It’s OK to Leave a Church…Sometimes

Leave a Church

This is a bit on the nose for my family and I at the moment since we are going through this decision to leave the church we have attended faithfully for 15 months. It is not something that we have taken lightly or out of anger (James 1:19-20). It is something that has lingered in our minds for months and has been discussed over and over with by my wife and I. It is OK to leave a church, you are not trapped and it isn’t always something that is going to burden you with sin. I write this for those seeking an answer to a touchy question but I also write this for myself and the ones I walk through life with that have angst right now as much as I have.

[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.

Ray Pritchard

Why are you leaving?

This is the most crucial question that must be answered because parting ways with a church is a serious event for any Christian. We are not meant to be in isolation. We should be seeking community (Ephesians 4:11-16). The answer isn’t a simple one and even after we determine why we feel we need to leave we need to ask ourselves if it is righteous.

Leaving because someone hurt your feelings is a great example of why you should not leave a church. We are fallible and a lot of times we are going to capitalize on that ability to fail. Even if we had no intention of doing so. This is part of being human and if a few people hurt your feelings at the church and you leave, it will likely happen again at your next church. Instead of running off you should give forgiveness and seek to reconcile the confrontation.

We should be seeking unity as Christians so pull yourself up by the bootstraps and seek reconciliation. If the door is closed by the other parties and they are unwilling to even discuss what happened that still doesn’t mean run. Instead, serve. Serve in spite of their behavior and do so graciously.

Reasons people leave

There is a loss regardless of whether we determine the reason as “good” or “bad” when someone stops attending a church or seeks another church. Some of the reasons below apply to why we decided to leave and some do not. Some are good reasons in my opinion and some are bad. I’d love to discuss this with others so please feel free to reach out. People have been known to leave a church because;

“Good Reasons”

  • Moving too far away
  • Long-term Missionary Work
  • Escaping false teaching
  • Openly committed and unaddressed sin
  • Power-drunk Leadership
  • and more

“Bad Reasons”

  • Church Size
  • Hurt Feelings
  • Lack of ways to Serve
  • The Church is changing
  • The Church refuses to change
  • You’re leaving/giving up Church entirely

This is a big topic, isn’t it? I hope you weren’t expecting a snack for today, it’s a banquet. There are a lot of reasons and way too many for me to cover because I can’t even think of them all. I just know these are things I have personally used before as reasons, justified or not. Reasons I have come to reconcile with their validity or whether I was just needing a scapegoat.

Don’t Give Up and Leave God

Of all the bad reasons giving up on church entirely is the most dangerous of them. God created us, Jesus commanded us to be a community and leaving that community opens a Christian up to the enemies power. It is open season on a soul.

Change can be positive or negative. How the church handles it really can affect how you are going to feel about whatever that change may be. There are still churches today that believe wholeheartedly that a woman’s place is at home, rearing kids and in a kitchen. If you’ve been at a church for over a month and that wasn’t evident to you. Please open your eyes. They will likely refuse to change that and if you are uncomfortable with that it is even more imperative that you move on.

Leadership

Leadership is hard and changes to leadership are even harder. The morale of a congregation can be shaken when a pastor who has their heart turned so fiercely to God leaves suddenly that people become hurt, angry, afraid and betrayed. Questions are asked, people are shouting, and fiefdoms can form because of it. This is when leadership must step up their game and be honest , opening their heart to those who attend their church. Non-answers to tough questions force your people to question things even more than they already do.

We cannot forget the Pastor who may be leaving the church. As an outgoing authority they are called to gracious exiting. God’s work takes providence over their personal feelings. This is not some cop out but is in fact extremely self-sacrificing because they could stay and fight. They could blast the leadership out of the water over Pharisee-like polity and power mongering. They could. Yet, a man going through God’s great work of sanctification seeks to live as Christ. And that alone is why a Pastor won’t.

Jesus could have lay waste to those who persecuted him. Effortlessly, they could have been gone, nothing, a bookmark in God’s work. Yet he submitted not out of fear but because his mission was of peace and love and forgiveness.

By God’s design, leadership in the church is a position of humility and selflessness. Church oversight is ministry, not management. Those whom God designates as spiritual shepherds are called not to be governing monarchs or slick celebrities, but humble slaves. In submission to Christ, they must exemplify sacrifice, devotion, submission, and lowliness.

John MacArthur

I have struggled with that realization of peace-seeking because of the affection I hold for a Pastor who affected me deeply. The messages that God allowed him to share with us always left me convicted. I never walked out of church feeling like I had heard the same thing by someone else just said marginally different. I am in no way putting a man on a pedestal because he is too humble for that.

