This is an article addressing the situation of church attendees moving on to another church, and how it can be done in a way that brings honor to the Lord.
Did you know there's an honorable way to leave a church that is beneficial to both the “leaver”, as well as those connected with the person or family who are leaving to attend elsewhere? Did you know there are ways to leave a church in which God is honored and precious souls are preserved in the entire process?
Pastoring for over 35 years, I have seen the full range of “leavers”, and have observed many different methods people use as they move on. Some of those methods have done more damage to the Kingdom of God than anything I know, while other times, there is such a spirit of Kingdom unity that even though there may have been some hurt involved, that impact was lessened due to this Christ-like attitude.
So, I want to present to you five honorable actions that will go a long way in maintaining unity in the body of Christ, as well as the testimony of the believers involved.
1. Pray About Your Decision
You had to know that would be first right? How often this has not been the case, but decisions were made in the “heat of the moment.” Perhaps in that moment of “intense offense” when you have been treated unkindly, and there's no debate about it. Some of the greatest offenses that have been received have had to do with family members and our natural reaction is to protect them by all means available to us.
When we take time to pray and do not react immediately, we are giving time for the Holy Spirit to work in the life of the offending person, and yes, our hearts as well. Yes, He is still able to do that! Many people ruled by their flesh instead of the Spirit are often so quick in entering their self-defense mode that the Holy Spirit has no say in the matter at all. Many do not even take the first step in Matthew 18, let alone the steps after that if step one is met with resistance. Matt. 18:15 If your brother sins against you, go and confront him privately. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.
How much could be avoided in the area of hurt feelings if a private meeting listening to the heart of Christ produced a spirit of reconciliation? I would venture to say a lot. So, in that prayer time asking for God's wisdom, He may indeed direct you to make an appointment, even if it's with your Pastor or another church leader who may have been involved with the situation.
Awkward? Most likely yes. Biblical? Absolutely.
Is God telling you to move on?
If you haven't prayed about it, then how would you know?
If you have decided to move on then why not take the next step?
2. Share Your Decision with Your Pastor
This may come as a result of meeting with your Pastor according to Matthew 18, and perhaps the results were not as you had hoped. You have openly shared your thoughts and concerns with the Pastor in a Christ-like spirit.
Too many people have left a church without even this common courtesy, which by the way has become rather “uncommon.” Hopefully, you have been in a fellowship which has a Shepherd who is willing to meet with the sheep! If not, then at least you have tried to do so, and your hands are clean. (Just don't muddy them up again by broadcasting your offense all over again).
If you have things to share with your Pastor that are concerns, especially in the area of Biblical doctrine, then speak openly and honestly with him. If it's something as mundane as he didn't shake your hand before or after church one Sunday, then I would encourage you to give a little grace to a person who has many hands to shake!
[pullquote align=”normal”]Go further than an impersonal email. Go beyond a phone call. Meet with your Pastor face to face so that each of you can see and feel the emotions the other is sharing. [/pullquote]Go further than an impersonal email. Go beyond a phone call. Meet with your Pastor face to face so that each of you can see and feel the emotions the other is sharing.
By the way, don't absent yourself from the church for 3 or 4 weeks and then complain to others that no one has even contacted you about your absence. Most Pastors I know aren't particularly fond of “hounding” their attendees about missed services in the first place.
Most Pastors spend their ministries doing their best to provide pastoral care to as many people as possible. So often, the very people the Pastor has ministered to in many ways such as weddings, funerals, counseling and even fellowship times are far too quick to walk away at the first (or second) offense that comes along.
Respect him or her to the point of at least attempting to have a “sit down” meeting. Following your time of prayer and meeting, then possibly, it is time to move on.
By the way, be truthful with the Pastor! Far too many times Pastors are told one thing in a meeting, then they begin to hear other reasons from people who have encountered the person leaving the church in the Community.
This brings me to my third honorable action:
3. Respond to Friends/Family/Community with Integrity
Without question, you will be asked a question as you see people in your community and it goes like this: “So why did you leave (NAME OF CHURCH)?
