Fordyce W. Detamore was a pastor and evangelist in North America when he wrote this.

Don't call them backsliders—you'll hurt their feelings!" people often object. But I know of no other term that really fits. "Former members" means little, for one might be a former member of the Dallas church and a present member of the Houston church. So I just call them backsliders and everyone knows whom I am discussing.

For years I have been urged to write detailed suggestions regarding how to work for backsliders. (Notice, I did not say "how to deal with backsliders" but "how to work for backsliders." There is a vast difference. We often deal with backsliders, but what a pity we ,seldom work for them!)

Some observations I shall make will not always be entirely flattering to the church and its representatives. We must bear some share in the tragedy of backsliding. If we will face up to our own faults and open-mindedly evaluate the backslider's problems and needs, we can help him and ourselves. It is dangerous for us in the organization to feel that we are "in need of nothing."

So I must speak frankly in dealing both with backsliders and some conditions that have helped to turn members into backsliders. I realize that in speaking frankly I must bear the responsibility personally for the organization, and no department should be blamed for the opinions I here express.

First, we need to recognize that few become backsliders because they were poorly indoctrinated. This is the charge I most often hear at institutes of various types. But such is not the case. Only a fraction of one percent give up because of doctrinal misunderstandings or disagreements.

One thought that should encourage us in going out to work for backsliders is that the majority of them still believe this message, and hosts of them plan definitely (or vaguely) to return someday. Many backsliders are watching with deep concern the solemn developments of the signs of the times. What an hour in which to be living, and what a challenge to be working with all our zeal to bring back those who were once with us but who are now out in the cold and the night.

Locating Backsliders

It might be helpful to list the various ways we have obtained our leads to find some twenty-five thousand backsliders the past few years:

1. From colporteurs. Our colporteurs are on the firing line—close to the people. An alert colporteur will constantly be on the lookout for backslider leads.

2. From singing bands. Every Adventist knows about Ingathering singing bands and often backsliders exclaim to the solicitor: "Yes, I know your work; I used to be an Adventist myself." Every such lead should be placed on the church's backslider list, giving, of course, the name and address. (See end of Part IV in this series.)

3. Member-neighbors. An active Adventist will soon discover backsliders, or new Adventists, within a small radius of his home. The same is true at work, at school, and in the offices where our people are employed. Every member should be educated to be on the lookout for exmembers, to report these, and to work for them.

4. Doctors and nurses. Again and again we find some of our best leads through this wonderful right-arm-ofthe-message group of workers ministering to sick bodies. They also discover many sick souls.

5. Bible schools. Our radio and TV programs are constantly unearthing the names of many backsliders— often whole families. These leads, followed up in the home, pay high dividends.

6. Religious census surveys. Some of these are made by the Government; some by other church groups; some by Adventists in door-to-door surveys. Many excellent leads have come to us from such surveys.

7. Church clerk's books. These are the poorest leads, for if the person is merely a name or statistic on the clerk's records, there is little live connection with the church. However, these too need follow-up. We should remember, of course, that it will take effort and persistence to track down the correct and up-to-date addresses of long-ago backsliders. But it will be worthwhile.

8. Church visitors' register. Every local visitor who registers at our church on Sabbath morning should be followed up by a visit in the home the following week. This has proved to be one of our richest leads to backsliders. The very fact that they were out to church shows some current interest.

9. References from Adventist relatives. Our members should be urged to report in full on all backslidden relatives. This perhaps supplies our largest list of leads.

Varying Types of Backsliders

It will help us in dealing with backsliders if we can learn to catalog the various types. If we will learn to recognize them, we will more easily be able to help them. No one can be dogmatic and say this one can be reached and that one cannot, but it will help if we divide backsliders into two major groups: (a) those difficult to reclaim, and (b) those easier to reclaim.

We will not be able to arrange those within each group in any particular order, but we will deal with them as we come to them, just as we do in a normal day of visiting in from 12-20 homes. We will make observations about the various types as we go along, but will reserve our general suggestions on approaching backsliders till our next section.

First we will discuss the more difficult types to reclaim. We mean no reflection on any profession or group as we deal frankly and honestly with these more difficult groups.

Types Difficult to Reclaim

1. Former institutional workers. For some reason an institution becomes impersonal. It is generally a poor policy to encourage new members to connect with an institution. They miss the kindness and love, the personal touch, of the church, and when dealt with on a businesslike basis, sometimes take offense, stumble, and fall. In doing so they blame the whole church for some unfortunate experiences they have had with department heads, fellow associates in the department, or supervisors. Once they leave the church they have a tendency to brand every member with the unfavorable characteristics of the few they clashed with in the institution. Tolerance, longsuffering, and kindness, perhaps unappreciated at first, will win back such backsliders and convince them that Adventists are not hard-headed slave drivers, as they may have come to believe.