What God did do is show me what a Pastor is. Something I’ve sought for over fifteen years. Something I lost and did not know how to find again. I am forever thankful and changed because of that season in my families life.

Leaving Ain’t Easy

When we choose to leave a church we are choosing to leave a portion of the body of Christ. That’s big. Leaving is a lot like a relationship coming to an end. It sure feels like it doesn’t it? There are two perspectives I want to address this final part through. That is the member and non-member of a church but one who attends regularly.

Non-members go through phases just like relationships. New church and it is so exciting! I want to be involved. What can I do to make this greater than great?! It is a lot like you meeting someone on a date you like and decide to continue dating. You start building your life on this and thinking how to show commitment to it. You start serving and getting involved, it’s a lot like you are now engaged. And that is where non-membership ends.

You could leave at any time. Whether it is a righteous reason or something that eventually proves out to be petty. While you committed yourself to the church in many ways, it was not like a membership. I am not placing non-membership in a serving role as less than a member but only highlighting there is a certain level of commitment that is missing from a non-member.

Members of a church have gone through the same steps of excitement, engagement and increased commitment but they took that last leap. They’ve married their desire to serve to that particular body. The church has poured in to them knowledge and trust that their lives meet the church’s barometer for membership.

Members parting should seek leadership and talk about it. Let them know why and pray they seek God’s authority in their leadership and not their own. When you part, do so graciously. Don’t burn bridges and cause a disturbance out of anger. There are people staying there after you are gone.

It’s Not Always Running

If you’ve come to that heart rending decision to part a church and you’ve prayed, given the decision due diligence, prayed some more, discussed it with the leadership, prayed with them. They will need your prayer and if Christ can pray for those murdering him, we surely can swallow our unjust pride and pray for them as well as the situation in general.

Leaving a church for a “good reason” is not running or “going out with a whimper” it is a walk by faith and not by sight.

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The Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23

This should be a pretty familiar pair of passages for all of us. Galatians is an important part of how Christianity evolved after Christ ascended. Paul had visited the churches in Galatia (potentially founded many of them, it is uncertain) and after he left he received word that some individuals had begun teaching an alternate gospel to the newly converted pagans. Paul’s gospel was based on Jesus’ ministry while these individuals were saying that the gentile Christians must conform to Mosaic law. Even while rebuking them he always does this in love. Paul boils down how Christians should act in to the fruit of the spirit.

Fruit, not Fruits

I do feel that it is important to highlight that Paul signifies that all of the fruit of the Spirit is singular. The word used in Greek was ‘karpos’ a word that meant fruit but also meant ‘that which comes from something’ or an ‘effect’. This is significant because we as humans produce sinful things. We produce works of the flesh. Paul is clear in saying ‘works’ of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 but when it comes to the Holy Spirit it is singular. There is one Holy Spirit, there are many humans therefore only the Spirit can produce the nine traits that are the fruit of it’s presence in us. Humans can produce all the works of the flesh but the traits of the Spirit are the result of it’s effect on us. I hope I made sense there!

Final Thoughts

The fruit of the Spirit are things we as Christians need to pray for. Those traits are how Jesus lives. Jesus instructs us to abide in Him because we cannot bear fruit without the vine (John 15:1-11). Jesus is the embodiment of those traits and the way we learn to bear the fruit we are commanded to is by seeking strength in God when we face adversity. I would be a liar to say I got this on lock, I don’t. I get irritated over small and likely trivial things. I feel terrible about it because I feel like a backsliding serpent of a man. Maybe it is all the noise in the house and I snap and yell at my kids. I shouldn’t do that but I have. It’s those things I ask God for strength so that I can work on them. He’s a good father and listens when I call out to Him. It takes more effort to be mean to someone than it does to be kind. I pray every day that God gives me strength to not get irritated at my co-workers and to show His Son through me. I talk openly about church and God because we should never fear offending someone just because we are Christian. My hope is that I represent a child of His kingdom in the most honorable manner I can and produce fruit for God’s will.

Give Me Strength

Give Me Strength

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Paul was a passionate man for Christ. His epistles to churches are some of the most studied letters that make up books of the Bible. He is the author of at least 13 books (Scholars question authenticity of Hebrews often) and his second letter to the church at Corinth to me is where we see Paul’s humanity laid bare. God gave Paul immeasurable strength to pursue the ministry Jesus had laid at his feet on the road to Damascus. Through his imprisonment and until his death he still witnessed and never lost the light that he received from Christ. He epitomized the short prayer of supplication we often ask, “God, Give me strength.”

