Yesterday, I wrote confessions of a church member not leaving a church well. As I wrote that post, though, I was reminded that I didn’t always respond well as a pastor, either, when members left churches I’ve led. So, here’s today’s confession about my responses as a young pastor:
- My immediate response was to “bow up” in a defensive posture. Because I took departures as a personal critique of my leadership, I too quickly moved to justifying myself rather than listening to my church members.
- I seldom took any responsibility for others leaving the church. I knew I was giving my best efforts, so surely I could not have been part of the problem. Plus, most of the people in the church loved me (I think), so the people leaving must have been the problem.
- I didn’t always listen well when I had much to learn about myself and about ministry. Some of my critics really did love me even though they had decided to leave the church—and their concerns were probably legitimate ones. The problem was that it took me some time to realize just how much I didn’t know.
- I got frustrated not only at church members who were leaving, but also at the other local churches to which they would be going. This many years later, I have no idea why I responded that way—though I suspect that jealousy had gripped my heart. I regret that it became easier to point out the faults of those churches rather than address my own.
- I let departures consume my thinking, almost in an idolatrous way. Rather than give the situation to God and ask Him to help me, I instead fretted and worried about my failures to keep all my church members. I don’t think my church members knew it, but I lay awake many nights with faithless regrets.
- I protected my turf and failed to see my responsibility to be a “sending” pastor. To be honest, this reality probably bothers me more than anything else on this list. I didn’t always respond well when unfulfilled folks left the church, but nor did I intentionally and consistently encourage my best members to go to our neighbors and the nations. Perhaps if I had been more committed to being a “sending” pastor, I would have addressed departures with a better spirit. Maybe our departures would have always been Great Commission ones.
You know, after I’ve read again yesterday’s and today’s confessions, I’m reminded that God’s a gracious God who uses feeble and fallible people. I’m glad He does.