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THE TEFLON CHURCH

Why do members slide right out of some churches, and what can be done about it?

Several Sundays ago at church, my wife met a woman who recently had been divorced, deserted by her children, and fired from her job. Scraping together all her money-$950 in cash-she had put it into a briefcase, and then the briefcase had been stolen. Then her car had been impounded because of a stack of unpaid parking tickets. Had she not had an arrangement with her landlord to clean vacated apartments, she would have been on the streets.

But down those long streets she had walked to church that Sunday: a newcomer.

What happens to such a first-time visitor?

It depends on the church. Some churches, strong and sure of themselves, brimming with corporate energy, healthy and outward looking, will embrace such a vulnerable person. (In fact, a member took this woman home that first Sunday, and a group in the church has been helping her since.) But churches struggling with internal conflicts and disabilities may not have the corporate energy and health to spare anything for needy people. Such churches ...

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