There’s an old joke: a man was marooned on a deserted isle. He was all alone for twenty years until, one day, rescuers found him. They stumbled ashore and were astonished to find that the man had built two buildings that looked a lot like churches.
“What’s this building?” one of the rescuers asked the man. “That’s where I go to church,” he replied.” And this one?” the rescuer asked, pointing to the other building.”Oh that?” the man said. “That’s where I used to go to church.”
People leaving the church is a part of pastoring. People come and sometimes they go. For a lot of different reasons. I can struggle with that, or I can accept it and pray for God’s best no matter what. The one thing I do know is that trying to be the church thats for everyone usually results in reaching no one. We’ve got to be who we are, who God wired us to be, and be very clear about that from the start.
On the flip side, as a member you can either leave in a positive way, or a negative way. Let me help you see the difference. (Having experienced both…).
Don’t Leave Offended. How you leave one church is how you enter another. Don’t leave without working things out. I know it’s not easy, I know it can get messy. But for you to just walk away with the offense still messing you up is very dangerous FOR YOUR SOUL. Plus, a sign of maturity is NOT being afraid to talk about the real issues.
Don’t Cut Us Off. People do this all the time. “Hey Pastor, I’m out of here” and POOF! They’re gone! (And often times they get offended when the church they left doesn’t desperately chase after them when they’re gone.) Look, if God is behind your decision, then trust that He will give you the courage and strength to have the (yes, somewhat uncomfortable) conversations needed to do it well. Finish what you start. Connect with your leader through the process. Ask them to pray with you about what you’re feeling. Give God an opportunity to make it seem right with them too.
If God Says Go, then GO. Believe me when I say this. As a Pastor, I want you in God’s will, being generous, using your talents, serving and using your gifts to help build the church. EVEN if that means it happens in a different church! If you put off leaving until you can find a legitimate reason to go, you can quickly turn into a nasty, judgmental, and negative person. WHEN that happens you almost always hurt someone else in the process. In fact, if you’re walking around looking for reasons to leave, then I’d suggest looking at the inwardly condition of your heart and soul.
Don’t Talk Trash. I hate hearing people talk trash about the church or pastor they just left. Listen, you may think it justifies you as a spiritually sensitive & mature believer by sharing EVERYTHING you didn’t like about your previous church, but it only makes you look angry, discontent and miserable. ANY Pastor (with a good heart) who hears this from a person who just left a church can tell immediately that you’re wounded. If you feel like you need to talk negatively about the pastor or church you’re leaving, chances are……you are the one who needs to change first.
Show Gratitude. Take time to say ‘thank you’ to the pastor and leadership of the church you’re leaving. If you stayed too long and are offended, that’s your fault – not theirs. When someone takes the time to send me an email or letter saying ‘thank you’ for pouring into their lives as they transition to a different church, that’s huge! I have a ton of respect for people who do that.
HOW you do things is just as important (if not even more important) as WHAT you do.