Author: Dr. Earl Jessup
Recently, I was talking with a pastor who was telling me about a family who had moved near their church from a community forty-five minutes away. The family attended a good church in their community but after moving, found themselves not being as faithful to their church as they should because of the distance. They visited the nearby church and found it to be very similar to the church they were currently attending. They talked with the pastor of their church, and he told them that they should continue to drive the forty-five minutes to their church rather than attend the near-by church. The family decided to continue the drive because the pastor didn’t want them to move to the new church.
We just helped start a new church in a community which at one time had a gospel-preaching church. On the first Sunday, four families attended the new church who had attended the previous church in the community. Now, they were driving over thirty minutes to attend a church of like faith and practice. The new pastor called the pastor of the church thirty minutes away to let him know these families had visited, and his response was very striking. He berated the pastor for planting a church in the community indicating that they were reaching the community. He also stated that these were tithing families and helping in the church. He said they might have to cut staff or ministries if they came to the new church in the community in which they were living.
I wonder if perhaps the following question should be asked of these pastors: “Are you responding in the best interest of these families or are you responding in your best interest?” Shouldn’t pastors be interested in what is best for the families in the church? If we are really interested in our people, wouldn’t it be in their best interest to attend a church where they can be faithful every service, go soul-winning in their community and invite people to a local church they can easily attend?
When preaching on church planting and encouraging churches to reproduce churches around their church, I make the statement, “When you live too far away from the church, you cannot be as faithful and involved as you should be.” I often have someone come to me and say, “Brother Jessup, I live forty minutes from the church, and I never miss a service. I am involved in the ministries of the church.” I always ask this question, “How many of your neighbors have you won to Christ and have had them come to church with you?” No one has ever given me one example of someone they have won to Christ and had them go with them to church, so they can be discipled.
Most churches have members who live quite a distance from their church. Many of them are in communities where there isn’t a church of like faith, so they must drive to other communities to attend a good church. Pastors are sometimes reluctant to plant a church in those communities because some of their good members may attend the new church. Again, the question must be asked, “In whose best interest is this decision; in the best interest of the church or the best interest of the members and the community without a good church?”
We all know the answer to this question, don’t we?! As pastors, we often make decisions in our best interest and not the well-being of our members. We want our people to live by faith, but sometimes it is difficult for us to live by faith. We find it difficult to trust our members to the Lord, to believe that He will lead them to make decisions that are correct. We may berate them or make them feel sorry for us if they leave. It gives them the feeling that we are trying to dictate the decisions they are to make.
Since we believe in the priesthood of the believer, we should allow them to seek what God wants them to do and believe they will make the right choice. Only when we are certain they are making a decision which is not in their best interest should we intervene.
Thankfully, there are some wonderful pastors who do have the best interests of their members at heart. May we all follow their example in helping our families follow the leading of the Lord in their lives.