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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Daily Devotional – Walking through Fire

Through the Fire

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. – Isaiah 43:2

With the way we run our lives today it is so easy for us to feel like we are drowning in obligations, duties and societies demands on us. God tell us and Jesus showed us that he will lead us through the waters. He also showed us through Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that  He will walk with us through the fires of our lives and be protected. Our faith can be so tenuous and yet He reaches out time and again whenever we turn on Him or ignore His will for our own. He keeps reaching and even into the fire He will grab us out of damnation and place us on a road to His kingdom but we have to walk it.

Fire Through the Bible

Like water, fire winds through the Bible showing the uses for it in both practical matters and in symbolic fashion. After the Fall, God placed Cherubims at the east of the garden and a flaming sword. Man is the only animal that cooks, we are unique in that fact. The next time we see fire in the Bible it is not for a good reason. Cain and Abel, the first children of Adam and Eve are giving sacrifices to God. Abel’s’ sacrifice of meat burns but Cain’s sacrifice of  produce does not and it makes Cain angry. So angry in fact that he kills his brother. We see fire when God protects Israel throughout the nights as they leave Egypt and even at the end of the Bible we see Paul speak of it in Revelations.

Final Thoughts

God promises that he will lead us through the fires but it doesn’t mean he protects us from difficulties of life. God’s goal is to protect us from the fire of hell. I’m not getting all Southern Baptist guts on the floor you are damned at all but it’s true, God wants us home with Him. He wants to guide our souls from the eternal separation that exists when we are not seeking Him. Even if we are saved when we wander off we are separated and even though we will be welcome into His kingdom our rewards are directly connected to our deeds (Revelation 22:12). It doesn’t matter what those rewards may be, God is giving you something when he does not have to. His presence will be more than enough to satiate our desires. When that day comes in each of our lives the fires we have walked through will be insignificant to being there with the Father.

Daily Devotional – The Palms of His Hands

Palms of His Hands

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me. – Isaiah 49:15-16

When you have children, biological or adopted they become everything. You shower them with as much wonderful love as you can but also have to deal with the bad side. We never forget our children, it is impossible to. Whether they are throwing tantrums or winning awards we are there until God decides we have to come home. Parenting is one of the most rewarding relationships and also the most trying. In fact, it is the second on the list I feel. The first is your relationship with Christ. Through His blood we have been cemented in our relationship with God. The palms of His hands are all the evidence we need to see how deep God’s love goes.

The Hard Part of Parenting

Long nights with sick children. A willful teenager doing everything but what you raised them on. The unexpected loss of a child. These are the things that can make a parent irritable, flat out angry and heartbroken. We experience some or all of these as children grow. I am in no way minimizing the struggles of earthly parenting when I say this but God has endured that for millennia. He has created us and we often thumb our nose at God or see Him as dead because we don’t see the movement we want in our lives occur. This leads us to feel like we are better than he when we are really wretched (Revelation 3:17) and the spoiled child. We think that everything we have gained is because of our own works. Our children can feel the same way because they don’t understand the resources we pour into raising them or the sacrifices we make for them. God tells us about the resources and the sacrifices He made for us and we tend to ignore that. He, like us, have it hard at parenting.

The Good Part of Parenting

Limitless love. Bottomless grace. Good News. God gives us all of those things. As parents we get to see the wonders of our children as they grow into adults. From discovering how awesome macaroni and cheese is to the almost divine place pizza holds. We watch countless hours of Paw Patrol or PJ Masks to enjoy time with our kids. When we take an active role in parenting the way God has with us then we really truly reap the rewards of those sleepless nights and the butting of wills. Adoration, hugs, kisses and laughter should fill a home. God’s words inspire these things if we listen.

Final Thoughts

God’s sacrifices are shown in the palms of Jesus’ hands. His son was killed, frankly outright murdered for spreading the word. His feet, his side and his palms are testimony that even that sacrifice wasn’t too great because He has adopted us into His home if we come to Him seeking the truth. The next time I find myself wondering if God really cares I just need to look at my unmarred palms and realize that Jesus took that burden and allowed my skin to be untouched. He took the sin and allowed my could to be cleansed. Just look at your hands and examine your palms. Something so simple and if we stop to appreciate it, I think it will bring our focus back where it belongs. On God.

Daily Devotional: Stop the Doubt

Doubt

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1

There was no doubt before the fall of man. He was in God’s image and he was pure. The trust between God and man at that time was unquestionable. Yet God also foresaw what would happen and warned Adam and Eve that obedience to Him was paramount. Yet the serpent was able to cause Eve to second guess God’s command. Man had lost his trust in God because he doubted the power that God wields over him, even when it was God who created him. Every time man has sinned it is because he doubted God.