2. Former professors. This is one of the most difficult, if not impossible types to touch. The pattern is too consistent. They have gone to non-Adventist schools seeking accredited degrees. They have "broadened" their attitude on religious standards and teachings, and now they "look at things differently." After a few unfortunate clashes with fellow faculty members and board members, they drop out and find their place in some school of the world. Here they take satisfaction in feeling that they have attained and are appreciated—they have graduated from association with a peculiar people.

This type is usually coolly detached, calculating, condescending, or out-and-out haughty, and has need of nothing. No argument fazes them and they spurn kindness. Only sickness or personal or family tragedy may win them back, but do not cease praying for them.

3. Physicians and surgeons. There is something about the training, the irregularity of hours, the press of duty, the association with the world, and financial prosperity that greatly strains a medical man's connections with the church. Those who survive the rigorous tests make some of our finest church workers, as all can testify. But there are hundreds of doctors who no longer walk with us.

We need to pray tor our medical workers, for their tests are great. Backslidden doctors generally are too busy to feel their need or to sense how far they have slipped. They are difficult to approach because they are too busy to talk at the office, and a visitor at the home often feels frozen out as an intruder. An occasional telephone call or a few words of encouragement dropped by an Adventist patient seems to be about the only avenue of approach here.

4. Spiritual neurotics. Fortunately, there are not many of these. They become ensnared with pseudo psychology spiritism, crank health fads, Pentecostalism, dreams and visions. Not much can be done for them. A small minority may outgrow their condition and return to normalcy; but many of these, if pressed into a rather shaky church connection, would only do harm in the body of the church.

5. The overly prosperous. Some Adventists have not had much in their earlier days. They become carpenters, builders, and finally big contractors or businessmen, real estate developers, and manufacturers. Caught up in the meshes of prosperity, lodge and business associations, dubs, etc., they have grown proud and "in need of nothing." Their prosperity proves them successful, they believe. Their gold is their god; their lodge is their church; their club members are their brethren.

Little can be done to reach these till reverses strike or depression comes. Then they are not hard to help, and really appreciate a proffered hand of assistance. Till then we can but wait and pray and hope. Perhaps a mother's death or a child's sickness will bring them back in spite of temporal prosperity. If so, they will make good and helpful members as they come to realize that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth."

6. The intellectually proud. There are some who are proud of their skepticism, their doubts, and their ability to "get the preacher in a corner" in a discussion. They are forever scratching in the gravel or chiseling on the rocks of Mars' Hill. Only the love of Christ can soften such. Discussion and argument is worse than wasted effort, for each discussion but more firmly fixes them in their own opinions.

7. The independent. There is a class that rebels against authority. They like to express this attitude by refusing submission to church rules and regulations; they delight in the anarchy of spiritual individualism. Only physical calamity of some type seems to shake these to a consciousness of their need of humility and accountability to law.

8. Apostates. This is probably the most hopeless of all types. They were with us as workers and church leaders. They went out from us in pride and rebellion and have taken satisfaction in fighting the truth they once loved. Do not fight back! Don't fight fire with fire. Do not debate with them. Do not endeavor to throw back their arguments. We must assure them that we love them and that if they ever return to the fold, we will be most happy. Love alone will win apostates. And some, even of these, are returning.

Suggestions for Approaching Backsliders

When you obtain the name of a backslider, do not give up trying to locate him even though the address may be uncertain. We have inquired of the police, the fire department, water, light, and gas offices, post office, corner grocery and telephone company, in our search for a mission person. The dividends are rich and rewarding.

If the address is correct, but the individual is not at home, go to the neighbors to ascertain the time he is usually home. Be as persistent as the FBI.

It was Friday afternoon, the last week of the series. We had tried every way possible to get in touch with a backslider. While the pastor was inquiring about her at a nearby dry cleaner's, I spied an old iron fire escape at the rear of the building. We had been unable to get any response at the front of the three-story apartment. As I reached the third section of the fire escape I began calling the woman's name quietly. Soon she appeared at the window. I went down to the front of the building and there made proper contact with her, and had prayer before leaving. The next day she took her stand for rebaptism. She said it was the thought that someone would even climb a fire escape to rescue her that made her decide to come back into the church.

