I’ve been in the ministry now for a little over five years. During this time frame, I have observed several things. First, in terms of church attendance, you can pretty much bank on the rhythm that people come and people go. No matter if you are a big church or a small church, people will certainly come and people will most certainly go. Second, as a pastor who dials into people’s church attendance, it hurts when someone leaves the church. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but it does. You form friendships and relationships with people and when they are taken from you, it hurts. Thirdly, and this is perhaps a bit of an ouchy statement, but I firmly believe that far too many people leave their church family too early and for too many trivial (even selfish) reasons. Things like loyalty, commitment, and dedication are lost values upon Americans as a whole, and lost values upon Evangelical Americans in particular. Yeah, I know, I told you that this point was going to sting a little. Perhaps it should.
Well, let me encourage you. Are you a part of a local church family? Then stay committed to that church family. Don’t give up on them. I know they are messy, imperfect, and disappointing at times, but don’t throw in the towel on the church family that you joined. Love them. Enjoy them. And more than that, serve and worship with them. And if you must leave your church, then do these things (as outlined by Mark Dever of 9Marks Ministries) before you actually go.
Before You Decide to Leave Your Church…
- Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.
- Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?
- Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships. Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).
- Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life – places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more.
If You Still Plan To Go…
- Don’t divide the body.
- Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church.
- Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).
- Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.
- If there has been hurt, then forgive – even as you have been forgiven.