There is possibly a church in your town that is growing exponentially, but not without some negative impact on the other churches around it. They have lost members to this church. Inevitably it has been accused of sheep-stealing, growing through transfers rather than conversions (though this is usually an unfounded perception from people who have not gone to the church themselves), or teaching some kind of sugar-coated watered down Christianity which appeals to the less mature.
What is your attitude towards transfer growth?
I do not believe that being critical of the success of another church is in the best interest of the Kingdom, nor ours. Instead of accusing others it is better to take a hard look at ourselves. If I were the pastor who is losing members to another church, the first thing I would do is to ask, “Why is my church losing people to the other church? There must be something (or many things) that the other church is doing right that makes people—including members from my church—want to go to there. What can I learn from the other church that will help my church do better—so that not more members will leave my church; instead more people will come because they find it to be a great church to be a part of?”
Screaming at another church for “sheep-stealing” is not going to help anyone—the least of all myself. But learning how to do church better would be a great blessing to my church. And if all the churches in my city did likewise and continued to grow in spiritual vibrancy and effectiveness it will certainly lead to the advancement of the Kingdom. For the sake of the Kingdom, this has got to be our attitude.
On the other hand, if I were the pastor of the church that is drawing people from other churches I would be very careful to tell my members not to invite them. For the simple reason: we don’t want to grow through transfers but conversions. We don’t want to just grow the church; we want to grow the Kingdom. And the latter can only happen through conversions.
However, if people from other churches came on their own accord, it would not be right for the pastor to tell them not to come. People have a right to choose which church they want to be a part of, or to change their involvement from one church to another. Furthermore, they may have very good reasons for leaving their church, and it will not do them any good if they are then told they are not welcomed here. The opportunity to bless and help someone in need may be lost—and very possibly we may even lose the person to his problems or to the world.
I believe it is important that we view transfer growth more positively and with greater grace. Let us learn from growing churches, even if some of their growth is due to transfers. On the other hand, let us not be guilty of soliciting members from other churches. But if they choose to come, welcome them and take responsibility to shepherd them for the Kingdom.