Why do we keep losing so many of our new people? This question is often asked by churches that have difficulty assimilating newcomers. Even if they have a lot of visitors every Sunday, some churches see a steady march out the back door.
It could be that newcomers and churches have conflicting priorities. People stay in churches where they can make friends but too many churches want newcomers to believe and behave a certain way before they can be friends. In other words the process is BELIEVE, BEHAVE and, then BELONG.
This was not Jesus’ pattern. He called Matthew, a despised tax collector, to be part of his crowd and even socialized with his rowdy friends (Mark 2:13-15). It was later that Matthew became on of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:14). It was after he befriended a Samaritan woman with a tarnished reputation that she became a believer (John 4).
Newcomers come to church seeking community. Most will place a higher priority on the character of the people in a church than on the church’s doctrinal distinctives. Once the newcomers feel welcome and accepted, they will be open to learning and, in time, their lives will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and the combined witness of the community.
In other words BELONG, BELIEVE and BEHAVE is the biblical pattern for a church that wants to impact its neighborhood by transforming the unchurched into fully devoted followers of Christ.