To leave a church is one of the most difficult decisions to make and it should be. Emotions make leaving well rare. If you are considering leaving a church or know of someone considering, or in the process of leaving, the following guideline may prove helpful.
1. Leave thoughtfully – make sure you have good reasons for leaving that honor the Lord. You will someday give account for this decision, and you are setting a personal precedent. There are good reasons for leaving. If the church has lost its purity and is soft on sin, especially in leadership or if the preaching or mission is not biblical, then leave. Sometimes your personal or family needs require a church that addresses those legitimate needs. It’s also ok to leave if you disagree with the direction of the church and find yourself at odds with the leadership. Better to find a church that fits your preferences than be a divisive unhappy person over non-biblical matters. Humbly pray for God’s leading. If God convicts you of your hurt pride and petty disagreements, then repent and get back to serving and supporting your church. There are no perfect churches. If the Spirit leads you to leave, move on to points 2 through 5.
2. Leave honestly – first tell the leaders of the church of your leaving and the reasons. Communicate in person or by a call rather than in writing. “Speak the truth in love.” Your reasons may help the leaders to make needed improvements. Or your reasons may confirm that you have a different direction and/or priorities than the leadership and your leaving is best for you and the church.
3. Leave quietly – this is not leaving silently as that is nearly impossible. But leave without making a lot of noise. After telling those in leadership, then your circle of friends and partners in ministry, stop talking about the church and focus on the future. Don’t continue to talk down the church or its leadership, especially when in your new church. Keep quiet. If people ask why you left, be as positive as possible dwelling on the Lord’s leading.
4. Leave graciously – whatever the valid reasons for leaving, they are still negatives. One way to offset the negativity of your departure is to write a letter to the pastor and leadership that lists several fond memories and ways the church ministered to you while you were there. No matter how great the problems in the church, there are positives you can mention. One caution here–don’t not make the compliment a backhanded criticism. For example, if you’re upset that the church removed hymnals, don’t think mentioning the blessing of singing from a hymnal will be taken as a compliment. Avoid mentioning any controversy even as an intended compliment.
5. Leave quickly – without just dropping the ball on your ministry, leave as quickly as possible. Don’t hang around week after week and tell church people of your future plans to leave. It shows you want people to beg you to stay, or worse, you want to pull others to follow you away. Make it s clean cut, not a slow ragged tear.
6. Leave completely – don’t announce you have left and stop attending church worship, but then remain in a small group or continue involved in a ministry like the kids, youth, men, women, recovery or other ministry. To do so obviously becomes divisive. That is why wise church leaders will ask you to leave the small group and/or ministry and encourage you to lock in fully with your new church. You need to be “all in” with your new church in worship and serving. Your new church deserves your undivided attention.
Helpful Insight as to “Why Did They Really Left the Church?”
If you want to know the real reason someone leaves a church, look where they land rather than listen to what they say. Sometimes what they say and where they end up are consistent, but often not. If people say they are against the church removing pews for padded chairs and go to church with pews, their actions fit their reasons for leaving. But if they go to a church with padded chairs, be assured there was another reason for their leaving. If a person says he is leaving because the church is relocating its facility several miles away and attends a church near the pre-location, then the reason truthful. But if he joins a church facility near the place where his previous church is planning to relocate its place of gathering, then it is obvious he had another reason for leaving. I offer these two examples because I have witnessed them. Often people leave a church in protest to a new building program to join another church that recently finished a lovely new expanded expensive facility!
By Pastor David Ward Miller