So when do you contact a local area pastor?

So when do you contact a local area pastor with reference to one of his members attending your church?  Do you express the same level of charity across all denominational lines?  Do you simply wait until someone expresses interest in membership or do you move more proactively than that?  This scenario is not as common today because so many Christians move around from congregation to congregation like a kid at 31 flavors (church shopping). 

Let’s hear from you pastors as to how you address these opportunities.  What are the advantages and the disadvantages of this approach?

8 responses to this post.

  1. Not a pastor, but I’ll offer this… Jay Adams covers this pretty extensively in his book, Handbook of Church Discipline.

    (Haven’t read it all the way through, but I remember reading some of this when I first browsed it.)

    Specifically, chapter 10 – “Cross-Congregational Discipline” – covers “What if the church defaults?,” “Respecting discipline,” “Handling church hoppers,” and “Divisive persons.”

  2. So when do you contact a local area pastor with reference to one of his members attending your church?

    My practices has almost always to connect the local pastor when one of the members wanted to join ours.

    In small churches, one person from another church who is bad, can bring that same attitude in your church.

    I encourage each person to examine their heart and attitudes and spirit before coming in to our membership.

    Of course they have to know what kind of church they are about to join too.

    Any person from any church would be treaded the same way. I would contact the pastor.

    Secondly, if one of our members were to join another church, and we received a request for their letter, we would be open as to why they left.

  3. Never good to watch someone leave another congregation with things unresolved. It is good to at least ask the person about the circumstances of why they left and whether or not their has been some reconciliation.

  4. I’m not a pastor (I’m a missionary), but I have some thought on this subject. My answer to all of your questions stem from my assumption that there is only one Church actually and that the lines between local Churches only apply practically. So:
    1) You congregation and the other pastor’s congregation are really part of the same thing, so all that matters here is pride on someone’s part.
    2) Denominations shouldn’t stop teaching doctrine, but also should never weaken the Church by neglecting those who God has bound together.
    3) If someone is a Christian they are automatically a member. (That’s not to say that a trial period to test their faith is not a good idea, but that’s a different topic I think)

  5. Good question to invoke some discussion!
    In response to the last person that commented, that there is one universal church, so all that matters here is pride….
    God seems to be concerned about how local churches govern and function within the broader scope of the universal church. (see The Pastoral Epistles)

    In response to the question, it is hard to answer the question without more details. Obviously, you need to speak at length with someone to understand their spiritual condition. In the same vein, if they are saved, you want to understand what is the reason for attending the church. I would immediately speak with a pastor if there seems to be an issue with someone leaving that church abruptly. If local churches don’t cooperate in regards to people living in sin, the effectiveness of church disipline is limited. If MR & MRS. JONES leave church X that is notorious for not being a bible believing Gospel preaching church, it may not be prudent to talk with that church. If MR & MRS. JONES leave church Y because it has become “seeker sensitive”, I would inquire further about their role in communicating their displeasure to the leadership. This couple may be right to find disgust at a watered down Gospel but their manner for handling the issue isn’t o.k. They need to be encouraged to speak respectfully to the proper individuals about the problem instead of just jumping ship.
    (This last scenario is a realistic one that I have encountered and dealt with in a similar manner)
    A pastor’s goal isn’t to just bash every other church but to encourage the couple to respond biblically to situations. In essence, their spiritual growth and maturity is the greater concern over one’s numbers in worship.

  6. Posted by Scott Christensen on August 26, 2008 at 1:41 am

    I pastor in a rural area in which the population of the county is about 30,000. There are 3 towns in the county, the largest of which is about 9,000 people. There is a suprisingly large number of churches in the area and I have met and spoken with most of the pastors of those churches that would be self-consciously identified as evangelical. Because of the small population of the area people tend to know or know about you and vice versa. If one person leaves a church and heads for another sooner or later word gets out and the knowledge of the situation cannot be avoided. In a curious way this has forced pastors of the various churches to get to know one another and I personally think it is a good thing. I have good relationships with pastors and members of area churches with whom I would disagree both theologically and practically.

