Wednesday, December 05, 2007

You go now. No trouble.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThis afternoon a former student of mine, Pastor Benji Magness, posted some thoughts from Mark Dever's book What Is a Healthy Church?

These helpful suggestions deal with the issue of how to leave a church and are at the end of the post.

It's important to leave in the right manner, but it's also important to leave for the right reasons, right?

Or to put it another way, it's important to not leave for the wrong reasons, right?

What are valid reasons to leave a church?

One blogger has offered some suggestions (e.g., Preaching and Doctrine).

From my experience as a pastor and in speaking with other pastors, few things are as demotivating or discouraging as when someone leaves the church. For most, it's nearly impossible not to take it personally.

So, pastors, what are some reasons people have had for leaving your church? Which do you find valid? When would you counsel folks that it's right for them to leave?

It seems to me there are 3 questions we could ask and hope to answer:
  1. What are valid reasons to leave a church?
  2. What are invalid reasons to leave a church?
  3. What are reasons that necessitate departure?
I'm going to try to attempt to answer these over the next few posts, but highly welcome your input.

I have become convinced over the years of something I would not have affirmed in the past. Is it ever a sin for a person to leave a church? I would say, "Yes," there are certainly times when a person should not leave.

If there are valid reasons, then there must be invalid reasons. If those reasons are invalid, then leaving is sinful. Right?

Your thoughts?

From Mark Dever's What Is a Healthy Church?

Quick Tips: If You’re Thinking about Leaving a Church ... Before You Decide to Leave
  1. Pray.
  2. Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.
  3. Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?
  4. Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.
  5. Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life—places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matt. 7:3–5).
  6. Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).
If You Go
  1. Don’t divide the body.
  2. Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).
  3. Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.
  4. If there has been hurt, then forgive—even as you have been forgiven.


At 05 December, 2007 21:33, Anonymous mark t said...

This is very wise advice. I have violated some of these principles in the past, and I now regret it.

At 06 December, 2007 07:20, Blogger Lance said...

I could share many thoughts here, but I'll leave it to one:

Churched people today are crying out for "authentic community" and "genuine relationships," but we seem to really mean that we want to go deep with people, sans the effects of sin.

So, what we mean in our endless quest for deep relationships is: "I want abiding friendships without conflict. I want vulnerable people, but I don't want to be vulnerable. I want depth without time. I want my needs to be met, but I have no time or energy to meet others' needs."

So we bounce from church to church to church, looking for unconditional relationships, but we continue to find fallen sinners, seeking the same from us.

I wonder what would happen if everyone made a conscious choice to conform to Philippians 2:1-5?
Maybe we don't, because our grasp of 2:6-11 is wanting?

At 06 December, 2007 12:04, Blogger Oilcan said...

What is that book you are having us read Gunny - I Kissed the Church Goodbye?

At 06 December, 2007 12:35, Blogger Timothy said...

I would definitely agree with you that many do leave the church and it is sinful to do so. In our denomination we have our members take an oath before God to support the church to the best of their ability, so leaving for less than valid reasons is breaking that oath.

Yes, I freely admit that there are times for people to leave the church and times when they should stay. I've encourage many people who have been upset with me or others to stay and work it out and that has been encouraging. But alas, others do leave...

What bothers me is the number of church splits that have occurred for less than biblical reasons. That makes no sense to me.

At 06 December, 2007 15:41, Blogger GUNNY said...

mark t,

Yeah, I've made some mistakes in this area as well. In particular, I left a church where I was teaching Sunday school because I wanted to seek out a youth ministry position (stop laughing!).

I didn't give the pastor much notice, and I think it was like, "Hey, brother, I'm not going to be teaching this Sunday ... or the next."

I felt I didn't leave him "high & dry" since I had talked another guy in the class into teaching it.

I know now that not only did I not give the pastor adequate notice, I also probably overstepped my bounds by appointing my replacement.

I don't know what happened, but I could have really put the pastor in a bind if he particularly didn't want that guy teaching the class.

Oddly enough, whenever I've seen the pastor since he's been kind and they've sent us a Christmas card every year since.

He's probably chalking it up to my immaturity, and he would have been right. Nonetheless, the next time I run into him, I feel inclined to ask his forgiveness.


Good thoughts, brother, particularly insightful is the Philippians 2 action.

You're right about our wanting only one side of the relationship/community coin.


Doh! No, it's I Kissed Stopping the Church Goodbye: A Guide to Dating for the Church Shopper.


Well, this might sound hypocritical, but I agree with you about the rampant plethora of church splits.

Sometimes there is (at least seemingly) no other avenue available, but it's a shame so many do church planting the "old fashioned way."

To all,

No shots at the movie quote?

At 07 December, 2007 10:08, Blogger Michelle K said...

some crazy movie where Michael Douglas goes nuts? I think that's it--Jason made me watch it one time, he really likes it. I don't get it.

At 07 December, 2007 17:34, Blogger Rev. said...

"No. I stay. What do you think of that?"

Lance, you the dude!

At 10 December, 2007 00:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Falling Down.

Thanks to Michelle K for the hint.


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