With many things on my plate right now, I want to direct you all to a conversation going on at In the Clearing about leaving church. It’s a tough issue, but an important one that needs discussion.
The first post there raised the issue of leaving. I responded. Bob, the owner of the blog and a very solid man of God, responded to my first comment in a second post. I commented on that second post, too. You can recognize my comments by the initials.
If you wish to leave comments here about the topic of leaving a church or would like to respond to my comments over at the other blog, please do.
9 thoughts on “On Leaving a Church”
You mentioned in your second post the need for the believer to take leadership responsibility and start a new body. In a sense, I guess I can understand the idea of creating something new. Part of my strategy has been to create a new body from the old by getting those of us in our little church who believe there’s something else besides tradition. But I don’t want to create just another denomination that believes that “this is how church should be done.” It’s just reinventing the wheel and is ultimately divisive. Every once in a while our old pastor, or one of the elders, would look at a vacant building and express a desire to turn it into a Church, and I would remind them that we already have a vacant building, and why is that one better than ours? The “grass is always greener” issue applies well, here, I think. We want to “start over” and shed the encumberences, but those things that slow us down are often eternal souls who, for one reason or another, are simply immature and limited in their understanding.
Part of my comment was to note the rarity of the need to plant a new church with the leaving person as the leader. In don’t believe that is the case most times. I also don’t think that should be without proper supervision and accountability.
In most cases, people need to stay where they are, even if they’ve reached a certain maturity level. Grow where you’re planted, and all that. But I won’t discount that sometimes God calls people to take their leadership skills and run with them by starting a church. Again, not a common thing. (I also believe we have too many churches already, but that God will once in a while call someone to plant a church here in the States. Overseas where there are not as many existing churches, all bets are off. Plant, plant, plant!).
When it comes down to it, we need to stay where we are almost every time, especially in this age when we justify our leaving so easily.
Aside from either renouncing the faith or moving away, how could a believer leave their local church? It’s impossible.
Now if you’re talking about leaving one of these para-church organizations where weekly meetings are held, then… that’s another matter entirely.
Could you elaborate on this? What do you mean here, sarcasm aside?
What I mean is that your local church is all the Christians living around you. They are “the ekklesia of [insert city name].” We would think a student foolish if he treated the high school football team as if they were the local high school in toto, but we do the exact same thing when we talk about our “local church.” What Dan, Bob, Jared and the others are talking about is switching cliques, not switching schools.
I have this sneaking suspicion that the reason church hopping isn’t prevalent in the Ukraine is because you won’t find two-dozen non-denominational Evangelical congregations in a single metropolitan area—not because they’re necessarily better at resolving conflict.
Mega-churches are a hot business model in the U.S. right now, so lots of “pastors” are popping up to start their own franchises, hoping to make it big. They incorporate, set up a board of trustees, and install their preacher as CEO. (Little tidbit: the only church-related purpose for a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the U.S. is a “community chest” for a congregation–in other words, a para-church organization tasked solely with handling the money.) Given this mindset, it only makes sense that rank and file believers treat these clubs like the businesses they are.
That’s what I was getting at… :\
In an interesting counter-point to this subject, churches are also coming to accept that it’s okay to ask people to leave. Craig Groeschel at Life Church posted a 4-part series about the circumstances in which it would be acceptable for a church to ask its members to leave.
Let me start off by saying that I have read your blog for years and think you have a lot of great insights.
I noted your reasons to leave a church:
1. Moving to another location out of the area, obviously.
2. Genuine abuse, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual.
3. Rank heresy on a continuing basis. But even then, this should be addressed at both a local and denominational level before one leaves. If one approaches the local leadership and they refuse to budge, then one approaches the denominational leadership. If the denomination refuses to do anything, then one has a good reason to go.
None of these apply directly to why I, and my family, feel compelled to leave our church of 3 years (we started attending when we moved into
town.) I am not a church hopper/shopper. I have not been in the past and I don’t want to be now.
But, after 3 years, I can no longer bear the purpose driven hamster wheel that is my local church. The pastor actually downloads and preaches his fill in the blank, pop-psychology sermons from the Rick Warren’s resource website, every week, without attribution.
Is PDL heresy? No. Is it abuse? Not technically. Approach my authoritarian pastor? Won’t do any good and will only create hurt and animosity. Go to the church “leaders”? I AM a deacon and can categorically state the deacons are powerless. Go to the denominational leadership? The SBC? Are you kidding?
So I should stay?
I understand your principles, but I think they are far too restrictive. Like another commenter said, I CRAVE the word of God. I CRAVE the preaching of the gospel.
PDL may not be heresy(maybe), but authoritarianism is. And since when are we called to avoid hurt and animosity?
I left church because I was no longer welcome by my own family, and therefore I lost my church family as well, because I wanted to avoid the conflict I knew I would surely cause if I told the truth about why my family fell apart.
I don’t know if that was the right decision; I know, through the grapevine, that my mother always told people I was “fine” when she knew better, but I didn’t dissuade her, or them, even though I knew I could, with a word.
I came back to church because my husband said we were going. I could have done without it, but he leads, so I follow. It hasn’t been so bad, this go round.
Wanna hear more, ask MMMe. Or go read my blog.