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Absent Members PDF Print E-mail
Written by C.W. Miller   

Advocate and Messenger--1924

Members who join a church and later move so far away that they can't attend, or those members who for other reasons don't attend, are a problem in all our churches. The custom is to talk over these things as individuals and do nothing so far as the church is concerned. Some of the absent ones will write; some will not write dread to pick up pencil or pen because it is so hard to say on paper what they feel. Many of these absent ones feel that perhaps nobody Cares about them, that they are so little they never did amount to anything when they did attend, and, perhaps those who attend regularly have forgotten them. But some of these absent ones remain ever true to their obligations despite time and distance, while others, feeling lonely and neglected, drift off to, other denominations for the sake of human sympathy. The world is always on the watch for stray or wandering sheep, seeking whom they may devour. Every religious society has people among its membership who are not satisfied with the order of the house they are in, but who either don't know where to go, or are kept from leaving by ridicule, persuasion, falsifying, and by giving new or dissatisfied members places of leadership and re­sponsibility to hold them. Our stray ones are enticed, and some captured and held in this way.

I have in mind two old Baptist members, husband and wife, who moved away from their church to a distant city. They being country-bred were unused to the blandishments and complex problems of city life. The husband sickened and died leaving wife and two children in poverty. She was not financially able to return to her church for several years, and. when she did return, she found that most of the members had forgotten her, due to her enforced and pro­longed absence. This together with her feeling of poverty and friendlessness made her more despondent. She finally married again hoping for companionship and support for her children. Her new husband persuaded her to join a church of his faith. The home church, hearing of this through her relatives, gave her the first real attention since she had moved away. They excluded her without notice or labor. She has in later years become very dissatisfied in her new church relationship, and has pondered seriously returning to the Old Baptist Church where she had once belonged, acknowledged her weakness and mistakes, and ask to be re­stored.

I have known several such cases as this. Due inquiry and gospel labor would, I think, have saved some of them to us. If our churches sent letters every year to these absent ones they would be appreciated and answered by many of them. We all rejoice to see God's children asking a home with us. Isn't it worth a little labor to hold them after we have them with us? Isn't it worthwhile to show sympathy and loving-kindness to the weakly and sick in spirit, as well as to those weakly and sick in body? Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient to­ward all men. --lst Thess. 5: 14.

    Our established church rules should be carried out in spirit; long absent members should be inquired after by the church clerk or by a committee duly appointed. This sign of life and interest would do much to prove that Old Baptists are not dead; and many on the outside would be encouraged by these signs of interest in their members' welfare to come into the fold.

C.W.M. [C. W. Miller]

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.