When you find the person, introduce yourself at the door as a friend from the church who just dropped in to get acquainted. Be warm and friendly, but not gushy. Be sincere; be kind. Most homes will open for you. After a few moments of getting acquainted, a few pointed but natural questions will generally indicate the individual's present attitude toward the message. Let me list this series of questions in about the way we use them in any typical visit. Of course, there are variations. We do not always ask all of these questions. If we obtain a firm negative or rebellious reply at any point of the way, we must change the nature of our visit and terminate it, stirring up as little opposition as possible. But 50 to 75 percent of the people will follow through with favorable replies. Where the replies proved negative we must adapt our visit to the situation that develops. Following are the questions we usually ask:

What work do you do? Do you enjoy it? Have you lived here long? How many children do you have? You used to be a member of our church? Where? How long ago was that? And do you still believe quite a bit the Adventist way? Have you ever thought of returning to the church sometime? Is there anything to hinder your coming back? Or, What is the main thing that stands in your way? There is danger in waiting too long, isn't there? Or, if there are children: And with children like these, what responsibility! The longer you wait, the less chance you have of helping them into the church. Won't you try to get out to church (or the evangelistic meetings) this coming Sabbath?

This series of questions brings out the important points you need to know about the individual, and the very answering of these questions helps to stir up responsive chords in the heart of the backslider. Listening to his replies will help you to make your farewell prayer more to the point.

And now a few "do's" and "don'ts" in working for backsliders. Each of these is vitally important.

1. Come to the point quickly. The backslider instinctively knows why you have come and feels uncomfortable in anticipation. The sooner you come to the point, the shorter the period of dread. Can you enjoy talking to a doctor who is standing there visiting with a big injection needle held threateningly in his hand? No! Get the injection over with and then relax and visit.

2. Let trouble come out. You go to the doctor with an abscess. He aims a sharp instrument at the painful center and releases the pus.

As you pierce the backslider's background with questions, occasionally one will become angry and go into a tirade of criticism. He is unloading his pent-up hatred. He is bitter toward the academy principal or the conference president or the former pastor. He blames the church for real or imagined injustices. And for the time being you become the symbol of all those who have done him wrong. For years he has been repeating to himself the mean things he wishes he'd said to those who wronged him. Now you get it all.

Listen kindly; listen interestedly. By neither voice nor expression of face disagree with him. Let him rant and rave; the pus is coming out. There is hope of a future healing of the wound after it has been purged and cauterized. At the close of his tirade it is effective to put in, "You know, if I were in your place and had been treated like that, I'm afraid I would have felt just about as you do." Now he has no enemy to fight. You and he, for the time being at least, seem to be on the same side, and he is disarmed.

If a man continues abusive to me personally when I've tried my best to be kind, I sometimes interject, "How can you dislike me so? If you knew me well, I can easily understand how you might dislike me. But you never saw me before. I just came here to help you, that's all. So how can you dislike me? I'm sorry for what happened. Who wouldn't be? But remember, the Lord loves you dearly and understands your heartaches. You must be saved at all costs, no matter what others may have said or done to you. Well, I must be going now, but let's bow our heads for a word of prayer."

3. Don't defend anyone. No matter who or what the backslider attacks, don't defend anybody. Unless you are willing to observe this rule you had better not try working for backsliders. The moment you defend someone you automatically, in his mind, identify yourself as his enemy and the cause of his original trouble. From then on you are impotent to help him.

Of one thing you can rest assured—once he returns to God his bitterness will leave him. So just assure him of your love and longing for his return. He will be perplexed at your anxiety over his return in spite of his hostility. It will soften his heart, and after you have gone he will do some thinking.

One night a real-estate man exploded till 1:00 a.m., but he was at church the next Sabbath and later became choir leader. He is at rest now, but he died in the faith. His bitterness left him when he returned to the church.

4. Don't betray the backslider's confidence. Don't give wide publicity to what he has told you. Many things are better never repeated. If some of the things he has told you echo back to him, he will never have confidence in you again. He may not want his wife or the church elder ever to know what he has told you in confidence.

5. Don't stay long. There are rare occasions when you must listen to a long and involved story of bitterness. But ordinarily ten or fifteen minutes is long enough to stay. If you do not wear out your welcome at the first visit, the door will open more easily for you next time you call.

6. Always close your visit with prayer. Do not ask if prayer is desire. You can close your visit something like this: "Well, I must be going [that statement always relaxes people!], but before I leave, let's just bow our heads for a moment of prayer." And as you say this bow your head and start praying a short, sincere prayer. It is not necessary to kneel, though sometimes it is possible to do so without embarrassment.

