Before You Decide to Leave

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

It's a good outline, but life seldom adheres to outlines. If you leave a church that you've been committed to for any length of time, people are going to ask lots of questions, make assumptions, and take things personally. You do the best you can with what life hands you. At least we do have some principles to guide us.

How about when you've been visiting for an extended period of time, and you decide to move on? Should you talk to the leadership about why you don't believe their church is a good fit for your family? 

L Strickler's picture

What happens when there is no pastor and the pulpit committee is dragging its feet while pretending there is no power struggle going on?  Been there more than once.

Great ideals.  Convicting.

L Strickler

RickyHorton's picture

L Strickler wrote:

What happens when there is no pastor and the pulpit committee is dragging its feet while pretending there is no power struggle going on?  Been there more than once.

Great ideals.  Convicting.

 

Pray for them. 

(For the sake of clarity, I am currently on a pulpit committee and everyone always has their opinion of what the committee is doing/thinking/etc. etc. etc.  Seldom is it true.  Talk to them if you have questions.  And like I said....pray.  Pray some more.  And pray even more.  And pray again.)

Back to your regularly scheduled discussion!

pvawter's picture

I think the point of the article is that before you choose to leave a church, which you have previously committed to by voluntary membership, you ought to cover all of your bases. While there are certainly some who remain loyal to a church or to certain leadership long after the time when they ought to have left, I think it is far more common for folk to dissolve the bonds of fellowship with their local congregation on a whim, or some relatively minor issue or conflict. There are certainly many who remain faithful and loyal without going to either extreme, and they are a sincere blessing to their local church body and its leadership.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that this outline can help someone make sure they've done what they should in order to 'leave right'. But it is virtually impossible, in my limited experience, to 'leave right'. We've only left 2 churches by choice in over 25 years (as opposed to moving out of the vicinity) because of major church issues, and IMO you never feel like you did enough, nor do others believe that you left for good reasons or that you did everything you could to resolve issues. 

It is also different when you have children, again IMO. If the situation is such that you believe your kids are in harm's way, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually..., sometimes you just gotta' go and try to work things out after. 

Dick Dayton's picture

As a pastor, it has been my policy to make sure anyone coming to us from another church has dealt with all possible issues before leaving.  I will routinely call the pastor of that church, and express my desire to see the overall work of Christ advanced. I believe this is an ethical issue, and must sadly say that very few pastors have called me when previous members have started attending their church.

We even put it in our church constitution membership section that, if a person was no longer wanting to be part of our local assembly, we would seek to help them find an assembly where they can participate.  In one case, a couple expressed appreciation for our teaching and preaching, but wanted a different worship style.  I suggested a place where they could go, and they ended up there happy and productive.

We must also remember that we as pastors tend to take it personally when folks want to move on, and we need to remember 1) Jeremiah was definitely not appreciated 2) We are nowhere near Jeremiah in spiritual depth.

Dick Dayton

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Susan R wrote:

It's a good outline, but life seldom adheres to outlines. If you leave a church that you've been committed to for any length of time, people are going to ask lots of questions, make assumptions, and take things personally. You do the best you can with what life hands you. At least we do have some principles to guide us.


I think the outline is in general very good, but the point about communicating with pastor(s) and leadership needs some qualification, since this might be handled differently depending on circumstances.

My wife and I left a church after over 11 years, and in our case, it wasn't about personal offense, or sinful behavior that we knew of -- it was almost completely about doctrine and to a lesser extent the application of that doctrine as well as the applications of other teachings we agreed with. That meant we really didn't have to think too hard about personal relationships that needed fixing, since we didn't know of any that were broken. The reason it took us 11 years was that when we first started attending, the doctrine at the church was mostly the same as ours, but over those 11 years, the pastor started modifying what he believed, and the doctrinal position of the church changed, which had some unavoidable practical implications. (Think of the frog boiling slowly, though we finally did figure out that there had to be a change.)

My wife and I wrote the Pastor a letter, pretty long -- almost 4 pages single-spaced, that detailed the reasons for leaving, that we had no hard feelings, would keep the door of fellowship open, and dealing with some practical matters. We did mention that we would be open to talking to him or others in leadership about it, but that our minds were made up, and the decision was not going to be changed. He wrote us back a nice letter, thanked us for our spirit, and did not ask us to meet. I'm glad we went that route, as I think asking for a discussion first would have been a mistake. I do much better laying out what I'm thinking when writing rather than talking in an ad-lib fashion, and I wanted clear thinking to prevail over emotion.

To this day, I'm sure the pastor disagrees extremely with our decision to leave, and our reasons for doing so (especially since he believes his changes were moving in a more biblical direction), and there may be some unanswered questions, but by and large the air was cleared, and to my knowledge, it was handled in the best way possible on both sides. Now, ties that are formed over 11 years are always difficult to break, and will have some repercussions (as I'm sure the split between Paul and Barnabas did), so it will never be pretty, but sometimes a break is best for both sides.

In no way did we want to cause any split or strife in the church, and we did make that clear both to the pastor and to those members who questioned us about our reasons for leaving, but we did our best to answer all questions put to us honestly, while keeping away from rancor toward the church and pastor we were leaving. I can't say we were 100% successful in staying away from anything that could be seen as gossip (after all, some information had to be exchanged to answer questions), but we did give it our best effort, and we prayed a lot about the whole thing.

There may have been some people who took our leaving personally, but if so, we never knew about it, and so in our case, there was none of that to deal with. You will probably never feel as if you have done everything you could. I know we didn't. Still, as you said, sometimes you just have to do the best you can with what life hands you.

Quote:

How about when you've been visiting for an extended period of time, and you decide to move on? Should you talk to the leadership about why you don't believe their church is a good fit for your family? 


I guess for me that would depend on your relationship with your pastor. Hopefully, you can just lay it out without emotion taking over, or him taking it personally. If that's not the case, I would be careful with personal meetings, and instead use letters or some similar form of correspondence. I think you should have the courtesy to let them know since it's been a long time, but how you do it will depend on the situation.

Dave Barnhart

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Dick Dayton wrote:

As a pastor, it has been my policy to make sure anyone coming to us from another church has dealt with all possible issues before leaving.  I will routinely call the pastor of that church, and express my desire to see the overall work of Christ advanced. I believe this is an ethical issue, and must sadly say that very few pastors have called me when previous members have started attending their church.

As long as you don't believe everything another pastor says just because he's a pastor. We left a church because of immorality that was being ignored (and believe me, we did all the steps outlined above), only to find out when visiting another church that the former pastor called the church where we were visiting to 'warn' the pastor about us. 

Dick Dayton's picture

Susan,

We must consider the source of any information we receive.  In the case you mentioned above, you would expect a distorted viewpoint to be given to your new location. That is where, as a "receiving" pastor, I must be wise and diligent.

I am thankful that this experience where one church handled things badly did not affect your attitude toward church in general.

Dick Dayton