Beware of the leaving disease! When it hits your church it can be devastating to a young preacher. Losing people you love and in whom you have invested your life affects the preacher and his family personally. All the effort of winning and reaching people can seem futile when the leaving disease hits.
People leave a church for various reasons and quite often the reasons are not biblical. Sometimes members leave because of personal hurts that, though not intentional, may be a result of you, the preacher. It is always important to evaluate oneself to be certain more could not have been done or that something could have been done differently. Learning from mistakes is an important aspect of a successful ministry, and these times of emotional hurt will humble and refine us to better prepare us for our future ministry.
One preacher likened building a church to building a wall. Initially, you lay the first course of bricks on top of the foundation followed by the second course. Before completion of the third course of bricks you discover one of the bricks has fallen out. Your immediate attention goes toward replacing the fallen brick. As you continue to finish the third course, additional bricks fall from the wall which require further attention. By the time you reach the fourth course of bricks you are spending most of your time replacing bricks and putting them back in the wall without making much progress on building the rest of the wall. The ministry is essentially the same as building a wall. You reach and win some people and then win some more, but after a period of time you are so consumed with counseling, encouraging, and edifying the members that it is difficult to continue to guide the church to grow. Eventually all your time is spent in trying to solve problems and little time is left for building the wall.
There is no possible way to stop people from leaving the church, but limiting the attrition of members is an important aspect of the ministry. People leave or drop out of church for many reasons. Sometimes people become discouraged and fall to the way side, others become backslidden, some are deceived by a false teaching, while still others may be hindered by their family. All of the reasons could not possibly be mentioned, but there is never a good reason for someone to stop attending church.
The church is the lifeline of every believer, and we are commanded to be faithful to it in Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." God has chosen the church to edify the saints and evangelize the lost. When people become unfaithful to church they are in essence becoming unfaithful to God. I have heard more than one unfaithful believer state directly to me, "Don't worry about me, I am doing just fine spiritually." But if they are not in church, they are disobedient and it is only a matter of time until they reap the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
As a young preacher, I was told to prepare to be hurt by people in the ministry. Unfortunately, I have found that advice to be true. But I was also told I had a choice to give myself to minister to people and take the risk of being hurt or take no risk and help no one. I determined I would take the risk of being hurt for the sake of helping others. There will be some Sundays where you preach with an ache in your heart because of a recent problem, but it is important to seek the Lord's grace and not share the personal hurt, while you continue to help others who are in need. Beware of the leaving disease. When it hits, just stay the course and remain faithful.