Fringe Church Attenders is a pastor’s view of occasional visitors to our church and what is going on with them.
Since I have been pastor some 30+ years ago, we have always had occasional visitors. That is not abnormal. What is abnormal is when these visitors come once every two or three months. What is going on with them?
Some Suppositions about Fringe Church Attenders
Who really knows what is in the minds of these people, but after studying them and praying about them, I think I see some patterns emerging.
First of all, there are some people who think that they are “better” than the people in our church.
I discern that from the comments that they make when with us (and to others outside the church). Apparently they like the preaching but hate the brethren. Let me propose something here. A church is a community, and its essence is determined as much by the pastor, his decisions, his preaching as well as the rest of that community. It is hard to separate the one from the other. Those others choose to support that pastor and his doctrine and practice. So when they feel like they are above the rest of the community, they insult the pastor and his flock.
Note: No real pastor has control over who attends his church. Simply put, you work with what God sends you. Likewise, God sends people for a while to your church, and then God moves them to elsewhere.
Likewise there are some who are judges.
These people come to find things wrong with your church. They cannot see anything but evil there, but my question is why don’t they go somewhere else and stay there? Undoubtedly there are a lot of failings and shortcomings in our church and with our people and most especially with me as pastor. But who are these others to come into our community and judge us? Pray for us silently would be appreciated, but to come in to stir and cause problems, well, God does not send people into a church to do that.
Some are usurpers
A usurper is somebody who wants to take over and run things, usually running those in leadership out of your church including the pastor if he doesn’t kneel before these people. Some years back a family came into our church, and the man told me that we had a lot of problems in the church. I talked with the men about problems, and we discussed the issues, and there was differences of opinions, so we did nothing about the matters at that time.
But this man was present, and his suggestion to me in private was that we remove all of them from the position of elders and deacons, and just him and I would run the church. Well, I started the church from nothing, so I would suppose that would be my qualification for “running the church”, but my observation to him was where did he get into the leadership of the church being a new member? Where was he the years we had 1-2 families in my living room, and I was bearing all the expenses of the church myself? Where was he when I went out day after day knocking on doors? Where was he when I spent hours on end trying to build bridges to people to get them into the church?
He left in a huff. But there is a requirement, a qualification for leading a church, and that is that you have the personal testimony necessary, and that means you spent the energy building that testimony. People to take over are a dime a dozen. But real leaders are rare. Note that instead of using my authority as pastor to “settle” the issues we were having, I postponed the actions and decisions, and we put the matters into prayer, and I talked privately with each one of the leaders of the church. I avoid conflict and a strong handed approach to leadership, running over everybody in the process.
Those looking for a new church home
Among those that show up occasionally are those who are new to the area, or who were attending somewhere else and have left that church, or those who are recently saved. It is of high priority to make contact and follow up on these people. They are prime to being a new church member and they are not really fringe church attenders.
The bottom line is that God moves people into your church, and He moves them out. While we may consider these people to be fringe church attenders, we need to treat them with respect and honor, and do our best to make their experience with us the best. This means that we do not step aside as leaders and let a new person take over the church leadership or main positions of service. Personally, I would like to see a new church member attend for at least 2 years before allowing them to direct a service, preach, teach a Sunday School lesson or take a major ministry role. Perhaps letting them be an usher, go on visitation, and counting money would be good gestures before the church takes them seriously, but the entire church needs to get to know them before they are allow into main ministry positions.
Fringe Church Attenders