It used to happen frequently in Minneapolis, where there are 20+ Covenant churches. A new face would show up on a Sunday, compliment me for our music and then they would return again and again. When I would ask if they were new in town, the answer would go something like this "No, we've been in the community for a long time and are members at _______ Covenant Church, but we are just taking a break from the church right now." And, if pressed, they would tell me that they were having difficulties with the music, the youth program, the pastor, a leadership initiative, or something else.
The ethical question I have is this; should a receiving pastor be sure to talk with the sending pastor about the status change of these people? Clearly a couple-Sunday visit is not the cause for that kind of conversation, but multiple month presence surely is. Should there be more transparency in the churn of members between churches? Does pastoral silence fuel the perpetuation of disgruntled churchmanship and shallow discipleship? How do we move beyond being providers of service to shepherds of the flock? Maybe this would be a good Midwinter Conference conversation.