Over at the Reclaiming the Mission blog, I’ve thrown in my two cents in an debate between David Fitch & Ed Stetzer. This disagreement is over Ed’s data about megachurches and sheep stealing. Stetzer claimed that
about 44% of new members at megachurches are from other local churches– not 60%, not 70%, and definitely not 95%. I hear people saying 90% and I agree that’s a myth. (But it is still way too high… just like so many other churches.)
I wish it were 0%, and every person that joined a megachurch was formerly without Christ, but the fact is that people do transfer between churches. Yet, I don’t know of any research or real evidence (beyond “but I KNOW it is true, Ed”) that megachurches transfer more out of local churches, destroying them while benefiting their own growth.
Fitch argued that the data was suspect, but ceded the point that small churches are just as guilty. His larger point was that
The real proof that mega churches are merely playing in a game of Christian musical chairs is the fact that on a macro basis, the percentage of Christians attending a church over the whole country is still on a slow decline.
So in their friendly debate, they could agree that there were too many church transfers. The immediate question I asked is why is it people don’t want to stay? Why are they not so passionate about their community and their role within it that they can’t imagine being anywhere else?
Fitch and his team over at the Reclaiming the Mission blog have been kind enough to post my thoughts on “Three Ways to Keep Your Sheep From Getting Stolen.” Here’s a slice:
It would be easy to write off church hopping as a cultural phenomenon. You could even cite the individual for a lack of spiritual maturity. But churches have a responsibility as well.
Imagine if your sheep were so deeply committed to your church that it would be hard to accept a job offer in a new city.
Imagine if there was such a level of commitment that they would be willing to put up with poor preaching and bad music.
Church hopping and sheep stealing doesn’t have to be inevitable. But it will require doing at least three things differently.
(Read the rest here.)
What about you have you ever left a church? Why did you leave? What would make a church worth staying at?
Updated: The article was reposted here by churchleaders.com, which inspired a great discussion.