Defining Doubt

Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction. Both have separate consequences. When I am uncertain of things it is often a lack of confidence in myself. This I think opens us up to not only failure but sin. We are uncertain of ourselves and if our conviction is lacking then we doubt God. Doubting God alone is a sin, He is Creator and worthy of all of our reverence. Luke 24:38 asks us, why are we troubled, and why do doubts arise in our hearts? I think that it is two-fold, Satan is whispering to us but also our desire to self-fulfill our destiny and not place it in His hands.

Overcoming Doubt

To overcome doubt I think that we need to understand that it is not a lack of belief in Jesus but more a state of limbo. Having doubts does not mean you have turned your back on Christianity which it may feel like. How we overcome this is by addressing it directly. If you find yourself wavering in some manner, that is doubt creeping in. Don’t take the “I guess it’s okay to doubt” or “I’ll work it out later” road. Make strategic war with it. Eradicate it by praying and do as Jesus did. Tell Satan take a hike and don’t come back no more.

Final Thoughts

Granted saying how to overcome doubt is easier said than done but Jesus told us that if we do not doubt in our hearts and believe in what we say (such as telling Satan to be gone) then it will come to pass. Jesus used the word of God as a weapon to send Satan away. We can too because in His death we have been empowered against the enemy. Do not let that leave your mind. Satan fears you and that is why he tries to subvert you. He cannot defeat you but he can make you a bad example. Stop the doubt. Toss Satan out.

Daily Devotional – Getting Up Again

Getting Up Again

Jesus said, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” – Matthew 16:18

I won’t ever say I am a scholar of the Bible but I am a reader and I cannot recall a man in the Bible, specifically notable people who did not fail. Moses disobeyed God and was unable to enter the promised land. David, a man after God’s own heart committed adultery. Peter made the mistake of denying that he knew who Jesus was, not once or twice but three times. Each time these men didn’t just take it. Instead they showed that getting up again is what God wants us to do.

Falling is Not the End

Every Christian stumbles in our walk with God. It is why we sin. We fail to meet the expectations set before us. Whether it was what someone expected of us, our own self expectations or failing God they all merit the same response. Realizing that this failure is a learning point and that it doesn’t mean we should give it up. I found myself in that position when I was younger. I had left everything I knew behind to move to another state to live with a girl. I was young and not very cautious. Things went south after 2 years and I love everything. I moved back in with my parents and basically withdrew from society. I allowed my falling to be the end of me. I was far from my walk with God but He tells us that if we delight in Him that He will make firm our steps so we do not fall. (Psalm 37:23-24). Falling isn’t the end it is the Father giving us a chance to prove our resilience in adversity by getting up and testifying His grace.

Falling is our Wandering

If we love God’s instructions for our life we have peace and do not stumble. Think about the times when you know you’ve sinned. If God has really changed your heart you will not have peace until you make it right. It might start as a little tickle in the back of your mind but getting right with God sooner rather than later is going to prevent that time when God grabbed you by the seat of your pants and the next thing you know is you’re a blubbering mess. Saved people are His children. As we are His that means He will sometimes have to be harsh with us to bring us around. Jesus is called the shepherd for many reasons and to me this is one of the most basic reasons why. He is the one who keeps the sheep on the path and of one falls off of it He rights the sheep.

Getting Up is Finding Forgiveness

There is a reason Christian imagery shows a man beaten or broken and God’s hands lifting him.It is the Father letting the child know it is okay. We can fall a thousand times (we should try not too!) and He is always there to lift us higher than before because as soon as we confess and truly resolve never to fall back in to that place again we have gotten up. I jokingly tell Eli to rub some dirt in it sometimes when he is just being fussy, I like to think God feels the same way sometimes when he is confronted with the same person doing the same sin and asking for forgiveness. He gives it in the hope you mean it even though He knows you do not. If you are serious about getting up though God is there, hand ready to help you rise. Jesus forgave Peter three times because Peter sinned three times. Then he raised Peter above the other disciples in his appointment of Peter being the rock upon which the Church would be built.

Imagine what God can do in your life if you just let the fall be a lesson and become better are getting up than falling. Eventually you won’t fall anymore because your love for him is true and He will strengthen your steps, that is our walk with God in a nutshell. Don’t quit on God, He never quits on you.

Daily Devotional – Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes

Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” – Luke 22:31

Jesus was talking to Simon Peter, yes that Peter. The Peter that Christ specifically told He would build His church on (Matthew 16:13-19). God told a man how great His plan was for him. Peter was prolific in his work for Jesus as he was the founder and first Patriarch (Bishop) of the church in Antioch, visited the divided church in Corinth (1 Cor 1:12) , founded the Roman church and is credited with two epistles of the Bible. Even with all of that Peter took a hard road to get there. He denied he knew Jesus three times even though Jesus had foretold this and Peter vehemently denied it, it happened. When Jesus rose from the grave Peter had to confirm he loved the Lord three times before Christ would reinstate him. Peter had made mistakes before but he denied Jesus in his darkest hour. God’s plan for Peter came from his mistakes and gave Peter strength. Peter learned from his mistakes and it lit a fire in him for God that never became quenched.

