In November 2015, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, reset its membership database to 0.
(All other parts of the database remained intact; only the membership numbers were cleared.) On November 8, senior pastor Dave Stone preached a message titled “I’m In,” asking everyone to commit for the first time or make a recommitment, and providing clear instructions for each category of people. For the five weeks previous to the “I’m In” weekend, Stone, Kyle Idleman, and others provided the five beliefs or core characteristics that describe what Southeast wants to be as a church.
Why would a megachurch, or any church for that matter, reset its membership to 0 and start over? Stone said:
Periodically it’s healthy for the church to update their membership rolls due to deaths, transfers, (and) those who have moved away or abandoned the faith. This introspective look makes it easier to see who is involved in the life of the church and others who may be “wandering.” Additionally it gives the pastor an opportunity to raise the bar of commitment by preaching a series on what it means to be a church member and the expectations that accompany it.
One more side benefit was a wholesale way to get the most current contact information in a society where those details constantly change. By simply getting an accurate cell phone and e-mail address, our “pastoring opportunities” will greatly increase.
We also added a Statement of Faith for them to sign, basically acknowledging some of Southeast’s core beliefs and asking them to indicate that as a member they are placing themselves under the leadership of the eldership. As our culture is eroding, we hope their signature will protect the church when differences of opinions and biblical interpretations inevitably arise.
After only four weeks of the drastic purging of the membership, Southeast had nearly 18,000 people recommit to membership, along with another 1,000 who for the first time expressed an interest in becoming a Christ follower and making Southeast their church home. Of course, those numbers will continue to grow.
On one weekend in December 2015, the church had 24,200 in attendance, which reveals that more people were still praying about their commitment and still coming to learn more about Christianity at that time. Stone said, “The positive response by the people and the clarity of the messages have attracted people to make a decision for Jesus. In one four-week stretch we had 200 baptisms. God is good, and we are grateful.”