Thursday, May 13, 2010

Will They Stay?: Rainer on Returning Guests

I came across an interesting article by Dr. Thom Rainer.  Dr. Rainer was the founding Dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions, and Church Growth at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is now the President and CEO of Lifeway Resources.  Rainer is well known for his books on statistics on evangelicalism, Christianity, and the church.

Recently at his website, he posted an important article asking, "Why [do] church guests return?"  Here is his answer:


Rainer argues that churches who not only have a firm belief in right doctrine but stand firm on it draw people into their congregations.  He writes:

Research among previously unchurched individuals revealed a surprising desire to know and understand doctrine.  Knowledge however, is not enough.  It is vital to them that the church they attend be uncompromising in its stand.  People need to know that the church stands for something.

The number one sin of a dying church is the dilution of doctrine.  In an attempt not to offend, the gospel is watered down and cardinal truths are compromised.  Ironically, this drives away the very people the church is desperate to attract

Are we a church that affirms sound doctrine and will not back down from it?  Are we willing to proclaim it, affirm it, and share it with everyone?  If not, then we are surely a weak church.  Rainer is right in making this the first and most important thing that draws people in.


Rainer sees a passionate church primarily in its senior pastor, but such a reputation of a church is not limited to its pastoral staff.  He writes:

The passion from the pulpit carries over into evangelism as well.  In many thriving churches the driving force behind obedience to the Great Commission is the passion that the senior pastor maintains for the lost.

Do we have a passion for the gospel?  Is it evident in our people and in our guests?  Does our passion for the gospel reveal itself in our worship, in our business meetings, in our activities, in our preaching, in our Bible reading, in our prayers, and in our daily lives?

Do we have a contagious passion?


The final thing he discusses is that of relevance.  Relevance can be a dangerous topic because oftentimes when we are consumed with the desire to be relevant, we become irrelevant.  However, if our doctrine is sound our relevance can be more . . . well . . . relevant. 

Rainer concludes with these words:  "Stand firm.  Be passionate.  Be relevant.  And they will come."  And we might add:  "And they will stay."

Are we a church that people want to come and stay? 

Thom Rainer - Why Church Guests Return

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