Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


Church Transfers

  • Jim Townsley
  • Jan 27, 2010

Paul said, "Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation" (Rom 15:20). The burden upon Paul's heart was to take the gospel to the unevangelized, where Christ was not named. His aim was lofty and his philosophy should be adopted by every church planter and preacher. Why start a church where other good churches exist, when there are so many cities and towns without a good church? The real heart of church planting is to start churches where they are needed.

It is important to define, "What is a good church?" I have spoken to several preachers who limit their understanding of a good church to, only those from my alma mater. Sometimes our criterion is based on our perception of soul-winning or standards of dress. It is important to have high standards and to have a soul-winning program, but we must also be careful not to ignore the work of other good men who have a slightly different background or approach to the ministry. We must not be so naïve as to believe no one other than ourselves is fundamental. A church that has a praise band, a pastor's wife with no dress standards, and no soul-winning program is not our kind of church. A church that is not growing and the pastor didn't attend our favorite college is man with whom we should become friends and try to encourage. Good men will often differ in this matter of fellowship, but we must be humble and kind to all. A new church will have many struggles and it is not recommended that we make enemies of other pastors who preach the gospel. We are supposed to be laboring for the same purpose of furthering the Lord's kingdom.

However, though your intentions may be pure and your focus is upon winning souls, you will receive visitors from other area churches. Unfortunately, some churches have experienced their primary growth from transfers. Though tempting, this should not be the focus of a new church plant. Upon listening to the tale of woe and misunderstanding about the previous church many a young man has been misled by would-be members. A clear protocol should be established prior to the new church beginning. Read carefully some of my thoughts on this subject.

My first suggestion is to, immediately after moving, meet with all local preachers in your state or region. Your goal should be to befriend these men and to gain their support and prayers. Explain to them your policy of accepting transferring members from sister churches. This policy should be as follows: 1. If a member from their church visits your church you will call them immediately and ask for their suggestion as to how to handle this situation. Assure the preacher you will not receive a family or person without their blessing. 2. If a person is under discipline you will encourage them to be restored to their home church. 3. You will never knowingly visit a member of another fundamental church. 4. Upon the pastor's recommendation you will try to help and encourage a person and pray that over time they will grow in grace. 5. Your policy is to win souls, not receive members from another good church. 6. You will not allow a person to speak evil of another ministry or pastor.

Today, more than ever, people lack commitment and stability. A young preacher can easily be tempted into thinking he will be able to help an unstable family and to later realize these people may be more trouble than they are a blessing. Too many such members will set the tone and spirit of a small young church. Great care should be taken not to allow this to happen. A strong church can not be built on transfers. The very spirit and nature of the ministry will change by their presence and leadership.

The use of a "church letter" became standard protocol in the early Baptist churches of America . No member would ever be received without a hearty recommendation from their previous church. The church letter has lost some of its appeal in our super church era. The thought of being the biggest and best has led many to compromise the Word of God in this matter. I would never receive a member from another church who was under disciple until such time they repented, were restored, and received a recommendation from their previous church.

In addition, even when people come from another church with the pastor's approval it is important for them to be proven before they are placed in leadership. It is my suggestion that Deacons/Trustees should be a member in good standing for a minimum of three years before being considered for this important position. Your first church leaders set the standard for the entire church. Even though you need leaders you should be slow to place people I positions prematurely. As an example, it is difficult to remove a Sunday School teacher after they have been appointed to a class. Their class becomes a right rather than a privilege. It is better to have never appointed them than to give them a class and they become angry because you had to remove them.

The heart of the church should be soul-winning. New converts should require the majority of the preacher's time. Discipleship, prayer, and preaching the Word of God should always remain as the main thing. There will always be visitors from various backgrounds; some from good churches and others from liberal churches. This will always be an important aspect of the ministry, but it must never become the main focus of the ministry.

There is always a church that will take your disgruntled members, but don't allow yourself to become envious of this type of a ministry. These churches may seem to be growing and everyone seems to be happy. Preachers must be content to follow and teach the whole counsel of God. Following the same practices as churches that become melting pots of disgruntled members must be resisted. Some day we will all give account to God for compromising His Word.

If you have people visiting from churches that are not of like faith, remember their doctrine is different and that means their theology is different. No one should become a member by transferring from another denomination. Members should only be transferred from Baptist churches of like faith. If someone comes by statement of faith, but their previous church held to different theology these good folks should be properly baptized in order to join your church.

Simply put, when members of another good church visit:
1. Call the pastor and ask for his advice.
2. Be kind and helpful. These people are probably hurting and need guidance.
3. Try to restore them back to their home church.
4. Do not visit them unless they attend several services.
5. After the pastor's consent wait for them to prove themselves before putting them in a position of authority.
6. Don't get too excited about these kinds of members. Some of them work out, some of them do not. Remember,
we live in a day of a character crisis. As pastors, we must not be guilty of poor ethical standards of behavior.

Someone has said, "Everyone's a blessing; some when they come and some when they leave."