowship. If only church was always Christ-centered…I digress. Anyway, it’s about sincerity in our motives. Definately check on people and know them personally to know why they aren’t coming. But do it out of love and concern. Ask if there is anything going on that you could help with. My husband and I have had to cut out Sunday night worship all together because our children can’t handle going to church, coming home for dinner and a visit with family, a quick nap, wake up and eat something, and hurry back to church, back home for a bath and go to bed. We realized that was not benifitting our family. Church is not about warming a pew three times a week and the occasional potluck. It’s about growth and fellowship. It’s not even solely there for worship because worship is an allday, everyday thing. It would be nice from time to time for someone to babysit so we could go to church and enjoy a service without the distraction of caring for our children. But, instead, we choose to use that time to relax as a family so that our kids understand that God is a part of our lives, not a part of church.Finally, I want to point out that we often have inappropriate expectations of what church is. I have been in the same church for most of my life and have watched many people come and go. Most often, they are going because of hurt feelings. They felt neglected or mistreated. Church is a human institution. We make mistakes and do sometimes fail to meet someone’s needs. But, don’t miss church and wonder if anyone noticed. I’m not all that observant myself. I get pretty busy at church and don’t get a chance to check up on all that are missing. But, be at church to serve. If we all attended with that mentality, we would have a church that was Christ-centered. Sure, I have felt unappreciated and abused at times, but I have probably been on the giving end of unappreciation too. We are simply humans. If I miss church, I’m concerned that I wasn’t able to help out with certain tasks, not that someone noticed that I was gone. But, then again, I am close to several people there and they know me and my family and my life. My church attendance is of less concern than my life situations.

  19. I also want to include Luke 19 and the story of Zaccheus. Jesus’ ways were often a calling to submission to Him. But, the Bible does not say that Jesus went to Jericho simply for Zaccheus. But Zaccheus was seeking. Something about Jesus made him persue Jesus. And Jesus noticed. Then, Jesus said, “I’m coming to your house.” There are those who are witnessable and those who aren’t. Be prayerful that you notice the Zaccheuses in your life, not just at church.

  20. In “Forsaking the Assembling,” many people have mentioned that they wanted to be a part of a small group and that these groups were the way to go. I agree that having these groups is a great idea. Could these two blogs not be tied together and say that we should all be a part of a “small group” or “Care group?” When someone misses, someone in their group could call them and see if they an help in any way. This way everyone in the congregation has someone watching over them.

  21. Heb 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls, as they that shall give account; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief: for this were unprofitable for you. Russ,Although it is good for brothers and sisters in the congregation to encourage those who absent theselves from the assembly, it is a specifice responsibility of the elders, shepherds, bishops, overseers to watch over, protect, encourage and care for and discipline each member of the flock. If I truly love God and his church, then as a shepherd, I will do all that I can to find out why a member changes their attitude toward the assembly. There are many ways that elders can keep up with those who are no longer attending as they once did. They should know the congregation so well, that they will know who has stopped attending. One of the best ways, is for the brothers and sisters in Christ to communicate with the elders their concerns about ones they know who are not attending like they once did. It is the responsibility of the shepherds to followup with some form of contact. It is the shepherds who will have to give account for the souls they oversee. Chuck

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