The other day I was getting take-out at a restaurant. I had been there a couple times before, and when I came in to pick up my food they said, “Welcome back”. I was surprised at how it made me feel. Not only was it welcoming, but it also showed that the owner noticed me, remembered me, and acknowledged my presence then, and now.
“Welcome Back” is a phrase I hope we can say a lot more to people at our church as they come back to worship with us after being gone for a while. In the book ‘The Great De-Churching” there is a second group of “De-Churched” people that this study called “De-Churched Mainstream Evangelicals”. This is a large group of people (2.2 million country-wide) that have left the church from mainline denominations since 2020 and the Covid disruption.
Who are the De-churched Mainstream Evangelicals?
These may be OUR former people. The person who was here 5-6 years ago in church, but you haven’t seen in a couple years at Mariners, most likely falls into this category of De-churched Mainstream Evangelicals. They have high orthodox views of God and Scripture. 98% believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (This is 10% higher than those still going to church statistically!). They are younger and older people (average age is 40) who love Jesus and probably miss you as much as you miss them.
Why have De-Churched Mainstream Evangelicals left the Church?
The study showed these folks typically didn’t have a negative experience in church that precipitated their departure (unlike the ‘Ex-vangelicals’ we will talk about next week). The reason they left may not have been a conscious decision, but just the busyness of life, or divorce, or moving to another part of the state, etc. Some unforeseen life event got them out of the habit of going to church. Covid also was a big factor causing them to leave. Many went from lockdown, to livestream, to never coming back.
This is so easy to happen in every important area of life. Maybe you experienced being in good shape, then suddenly you got busy and stopped going to the gym or “getting in your steps”. It doesn’t take long before you don’t even know where your gym bag is! It wasn’t that you didn’t want to exercise, or got mad at the gym, you just stopped. You see the analogy.
Studies have shown this is probably true of many people who have left our church. True, some people had a bad experience, or some negative event happened, but many probably simply got out of the habit of going.
What does it take to bring De-Churched Mainstream Evangelicals back to Church?
Studies show it wouldn’t take much! Unlike the ‘De-churched Cultural Christian” who may need to build a social connection again through a meal, a simple nudge or invitation may be all this person needs to come back. Studies have shown that 100% of people in this category are willing to return to church. 100%! Many are just waiting for an invitation.
The Rest of the Story…
There is more, of course. When we say, “Welcome Back”, we are not just welcoming back to church, but fellowship with the Creator of the universe and His children. We may be saying: Welcome back and remember how much you are loved by God; Welcome back to the mysterious beauty of the communion table; Welcome back to a place where your kids and grandkids can meet people in every generation that love them.” Welcome back to a place where you can use your gifts for God’s Kingdom. We really are saying: “Welcome back home”.
CS Lewis wrote beautifully about increasing friendship in his book “The Four Loves”:
We possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.
Maybe you are receiving this email and you are this person I am talking about. I realize this email has a wider distribution than just our regular attenders. Maybe you have just left church, but read scriptures and devotional each week to nurture your spiritual life. Would you receive this email as your first nudge to come back to church? You returning to fellowship with us would be an honor that would bless us just as much as we desire to bless you. If you have moved away from Detroit, would you consider going to another church and allowing them to say “Welcome Back”? This is the beauty of the true family of God: Our Trinitarian God and His children can be found everywhere.
Maybe you have noticed someone who hasn’t been coming to church lately. You look over at an empty pew and remember the person, the couple, or the family that use to sit there week after week for years. Would you consider being the one who reaches out with a simple call, text, email, or note in the mail? This likely could be all that person needs to come back after a long hiatus away from the family of God. Your simple act of reaching out may only take 5 minutes, but could have a lifelong effect. Then, if you think its appropriate, give their name to me and I’ll follow up too!
Maybe there are others in your neighborhood, social circles, and workplace who moved away from their church and need a nudge from you to get back into fellowship.
Every week I see amazing displays of God’s grace and love at Mariners’ church. Fellowship requires effort and intentionality, and it is not always easy, but it is definitely worth. I want others to experience community. All of us need more friends and family. Let’s share this “Heavenly Bread between us”.
Blessings and Peace,