Tuesday, July 01, 2008

there is such a thing as manners, a way of treating people. These fish have manners.


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.
-Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (p. 57)

I think I might add the necessity of an "exit interview" in the event of departure to share how the church might improve in the areas you found lacking.

Prior to leaving, I think it's helpful for all involved to express concerns along the way, as opposed to sharing a laundry list of things that have been bugging you for months or years. It may be possible the leadership doesn't know and they can't fix it if they don't know it's broken. Also, after sharing those concerns, offer to be of help in fixing them, being part of the solution.

Any other thoughts?

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At 01 July, 2008 15:25, Anonymous Lionel Woods said...

Brother Gunny,

After wrestling through this for about three years I hate to say this but......

There are two reasons biblically to leave a church and one is implied. The third reason is common sense.

1. Gross Doctrinal Error
2. Gross allowance of Immorality rather condoning it or ignoring it
3. You had to move.

Other than that there is no reason to leave a "church". Or I would have to take a swing on the other side and say I can leave whenever someone offers a better commodity rather that is:

1. preaching
2. Singing
3. programs
4. comfort
5. networking.

99.9% of people leave for one of the five above and what they become is Christianity consumers not disciple makers or people lovers. In our camp most leave for "sound expository preaching" and they are no better than the person who leaves because the youth ministry up the street is better or the mega church planted a satelite church and they have better worship and small groups.

You see when we leave a "church" we are really leaving a group of believers that God has strategically placed in our lives to give Him the greater glory. Church becomes commodity and people become livestock and whoever has the best steaks is where we go. Once again this is condeming this was my Christianity up until about 4 months or so ago.

I didn't care about the people I cared about "good teachign" and other such commodities. Shame on Lionel and shame on others who would okay a person leave for any other reason than the three above (granted I didn't miss anything)

At 01 July, 2008 16:07, Blogger GUNNY said...

My gut tells you that you and I would be in substantial agreement with regard to valid reasons to change churches.

I would put one category as doctrinal. I'm not sure it has to be "gross doctrinal error" to be valid, but perhaps even "significant theological difference."

For example, when a Providence Church person becomes convinced of infant baptism and decides to go PCA, I think that's legitimate. I don't like it and hate to see them go, but doctrinally their conscience may incline them to go. Of course, they wouldn't be required to, provided they were not divisive over that issue of divergence.

Similarly, if there's a theological issue (e.g., polity, soteriology, etc.) that makes submission to the church leadership elusive, it could be better for all involved to seek another church.

"Doctrinal error" is in the eye of the beholder anyway, so I'm thinking it's more practical to think in terms of doctrinal divergence without necessarily labeling one right or wrong.

Your second category regarding restorative discipline is a good one and without its presence, a church's validity is called into question.

John L. Dagg: “When discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it.”

Where we'd probably have more heated exchange would be in the realm of seeking "sound teaching."

Part of what the elders are to do is protect, feed, and care for the sheep. Feeding them garbage is unacceptable.

I've been known to make the distinction between "dynamic" and "good" preaching, with the latter being tied to biblical fidelity. A church doesn't need Sproul or Piper to have biblical nourishment.

Of course, the right preaching of the Word is historically one of the marks of a church anyway.

Regarding your 3rd option ... Well, I defer to Joshua Harris in his book, Stop Dating the Church, and think there may be times to seek another job that allows a family to stay or move to where there is a likeminded church where one can commit and not merely date.

That being said, I think we'd be hard pressed to tell someone they were wrong for moving because of job. I'm just saying, I wouldn't give up that easily if I had a church family that contributed to the sanctification of myself and family, etc.

Thanks for your thoughts, brother. They are always appreciated.

By way of my gut reaction, it's been my experience that the vast majority of people leave their churches for (a) the BBD (Bigger Better Deal) or (b) because they have unresolved personal issues.

Consumerism and spiritual immaturity at their finest.

At 01 July, 2008 20:53, Anonymous Lionel Woods said...

I would agree with your other doctrinal issues also if one was not willing to submit. I get the Dispensational slooge weekly! LOL

At 01 July, 2008 21:43, Blogger Jade said...

