"Back-Door Believers"
Why Did They Leave?
by Ken Gardner

"Back door believers" is the title of recent article in the religious section of the Dallas Morning News. The article says religious people give a lot of attention to what is going on at the "front door" of the church building, that is, much is done to bring people into the "church," but the "back door" is being neglected, that is, little if anything is being done to keep people in the "church." A writer by the name of William Hendricks interviewed several dozen "back-door believers" and wrote a book entitled Exit Interviews: Revealing stories of why people are leaving the church. The book is written from a denominational perspective, but practical observations can be made about his work.

After noting that many people leave the "church," Mr. Hendricks points out that people don't leave because the "church" is full of hypocrites. Most understand that even Christians aren't perfect.

He then said something that I have always said: the real reason people leave is usually not the immediate reason. People usually leave because of some "crisis," perhaps a preacher's indiscretion, or church split, or "a personal need that went unattended." But, "whatever triggered the break, it wasn't the primary cause that the person left but merely a turning point." In other words, the apparent reason for leaving is usually not the real reason. The real reason is beneath the surface and has been building for some time. Sometimes the fault lies not with the congregation but with the individual who left. Some are too critical and expect too much and are not willing to try to work things out.

And many of the people who stay are not much different from the people who leave. In other words, many who stay are on the verge of leaving.

Why mention these matters? (1) To remind ourselves, the members of the body, that we ought not to behave as denominationalists, and (2) to stress the importance of building strong, loyal, faithful, and loving congregations.

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1).