Karl Vaters: 8 Principles to Consider Before Leaving a Church You Used to Love

It’s hard to leave a church you used to love – and maybe still love.

In previous articles I’ve written from the pastor’s perspective about how hard it is when people leave the church you’re pastoring, and what to consider before leaving a church you’ve been pastoring.

But the pain of leaving a church isn’t limited to pastors. Many church members find themselves facing the heartbreaking decision of whether-or-not to separate themselves from a church they’ve invested a lot of their lives in. And I’m not talking about church-hoppers, bored believers or shallow saints. I’m referring to people who have found themselves in a place they never expected – considering leaving a church they had planned to stay committed to.

If you are facing that dilemma, here are 8 principles to consider that will help you leave well – or decide to stay:

1. Talk it over, first

If you’re considering leaving a church, talk to the leaders and your church friends before making your final decision.

As a pastor I’ve had a handful of frustrating conversations with church members who had already decided to leave the church, only to discover that it was due to a misunderstanding that could have been rectified easily if it had been brought to light earlier. But by the time it got to me they already had one foot out the door and it was too late to change.

On the other hand, I’ve had some difficult, but constructive conversations with people while their frustration level was small, and we’ve been able to fix problems, correct misunderstandings, reverse course and keep good people in our church body – often with a renewed sense of hopefulness and dynamic ministry.

These are not easy conversations to have. But if the church is healthy enough that those conversations are possible, it’s healthy enough to fight for.

2. Leave for the right reasons

In a previous post, I listed 7 Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church. You may want to review that article to be sure your reasons are better than those.

I don’t intend to give a list of good reasons to leave a church. I’ll leave that to each person, their conscience and their circumstances. But some of them might include a church that’s moving toward unbiblical theology, unhealthy leadership or dysfunctional relationships.

3. Leave cleanly and kindly

If it’s time to leave, do so with the right spirit. It will be better for everyone – including you and the people you leave behind.

It’s hard when good people leave a church they love. It’s harder on everyone when they leave a mess behind them as they go.

So please, talk to the people who need to know what’s happening (which may or may not include the pastor, depending on the size of the church or the leadership environment), but avoid gossiping or bomb-throwing on your way out the door.

4. Don’t separate yourself from healthy Christian relationships

If you’ve been heavily involved in a church for a lot of years, it’s not just a place where you sit for an hour on Sunday mornings. It’s a big part of your spiritual, social, economic and emotional life.

Remember, the church is not a building, a denomination or an institution. It’s people who love Jesus and each other.

So even if you have to leave a specific congregation, don’t make the mistake of disconnecting yourself from healthy relationships with fellow believers. As you negotiate the challenge of finding a new church home, those relationships will be more important than ever.

In fact, maintaining healthy relationships with other believers is probably the most significant determiner of whether-or-not you’ll find a new, healthy church home or drift away from Christian fellowship – and maybe from the faith – entirely.

We need each other.

Click here to read more.
Source: Christianity Today