How do you reach the once-reached?

The term refers to those church members who were once a part of the fellowship and who have since dropped out because they were deeply wounded by the church.

Most of us are better at reaching the "unreached" than the "once-reached." It's easy to write off those who once attended but now stay home on Sunday morning. Often there is deep pain and bitterness involved. Sometimes people have been so deeply hurt that nothing you do seems to help. And often people just "disappear" without fanfare, and you don't notice it until months later when someone says, "Whatever happened to Joe (or Amy or Carlos or Melissa)?"

I have been a pastor for 26 years, in three churches, in three states. And I've seen people come and go. Sometimes they leave because of a job transfer, sometimes they need a different kind of church, sometimes they move to another area, and sometimes (more often than we know) people leave because somehow they were deeply hurt by someone in the church.

It's very easy to write these people off as malcontents or whiners or to say, "I've got enough people to take care of. I don't have time to worry about people who don't want to be here." But deep inside we know we can't just write people. I know that today people like to speculate on what Jesus would do in certain situations. In this case we know the answer because he told us in Luke 15. When the 99 sheep are safely in the fold, you don't rest until you find the one that is missing.

As I said, it's easy to write people off but this is not what Jesus would do. Dave Burchett has written a brand-new book to help us walk in the Savior's steps. Bring 'Em Back Alive offers real help and real hope for reaching the "once-reached" who no longer go to church. Dave's whole point can be summed up in one sentence: When one member of the body is wounded, the whole flock is weakened. I found the book convicting and hopeful at the same time. And I said to myself, Who will reach out to the hurting sheep if we don't. It's an excellent book, and I'm happy to recommend it to you.

 


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