I believe there are legitimate reasons to leave a church (see post, “When It’s Time to Leave Your Church”). At the same time, though, I also think many of us don’t leave a church well.
Only once in my Christian journey have I left a church because I didn’t like the ways things were being handled. Immorality wasn’t an issue among the leaders, and it wasn’t that the pastor was not teaching the Word. Others felt like the pastor wasn’t doing his job, and they brought me as a young man (19 years old) into that discussion. Within months, I had left the church. Looking back, though, I realize some of my wrong choices as I tried to help address the issues:
- I prayed too little for my pastor in the first place. I still wonder today how I might have responded differently if I had been regularly praying for my pastor. After all, he baptized me, taught me, and gave me opportunities to preach.
- I also prayed too little as I thought about leaving the church. The events took place a long time ago, but I’m certain I didn’t pray much about the situation. I got caught up in the discussions with others and failed to discuss the matters with God.
- I listened to the wrong people. Those who weren’t supporters of the pastor sought others to support their cause and attempted to get them on their side. I didn’t entirely buy everything the group was saying, but I listened to them enough that it led to my departure from the church.
- I didn’t recognize my arrogance. I would never have said at the time that I was arrogant; rather, I was just trying to do the right thing by confronting the pastor and then leaving the church. I was sure my opinion was justified, and I don’t think I gave the pastor much room to respond to my concerns.
- I began to listen to sermons with a critical, unforgiving ear. When you’re looking for a problem in the sermon, you’ll find one–almost always, in fact. Your concerns just pile up, increasing your burden to see something done.
- I had no idea what burdens my pastor was carrying. I wouldn’t know that until I became a pastor myself – and I later realized that I owed my pastor an apology. I only added to his burdens without fully seeking the Lord.
- I talked too much as I left. Not only did I justify my reasons for leaving, but I also made sure that others understood why I was leaving. I sowed dissension as I left, and I later had to repent of my actions.
I suppose this post is as much a confession as it is a challenge. I’m a sinner–as we all are–and we’re all susceptible to wrong choices. I do believe there are right reasons to leave a church, but I don’t want others to make the same mistakes I made. As I’ve written previously, how we leave a church is more important than how we came.