So a friend of mine in Kentucky asked a very good question on Facebook, that I feel compelled to answer. She asks, “According to scripture, do you feel it’s biblical to tell your pastor you are leaving your church to go to another church?” Why is this important? Well, in today’s culture, I feel that many of our ways for leaving churches, or most any organization for that matter, are done in a way that would fulfill the cliché that we follow then “path of least resistance.” That being said, I think there is a right way and a wrong way to do so. Briefly speaking, to me, the wrong way would be to take the way out as to not to own up to my responsibilities.
Before I go much further, I think it is important to know that for this article, when I use the term ‘church,’ I’m referring to a congregation that hails to one particular building NOT the corporate/universal Church. I think that we can leave a church, or any other body of people, in a manner where relationships are tended to and the body is left in a healthy condition when done so where both parties handle things in a mature manner. From my experience, that is usually NOT the case and therefore why I feel the question posed by Sarah to be of high importance. 1 Peter 3:11 to me, is the spirit in which this matter should be handled. As such, we all have much to learn (myself included) and therefore I feel the need to write these things down for my children and others in the future.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind when leaving a church:
1) Have A Good Reason.
Before walking out the doors, ensure that you have a ‘good’ reason, a valid reason, and one that honors the Lord. IF your reasons are ‘good,’ legitimate, and honoring to God … Go. If they aren’t, stick it out.
2) Speak To Your Authority.
This is a seldom taught concept in today’s culture, but a needed and relevant one all the same. From my experience, it is the core team members that can, and do, do most of the damage to the body (and therefore the Body) by their emotionally charged departure. If you are a participating or practicing member of the church, your leadership should know. Communication is of utmost importance. If you are serving, communicate to your leadership. If you are a small group leader, a Sunday school teacher, or any other sort of leader, you need to communicate your intensions to you appropriate leadership and be willing to speak to their leadership if needed. If you are connected in any way to the church, as a leader or laity, communication should be had, preferably in person, face to face as opposed to an email or some other written form. Matthew 18 alludes to the value of addressing conflict (or possible conflict) in person and speaking to the person, in person.
3) Speak the truth.
This goes back to number one, “Why are you leaving?” If your reason(s) for leaving are accurate and honoring of the Lord, you have nothing to be concerned about, even if your reason steps on the toes of your leadership. If there is a chance for offending your brother or sister, remember to “speak the truth in love,” and that even the “wounds from a friend can be trusted…” Eph 4:15 and Prov 27:6. Sometimes your reason for departure will be difficult to deliver and as such shouldn’t be padded with a bunch of bologna. If spoken after much prayer, in humility, and with respect, God can use your words for good. I can speak from my own experience, from one such discussion, and it turned out to be extremely beneficial to me as a leader. At the time, I didn’t want to hear or acknowledge the accusation, but it helped me grow. Whatever you do, don’t leave without speaking to your leadership.
4) Proper Notice.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of how we typically give our secular counterparts the traditional two-week notice. If that is the case in the secular world, how much more should we ensure a smooth transition within the Body of Christ? The more active a role you’ve held within your body, the bigger a transition should be given when leaving the group. As the ‘Great Commission’ instructs us, we are to be making disciples and teaching others Matt 28:19-20, so hopefully your role won’t be left hanging vacant when you conclude your office. Nevertheless, whether you have or haven’t been training and equipping others to take your place, an appropriate transition period should be granted.
5) Peace I Leave With You.
In the words of our Christ, as He departed to return to heaven, He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…” John 14:27 Leave in Peace. Make a pledge to God, your leadership, and yourself not to speak ill of the church or those in it. Sloppy words stir the hornet’s nest. Even casual words, words said in jest or even in the ‘confidence’ of a ‘friend’ can always be misconstrued to haunt you, or the Body of Christ, in the future.
In closing, remember the passage I opened with, 1 Peter 3:11, “Let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it.” Let this verse guide you in all you say and do in reference to how you depart a particular congregation. Remember that the body you are departing is just as much a part of the Body, or Bride of Christ, as your next congregation and should be treated with love and respect as Christ loves us. Do your part to ensure a peaceful outcome when all is said and done.
Until later . . . Jonathan Watson
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