Mistakes Happen

We all do it. We make mistakes. I make them daily in some way or another. Maybe it is in thought or act or lack of desire to work. It can be literally anything. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Wise words from a man who was excellent at making mistakes but his words have wisdom in them. Too often, I get caught up in the trappings of my mistakes and I’m sure men like me do. Anyone does because we hate the idea of failure or mistakes. God is not like that because once we atone He considers it water under the bridge. We constantly guilt ourselves over things way past their expiry date. If we have a true change of heart (Proverbs 28:13) then there is no reason to continually punish ourselves. God doesn’t. We should find ways to resolve it in our minds otherwise we are doing a disservice to His grace.

By Faith, Not Works

This can be a bit of a wild card for someone because the thought is, “Well I can do whatever I want because God is going to forgive me anyway.” or as it is popularly put, “we are saved by faith and not works.” While that is an excellent get out of jail free card for some I think that for me it is a reminder that the grace we are giving should be life changing. If your heart is moved to God then your spirit will be on fire to obey Him. Not out of being commanded or out of fear. Devotion to God is truthful, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind. Look at what learning from mistakes did for Paul, who was Saul. God removed his stony heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and gave him the heart of a man who would eventually be the largest author of biblical material and be known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Faith can carry you through anything because it is a gift that God allows us. Once you place your faith in Him a change happens and old ways die away and new ways fill you. This is why we should revel in His grace but not use it for misbehavior. Real faith sparks real change.

Final Thoughts

Our mistakes are part of us but they should never define us. God’s plan may have some terrible mistakes that we must go through to get to where we need to be. The changes that happen through the mistakes are the results of God’s chipping away at the marble to reveal the beautiful spirit he has designed. Each mistake is a lesson on who we are. It doesn’t matter if you were an adulterer or a thief. If you love God he will work for your good. Jonah ran from God but God used him to save Nineveh. Saul persecuted Christians and God used him to reach many of the Gentiles. These men eventually understood that while God allowed them to make mistakes it was because it allowed them to grow. Father’s can only tell their children so many times not to do something before letting them so that a lesson is learned. Our Father in Heaven allows us to make mistakes so that we become stronger in Him. I don’t want to spend my days feeling sorry for the mistakes I’ve made, I want to give God the glory of my service to others and beg for his amnesty when I do make those mistakes so that I can learn to be a better provider, comforter and friend to all of thwe people I reach.

Daily Devotional – There in the Tough Times

Tough Times

God had made me forget all my troubles and all my father’s household. – Genesis 41:51

I think we all have a tendency of forgetting how awesome God is all the time. Especially when the good times are rolling. We don’t give thanks nearly as often then but as soon as something bad happens it is the first thing out of our mouth, ‘God help me’ or some variant. God is here good or bad. So what about when things are more than marginally bad? Do we complain to God about it because we are experiencing trauma. Instead we should be seeking the comfort of His love. Joseph who was sold in to slavery, imprisoned despite his innocence never blamed God for the bad fortune. Instead he looked to God and then God raised him up higher than his brothers could have imagined!

Perpendicular Plans

For many of us our plans compared to God’s plans look very different. God’s plans are definitive and look like a straight arrow. Or plans on the other hand look like a winding snake over His plans. In fact it looks like this;

Sin Wave

 

As our walk gets closer to God those waves, those deviations lessen and sometimes they become the same straight line but we are human and prone to error. Even in those times when we are far far from God’s plans for us He is there filling in those gaps with His grace.

Life is Tough

Because we are promised suffering (2 Timothy 3:12) we should become comfortable with seeking God in the hard times. If you’ve ever found yourself in the floor crying out to God for help then you know exactly how powerful God can be when He moves. His plans may be that someone has a hard life from the beginning and uses those experiences to lift that person into ministry. It could be the death of someone so that others connected to that person come running to Him. There is no shame in reaching out to God in your greatest need but it should not be the only time. He deserves out attention all the time not just when things suck.

Final Thoughts

God is the perfect father because he is there endlessly. We may come into friction with our parents here on Earth and in some cases those parents will disown us. God does not do that. He waits until you are broken and with no second thought picks up the pieces to make sure His children are whole. Life is really tough and being a Christian does not exclude you from that. In fact, you become a target because Satan wants to lure you away more than anything. It’s not the lost souls but the ones that know Jesus so he can tell God to look at how his servant is failing him. If we can be like Job or Joseph we take that power from Satan because God gives us that armor. I feel like one of my biggest strengths is that I do keep my eye on God in good and bad. Part of why I can is because of Bethany. She is far more than I ever deserved in my life and yet God planted her there for me. I am also surrounded by Greg and Melissa who are just an awesome God loving couple. My parents love God and encourage my relationship with Him. The support system you build helps you remember that God is there always listening when things are great and when they are tough.

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