What most pastors cannot say is that sentence that burns a bridge with a prospective or present church member:
Our church probably isn't the place for you.Stetzer describes a visitor to his church who started talking prophecy and Israel on his way through the receiving line after worship one Sunday. After a few minutes he had heard enough and said, "We are not one of those churches that you would think talks about prophecy enough-- this would not be the right church for you, but I do hope your search for a church home goes well."
Gold star for Stetzer.
Many pastors cannot train their lips to say such a thing and lose a member, a family, or a group of people from their church. It is almost one of those things not done. After all, aren't 80% or so of SBC pastors in churches that are plateaued or declining? Do we really want to run folks off?
Yes, indeed, if we know what's good for us and for our churches.
I think I am a decent listener. I don't mind listening to single issue people, or obsessed people, or folks who have an intense interest in something that I am ambivalent about. But I also know that if I play with a hand grenade it will eventually explode and hurt me.
Over the years I run across people whose interest was focused on American foreign policy with regard to Israel, with homeschoolers, with national politics and policy issues, with charismatic gifts, with the eschatological positions, with abortion and other things.
While all of these are important (e.g. we are against abortion but don't feel compelled to picket abortion clinics, a thrust of many 15 years ago), I understand that some are drawn to one of these with such a focus that all else is secondary and where those of us who do not share this intense interest are unspiritual or disobedient. Hogwash.
On occasion, I've said, "You probably will not be happy in this church." Better to get it out and be done with it.
Who knows how much grief I've avoided by training my lips to say such things. I highly recommend it.
[Postscript: I once had a young man come very early one Sunday, 30 minutes before Sunday School was to start, to ask me about doctrine. Early on in the conversation I could see that Calvinism was his, uh, intense interest and, while I might have enjoyed spending time with him on another occasion when I had the time, I just said, 'We're probably not the kind of church you would be happy in but come and worship with us this morning. We will welcome you.' He left and didn't come back.]
[Another postscript: Stetzer has a day job. Most of us do not. Would I be wrong to say that sending a prospective family down the road, with their tithes and faithful attendance, is a degree or two harder for us?]