The Treasure and the Jar

The treasure Paul talks about in this chapter of his letter refers to the light Christ puts within us when we are redeemed by His blood. It is the ministry we are charged with. We are taught about this very important lesson as children with “This Little Light of Mine.” Our treasure is the Holy Spirit and we the redeemed are the jar. It is fitting because the jars that Paul would be referring to are the clay pots that were used by the common person. Many of the rich would use metals or wood for their vessels but the clay jars of commoners were frail like we as humans are. We are God’s vessels who carry the light of Christ in us. Those jars of clay were fragile and easily broken like we often are. It is why the potter who created them can repair them so that the precious treasures in them can be shared and not lost.

God, Give Me Strength

That’s the amazing thing isn’t it? We may face terrible circumstances and even death depending on the season we are in but God gives strength to endure those trials. I do think it is important to point that out. Endure and not fix. Endure but not escape. It sounds cold but it isn’t because it gives us testimony. It gives a Christian the ability to say what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. The explanation Paul gives us is about a thorn placed in the flesh and that it was agonizing. He begged 3 times for the Lord to take it from him and God’s response was perfect, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s revelation in that is to boast about his weakness because if the Lord tells you that His grace is sufficient for you in your weakness then your faith in Him will carry you through the darkest of valleys. Admit your weakness and cry out to give me strength Lord and the Father will help.

Final Thoughts

God provides us everything we need. Love, Redemption, Grace, Comfort, Strength etc. He tempers it because can you imagine if we knew that as soon as we asked God for strength it happened, every time. We would become prideful or arrogant. Instead God does not give us strength to become free of our weakness but the strength to endure it and to continue walking with Him despite our frail nature. We are the vessel that Christ has chosen to extend His grace to. We are frail like a Palestinian clay jar but God’s strength given to us allows us to be repaired from the cracks and chips we have so that we can contain that treasure so that we can show it to the world and pour it in to other vessels like us. Jesus is an amazing artist and the potter of man, there is none greater and I know that if I call out, “God give me strength.” I have assurance that He will give me the strength to endure the season.

Daily Devotional – Before You Were Born

Before You Were Born

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

This verse in Jeremiah shows just how intimate our connection is with God. It is more than just the role of Father that we are connected to Him. He is Creator. The Sculptor of eternity. His hands, his breath have given us form and life. To believe that is to know that God doesn’t make mistakes. For the child born with what we consider disabilities God has given them a purpose and we see that in how those very same children do not let their condition control them but use it to enrich others. To inspire us to be better. To give hope to the world.

The Sculptor

One of the most idyllic sculptors of the world was Michelangelo who spoke of something in an artistic manner but it relates directly to God’s influence on us. Michelangelo said, “The sculptor’s hand breaks the spell to free the figure slumbering in the stone.” God is there, chipping away at the marble that binds us. The marble of course is our iniquities and His chisel works on us so that the world can see the creation of His works. Imagine if you will a half finished sculpture of a man, the man is trying to run but the base is incomplete. He has been chiseled out up to mid-thigh, that is our position as we grow in our walk with Him. From before we were born God never finishes working on us. We are always there to be improved, if there was no improvement to be gained then that would mean we had become perfect. Only God is perfect and we strive for being like Jesus but fall more often than we care to admit.

Sin Cera

Let me share with you something that totally flipped my head on it’s ear when I learned it. Dan Brown, yes the author of Angels and Demons among other books. Wrote a book called Digital Fortress that deals in cryptography or the art of writing and solving codes. In that book he discusses the root of the word sincere. The word is made up of two root words, the first being sine which is Latin for ‘without’ and cera which is Latin for ‘wax’. To be sin cera in Roman times was to have chiseled a statue that had no wax as artists with poor skill would use wax to fill in small imperfections. So what does all of that mean? Well, God doesn’t make mistakes, all of His work is sin cera. He begins the sculpture of our life in the womb and works tirelessly on us until we draw our last breath. There is no sincerity as great as that.

Final Thoughts

Devoting your life to the work of God is not a fad, it is not a pick-up game. It is a lifelong pursuit. Men of the Renaissance pursued their works with that kind of ferocity. Men in the world today are challenged to find a lifelong pursuit when one is right in front of them. It is not the easiest pursuit but when you strive for excellence it shouldn’t be easy. Making a sculpture is a long process one that requires intentional strikes so that the work inside is damaged. A wrong strike and the sculpture is ruined. God does not make incorrect strikes. Things may be painful but He knew from before our conception in the womb our destiny. After we are born the work begins not on just us but on those who rear us. He knows how to carve us into something amazing. If we let God do the work on us then we can do the work He has given us to show the world His grace. His work on us is sin cera, we should be showing the world the sincerity of that perfection.