In my prayer I throw in such suggestions as these: "Help him not to wait too long, but to be sure to be inside the ark when the flood comes." "Help him to know that we love him and long for him to come back." "Forgive us for the hurt we in the church have caused him, and may he know there's welcome for him upon his return." "May his children be safe in following his footsteps, and may the lead for sure to heaven at last." "May he be able to get out to church this Sabbath and not keep Thee waiting too long." "May he know that we love him and that Thou lovest him, and in spite of all the unkindnesses he's endured, may he be willing to forgive and return." "May his last days be by far the best, and help him to forget the past." "Help us to be more careful in the future not to wound Thy child again." We remember that it says of Jesus,'Those [wounds] with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.'"

7. Give a brief invitation to come out to the evangelistic meetings and to church next Sabbath. However, don't try to squeeze out a promise that he will attend. That will undo the good you have done. Your whole visit should be conducted in a casual, off-hand, friendly way, endeavoring to leave the backslider relaxed and with a knowledge that you really love him and care about his return.

8. Leave immediately following prayer. Don't linger. Minutes spent in a home following prayer undo the effect of your visit. This is very vital, and a point on which so many err.

And now some special "don'ts."

1. Don't try to arrange a series of Bible studies. Many backsliders take it as a personal affront to have it suggested that they go through a series of studies. They know the doctrines already. What they need is love and reconversion. Kindness and prayer, and getting them out to Sabbath school and church, and especially to evangelistic meetings, are your best hope for getting them back.

Some have gone away from a home feeling rebuffed because the backslider refused or decided studies. This is no proof at that he is disinterested or has no intentions of coming back. It may be his blunt way of letting a tactless person know that he is already well acquainted with our doctrines and needs help other than indoctrination.

2. Don't accept money from backsliders. Right or wrong, far too many people have the idea that what we really want is their financial support in the church. Let them know you are not interested in their money.

A backslider once pressed fifty dollars on me, but I returned it to him saying, "I want you to know that I'm interested in you and not your money. Thank you just the same. I plan to come and see you again. You can know I'm coming to see you and not to get anything."

The exception, of course, would be tithe. If a backslider urges you to turn in his tithe for him, do it as a favor and be sure to send him his receipt. The pastor should write him a letter of appreciation.

3. Don't solicit backsliders for an Ingathering contribution. You can mail them a paper, and if they volunteer a gift, fine. Otherwise don't mention it. Many have gone out from us owning too much high pressure during campaigns.

4. Don't dismiss a backslider as a hopeless case because he's too many miles away. Offer to take the Sabbath school and church to him. Suggest starting a junior (if any children) or branch Sabbath school in his home. This is one of the finest ways to start work in a new area as well as to reclaim those who have strayed far away geographically as well as spiritually.

5. Don't argue about church standards with a backslider. You can argue as long as you like about rouge, lipstick, the wedding ring, and movies (those are by far the most common sore spots with a backslider) and you'll never change him. Just ask him to pray about those things and ask God to make His will clear. Prayer changes hearts ina way that no argument ever can. When the root is cut, those leaves will surely fall off. Don't try to tear them off by theological argument, or chop them off with an ecclesiastical sword.

Here are a few thoughts I sometimes work into my visit when these problems come up: "Don't you think it is nice to bring to Jesus some of the things we like as well as the things in our lives that we hate? Bring some gifts we cherish and lay them at the foot of the cross and it will mean more to Him." "Jesus gave up all—even the gold and precious stones of heaven, for you. Would you be willing to give up all for Him?"

"True, that little bit of jewelry may be an idol to your, but if it is so insignificant and unimportant to you then it won't be hard to give it up, will it?" "Yes, I've seen more damage done in the church by sharp words on an old lady's tongue than a little rouge on a young lady's cheek. But we're getting ready for heaven, and let's go all the way. It's not 'How much of the world can I keep and still get into the church?' but 'How far can I go to separate from the world and be like Jesus'" "I don't want you to give up these things because the church says you have to, or because old folks will criticize you if you don't. I want you to give them as a willing sacrifice for Jesus." "If you were having an operation you would want a very careful surgeon. Can we be less careful about our eternal health?" "You say, the standards of the church are too strict, but do you really think they're more strict than the entrance requirements of heaven? After all, the church is to help us make ready for heaven."

F. W. Detamore experienced pastor in North America wrote this article when was evangelist in Florida Conference