A pastor friend of ours was dolefully reflecting on the glacial growth of his church. The only thing he could find regularly in the church baptistry were dust bunnies. As he pled with God to help him understand what needed to change he seemed to hear the Lord say, "Your people eat each other alive - I can't trust you with new members. Your people have become carnivores (he was sure that was the word the Lord used). It's cold in here. You have to be strong just to survive as a member."
"But Lord, what can I do to change that atmosphere?" the pastor asked. "Well, it permeates the whole church" he seemed to hear back; "let the Board attack it." And they did. At its next meeting the Board members confronted the sinful ambience that had developed in their congregation and threw themselves in repentance on the mercy of God. And He did not disappoint them.
After a significant period of deep heart-searching it was plain that the issue was serious enough to bring it to the church as a body. They took an action that they would no longer countenance any word of criticism, that if anyone spoke negatively of another - member, pastor, guest, conference leadership - that anyone hearing the criticism was authorized to simply turn and walk away. They declared a church-wide moratorium on criticism.
And it worked. Not overnight, for sure, but within a few months the climate changed. The Son began to shine. The grumble factor faded and joy replaced it. Not long after, a lady who had not previously attended appeared at the door on a Sabbath morning. Friendly greeters asked her if she was new to the area. No, she had just been reading her Bible and had come across some questions she couldn't answer. It seemed to her as if she had been attending church on the wrong day. When she inquired of her pastor he told her that if she felt strongly about the issue she should perhaps contact the Seventh-day Adventist church.
A few weeks later they were scheduling a date for her baptism. And she's not the only one. Members were learning that their church was a safe place to bring friends, that they would be hugely welcomed. Meanwhile that new lady...she's an assistant Sabbath School teacher now. And you have a difficult time finding any dust bunnies in the baptistry.
-by Don Jacobsen