Daily Devotional – Who Am I? Discover Yourself

Discover Yourself

This is what the Lord says – He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel; “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” – Isaiah 43:1

This kind of question is right up my alley. I spend a lot of time in reflection, examining what I have done so that I can improve my future. Let me be clear on this, there is a distinct difference between reflecting for improvement versus clinging to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it. We should see our salvation as a catalyst for doing more than just changing our status in God’s eyes. It should show us how to discover who we are as a person and in Christ.

Discovery

I think that I have learned enough about myself to give you some advice on self-discovery. I know exactly who I am. This is going to be secular advice that will lead into why it is important in a non-secular manner! Understanding who you are is going to help you communicate better in showing the love of Jesus. How you discover who you are can vary based on your actual desire to and the life you’ve lived. I have a penchant for doing everything the hard way. So finding myself was a 10 year journey into depression, overeating, lying and being someone I wasn’t just to fit in. That needed to change, I had nephews and siblings that I wanted to see grow up. My sister had married, my brother had married. I was the oldest and here I was in my mid-20’s living at home eating myself to death. I wanted to see them grow up and I wanted to be there for them, all of them.

Like many lost or wandering souls I turned to God, after I had basically pushed Him away and did what I wanted I came back. Then I came across Psalm 40:1-3 and I had been asking what can I do, what can I change, what more do I need to be better. God answered me there and gave me hope. I would’t be perfect, I know I can’t be but He told me I was enough. I was enough. My sister had a gastric bypass and so then I worked towards having one done. I began eating better before hand and had dropped almost 50 lbs before I had went to see the surgeon and jump through the hoops to get everything done. I still was doing a lot of the things I probably shouldn’t, my language was not great among other things but I was trying and while I didn’t go to church I read the bible on my phone or tablet. Eventually I had the surgery and I lost a lot of weight. I learned a lot about myself in that time because philosophy is a hobby of mine. I came to learn some of my fears, my flaws and my strengths. I was an entirely different person. Who people know me as today was not who I was 3-5 years ago.

It took a lot for me to understand who I am and honestly, I think that in tragedy we do learn the truth. Being honest with ourselves is the hardest thing you can do (Psalm 51:6) on the road to self discovery. Like lots of other step programs admitting the truest facts are the first steps needed to restoration of the former person. It is a hard road to discover yourself but you can do it. It will increase your understanding of how things were, how they are and help you see what you can do for the future.

Testimony

How you view yourself is going to affect your testimony in Christ. If you are an introverted person it may be harder for you to be a witness to God’s work because you have a natural reluctance to reigning in your actions and emotions. Think about this though, David danced in glory of the Lord and sang His praises because of something God gives to us. The Holy Spirit. The Bible instructs us to use the Spirit to reach out to others (2 Timothy 1:7) not fear them. Yes, that is easier said than done but remember, God wants us to grow and we grow by reaching outside of our comfort zone and learning new things. We should let that light increase and touch other lives so that they know the joy we have in the security of salvation.

Discover Who I Am

I am a Child of God. I’m also a father, soon to be a husband, an uncle, a brother, a son. I have many titles and I have many obligations. They all make me up a part of who I am. I’m a man who has made mistakes and I have made some pretty awesome triumphs. I have been a liar, I have been a misogynist, I have been a terrible cook. That stuff doesn’t define me in the way I see myself today. They are chapters to my life, secrets I keep between God and myself. It is also things I have let go. I don’t get it right all the time and God doesn’t expect me to.

It is interesting that this devotional came up today. I was speaking with some co-workers and one brought up what Maya Angelou had said, “You are enough.” It made me think back to my experiences and then I open my devotional tonight and here is this devotion telling me that I am a child of the Most High God. I am important and precious to Him. I have a purpose in this life and I am enough. Yes, I am enough for God, that makes me enough for myself, for those I love and those who may scorn me. Thank you Jesus, thank you for the tears and the heartaches. Thank you for the times that were rough and you let me dwell in them so that when I was ready to spread the word it would burn through me like a wildfire and maybe just maybe reach someone needing it. Someone who may be hurting.

I am enough.

They are enough.

You, God, our portion, are more than enough.

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