    I was once involved in a situation involving some people who attended our church that had previously attended 2 other churches and had strong ties to both. I had considerable disagreements with both churches and their approach to ministry although I do not believe either to be outside the pale of orthodoxy. The matter became one of church discipline and having the opportunity to engage the 2 other pastors with what I believe to have been a more Biblical perspective on the matter turned out to be a way of encouraging both pastors to think a bit differently then they had.

    On the other hand, I have a good friendship with a pastor of another church who is very like-minded. In fact, he has become somewhat of a mentor to me having many more years of pastoral experience. We recently had a family in our church leave under very stressful circumstances (but not a church discipline issue) and begin attending the church he pastors. It was a matter of integrity in my mind to discuss the matter candidly with him. They have since left his church as well which came as no suprise. His being abreast of the situation in our church helped him shepherd this family appropriately even though the circumstances did not turn out as hoped for.

    All in all, I believe the loose and sometimes tighter ties to local churches and pastors helps to strengthen the church overall and goes a long way in avoiding some problems associated with people who are not committed to the local body of Christ (i.e. church hoppers). It has also given me a platform to share my Biblical convictions on matters and secondly, it has encouraged me to be a pastor of integrity. In a small community things are said about your ministry and float about freely. Intra-church gossip is a serious problem and it forces you to act with integrity.

    I do not mind the fact that so many churches are not as like minded. I am certainly not ecumenical, but I think developing good relationships with other evangelical pastors and churches as far as it depends on you is important for creating greater unity in the body of Christ. I do not compromise my convictions when given the opportunity, but I seek to communicate and behave as graciously as possible. If I communicate what I believe to be the truth in an ungracious manner then I undermine that truth which ought to be inextricably tied to grace. The marriage of grace and truth is at the heart of pastoral integrity and I believe helps to promote unity among the churches and a healthier envoirnment for the Christian public. Thus, I do not view our church as an isolated entity from the over-all community of believers of which we are apart. We still function with autonomy but not isolated autonomy. That forces us to be better beacons of truth. Furthermore, this public reputation in the Christian community has attracted people to our church that otherwise may have not known about us if we were isolationist in mentality. I know of some fundamentalist churches that remain largely a mystery in our community because they are so seperatistic. I do not think that is wise.

    Those are my very rambling thoughts on the general matter and maybe not very helpful. Each specific situation involving individual church members and churches they are associated with needs the particular Biblical and pastoral wisdom that situation warrants as pastorsteve indicates. That adds a level of difficulty when dealing with churches who are not like-minded.

  7. […] You Contact a Local Area Pastor? The guys over at Expository Thoughts asked the question, “When do you contact a local area pastor?” (when one of his members begins attending your church). I have actually had this situation […]

  8. I have actually had this situation occur, and I handle it differently depending on the situation. If the church they are coming from is a church of “like faith” then I contact the pastor as soon as I find out they are members elsewhere (our visitor cards have a place for people to tell us where they are currently members, although people don’t always fill it out). I like to give the Pastor a chance to visit their member and see if the situation can be rectified before we begin to get them too attached to our church. I do not want to grow our church via transfers.

    Let me explain what I mean by “like faith”: Our church is an independent Baptist Church that adheres to the fundamentals of the faith. I consider other churches of “like faith” to be those that are also ‘fundamental’ (I know that fundamental has bad connotations, but no other term to describe what I am has made it to the forefront. Just understand that I believe separation should be over doctrine, not preferences.) I try to make sure that I have a good relationship with all other ‘fundamental’ churches in the area, whether they be Baptists, Bible Churches, Community Churches, certain Presbyterians, etc. I maintain that relationship by showing them that I am not trying to ‘steal’ their members.

    Now, if the person is visiting our church from a denomination or church that I believe has serious doctrinal issues, or that is unwilling to separate over the key doctrines of the Faith, then I make no contact with the Pastor. The only contact that will come is the standard ‘membership transfer letter’ that we send if the person at some point desires to join our church through transfer. I do this to make sure there are no church discipline issues that I am unaware of.

    The only exception that I can think of is if I had a personal relationship with a conservative evangelical pastor in the area. If I felt that a person coming to my church from his would damage our relationship, then I would contact him just as I would a pastor of “like faith”. This situation is not currently a problem for me.

    I would like to know if a member of my church is visiting another church as soon as possible. So I try to “do unto others” in this area.

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