Gunny wrote:
By way of my gut reaction, it's been my experience that the vast majority of people leave their churches for (a) the BBD (Bigger Better Deal) or (b) because they have unresolved personal issues.
I don't know if that's necessarily true. I've known many folks that have just outgrown the church. Let me clarify what I mean. They were new believers in a church but the church was continuously feeding them milk. At some point some folks just hunger for more. There are many churches like that just seems to feed milk all the time and those that are actually spiritually growing (probably more to their devotion than in their church) find that it is time to leave.
Another reason is that the church leadership has changed hands (e.g. new pastor) and doctrine or methods of worship has changed. I think these are good reasons to leave if it is against one's conscience of how things are being newly run by the "new management".

At 02 July, 2008 07:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently praying for guidance, so you're post is very timely. My eyes were opened to reformed doctrine ~3 years ago. During that time I continued in my non-reformed church. While the preaching was not sound it has its good points here and there. I answered the call into the ministry and signed up for seminary. At the behest of my pastor I attend a liberal seminary. So now my issue is not only is the lack of doctrine from the pulpit a problem but the humanistic philosophy in seminary.

I am okay with seminary because it is a means to an end; military chaplaincy. The issue now is I have become hypersensitive to the preaching from the pulpit. It is too much morality and ethics.

Since the people have been brought up I will say that they are less than receptive to the doctrines of grace. My pastor is open as long as I am not dogmatic about my presentation. However there is never the oppurtunity for it to be presented anyhow.

I am praying and eating clean so that I may begin a fast. Does my story justify attending a different church?

At 02 July, 2008 07:56, Anonymous Lionel Woods said...

Hey Jade you said:

"They were new believers in a church but the church was continuously feeding them milk. At some point some folks just hunger for more. There are many churches like that just seems to feed milk all the time and those that are actually spiritually growing (probably more to their devotion than in their church) find that it is time to leave."

With the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2) whose responisbility is it to feed whom? In other words, whose job is it "to study to show themselves approved". We are commanded to crave meat and to go and get it. Nowhere is it the "pastors" responsiblity to bring us meat. Maybe I am wrong here Gunny but I the scriptures that I see this milk/meat distinction the responsiblity lies with the individual believer.

Once again worship style and teaching (unless that teaching is erroneous rather that is legalism, liberalism or just plain ol false doctrine) just doesn't seem like a biblical reason to leave "people" who are the church.

I think that is where my struggle comes in with leaving the "church" you aren't leaving a buidling when you leave a "church" you are leaving the bride of Christ and you tell Christ "these people aren't worth me giving up my own self-interest" rather that self-interest is worship, meatey word, vision, or whatever. I believe we are too quick to divorce God's people (I once again am coming not from a mountain top but a very low valley here)for our own personal "growth". So when people aren't moving fast enough, or people are growing the way we think they should be growing (fast like us) or if people are worshiping (whatever that means) like us we are quick to jump ship to the church that provides the commodity the way we like it and the way we want to consume it.

Once again I think you bring up some good points Gunny on doctrinal switches, but even if I believe in Infant Baptism, can't I just get me kid sprinkled somewhere else :o)

At 02 July, 2008 13:45, Blogger samurai said...

A timely blog entry... but what if the reason you are considering is your pastor?

My family and I (meaning my wife and I) are praying heavily about this. In the past when others have approached this man they have been met with outbursts and dismissiveness (I know it's not a word, but... it seemed to fit).

I am copying your blog entry from today and will be meditating on it as well.

God bless...

At 03 July, 2008 11:29, Blogger Oilcan said...

Jerry Maguire

Now that was a sensational and tense departure from an organization! Neither necessary nor advisable for a church departure.

From my own experience, another reason to leave a church is when your key no longer works.

Seriously though, leaving a church can be done without burning bridges and scorching the earth, or without sneaking off in the dark. I have been amazed and deeply disappointed in the manner in which I have seen some otherwise respected believers leave my church family, literally without even a good bye after knowing these folks for years.

I mean, even in the heathen working world, nonbelievers show enough good manners and character to at least give the courtesy of a 2-week notice to their employer before leaving a job. It seems to me one of God's own local churches ought to receive at least the same courtesy as a minimum.


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