Let’s visit the question of why non-member classes are used almost exclusively for inducting and indoctrinating new members rather than actual public meetings of the church. This is a powerfully effective approach for attracting the right personality type, but interestingly enough, it’s not at all how it was done in the first century. Why is that? Answer: message control.

Since most visitors never come back after the first class, recruiting is purely a numbers game. The more “contacts” you funnel into the class through knocking on doors, the more prospects you have. The first class weeds out the ones who know enough about the Bible to smell a skunk. Those will never come back. The second class weeds out those who don’t know anything about the Bible, but can think for themselves, and still smell a skunk. Those who come back to a third or fourth class are much more likely to buy into the real doctrines that will only get exposed later in the indoctrination process. Evidence: How often have new members been told not to question this, that, or the other teaching because “you’re not ready for that yet?”

This process is a self-selecting one that produces a flock primarily of followers. Once someone comes in by this route, most personality-types with leadership potential are weeded out, and those who remain are ones who will drink the cool-aide and follow orders from higher-ups, at least for awhile. When too many red flags go up and they’ve had enough, they are either withdrawn from, leave, or both.

They justify their recruiting methods in a couple of ways. First, they say that the public assembly is for the church, not unbelievers. Really? Then why did Paul write this?

1 Corinthians 14: 22-25 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Note that the whole church was coming together, and there were expected to be both believers and unbelievers present. Also note that the teaching that took place in the church meeting was powerful enough that unbelievers fell down on their faces and said “God is really among you!” The early church had nothing to hide from non-members in their public assemblies, and they were clearly informative and uplifting, not solemn funeral-like rebuking sessions.

Second, they will say that the early church knocked on doors from “house to house.” This is misleading, because while Paul did go from house to house teaching people about Jesus, the early church did not do “personal work” for recruiting people to non-member classes. That is purely a 20th century construct. Paul’s method of operation was to publicly teach about Jesus, and he’d get invited into homes to explain more of his message.

Is it wrong to knock on doors doing “cold calls?” Of course not. But let’s be honest about the recruiting strategy of cold call invitations to a non-member’s class rather than the public assembly. It’s designed so they don’t scare away the non-members by the bizarre and sometimes unloving practices of members, like public confession for not wearing nylons, hour-long public rebuking, and a worship service that feels more like a funeral rather than joyful Christians wanting to fellowship and encourage each other.

That’s why the churches don’t advertise or in anyway publicize their main worship time. Visitors are not wanted in the public assembly. It clearly makes it easier to indoctrinate non-members if they are fed the party line one bite at a time in a controlled environment rather than all at once in the public assembly.