Here's an opportunity to honor God with your response and have His blessing accompany you, or become divisive and vindictive and be swallowed up in bitterness and spiritual decay, which in turn will affect others around you.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. 15 Be careful that no one falls short of the grace of God, so that no root of bitterness will spring up to cause trouble and defile many.
Isn't it amazing that directly preceding the verse about a “root of bitterness,” the writer of Hebrews implores the reader to “pursue peace with all men.” If there is ever a noble pursuit in the Kingdom of God, it would be the pursuit of peace with all men. While this may not always be possible, at least the pursuit is a worthy one!
The Bible makes it clear as well that a “root of bitterness” if left alone, and unchecked will cause trouble and defile many. Who does it cause trouble for? I believe the one who is impacted negatively the most is the one who has the bitterness in their heart. Who does it defile? The Bible says “many,” so the question would be who in fact is “many”?
Friends, family, and community are all impacted significantly by just one person or family leaving a church. The one without the spirit of Christ would say “good, that's what I want to happen”! The one WITH the spirit of Christ would be on constant prayer watch that their answer to the “why did you leave question” would reflect honesty, yet with no intent to hurt those left behind.
A scripture many of us learned in Sunday School would come in handy, and it goes like this; Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
[pullquote align=”normal”]Nowadays, we could also say “let the words typed from my fingers, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.” Whether our words come out of our fingers or our mouths they all originate in the heart, so keep your heart pure. [/pullquote]Nowadays, we could also say “let the words typed from my fingers, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight.” Whether our words come out of our fingers or our mouths they all originate in the heart, so keep your heart pure.
Again, realize souls are at stake and as a child of God that should matter to you greatly! People who were considering going to church for the first time could hear something that keeps them out of that church you left, and as a matter of fact, ANY church which could negatively affect their eternal destiny.
Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
4. Just Enjoy the New Church (Without bashing the previous one)
So many people have left a church and have found within 2 Sundays that indeed, they have found the perfect church they've been looking for all their lives! (Smile).
In comparing the new church to their previous one, they declare: the people are friendlier, the songs are more in tune with what you enjoy, the preaching is more relevant and not as long, and the Pastor has taken the time after every service to track you down to let you know how privileged he feels to have you there.
The carpet is prettier, the coffee is better, the seats are softer and the climate is perfect for everyone all the time. It's quite “miraculous,” and you are so thrilled to share your finding with all your friends on social media!
[pullquote align=”normal”]Statements like this: “Wow! I/We started attending (NAME OF CHURCH) a few weeks ago, and let me just say it's amazing! Never been so happy in all my church-going life!” [/pullquote]Statements like this: “Wow! I/We started attending (NAME OF CHURCH) a few weeks ago, and let me just say it's amazing! Never been so happy in all my church-going life!”
I'm sure you have a few statements you could add here.
Why not give it a little time before you begin to write your glowing reviews?
Our church has a Facebook page and every Sunday I check in using the check-in feature, without fail on Monday I get the opportunity to leave a review about my visit. Somewhat similar to my visit to the automotive shop earlier that week.
Anyway, go easy and don't burn any bridges you might want to go back across one day regardless of how ridiculous that might sound at the moment.
5. Pray for God's blessings upon the ministry you left.
Do you want to make sure bitterness doesn't find a home in your heart? (Hopefully, you do).
Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV) 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
One of the best ways I've found in ministry to make sure bitterness doesn't take root is to begin to pray hard for the ministry you left behind. I didn't say “pray against it,” but pray FOR it!
[pullquote align=”normal”]It's difficult to have a growing root of bitterness while praying God's blessings upon a church or individual who hurt you. [/pullquote]It's difficult to have a growing root of bitterness while praying God's blessings upon a church or individual who hurt you.
Pray God will richly bless them! Pray for souls to be saved in the process of that blessing!
You will be amazed how God deals with your own heart in the process and will notice great freedom in your new ministry environment as you move forward. (It also makes it much less awkward when you see people in the Community later on).
These are just a few thoughts. Perhaps you have some you'd like to share below?
Read our Blog Post: “Do you have a Boyfriend/Girlfriend Church?”