A story about how I am not the person to ask for advice about how to leave a church.
Because when I wake up at 4am suddenly wanting to write, I try to do it.
We had left a church before – kind of slipped out the back without a plan during a hard time of life. We wanted to do it better now.
After praying about it for months, we kept coming to the same conclusion. We had dreams, hopes, and beliefs that stretched out in a different direction of where our current church was heading. It wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for us to remain there.
They left at about the same time as us. But they were “sent” – blessed from the pulpit as the pastor wished them well in their search for where they fit. It was a sad but beautiful day. They did *something* right . . .
We prayed and thought, “Pastor should be the first to know our plan.” We didn’t want rumors to spread, and feelings to be hurt. We set up a meeting with Pastor and Pastor, and on that day also shared a carefully written letter from the heart with all the other staff so no one would feel left out. We had respect and care, and wanted to do it right.
Obviously I do not know how to properly leave a church.
We were not “sent” – whatever that means – and we were barely blessed as the door closed behind us that day.
Perhaps hurt feelings are partly to blame. I hoped we could see beyond that to the greater purpose of God’s Kingdom spreading. The church body has many members. You are an arm, maybe, I am a leg – and that is ok, even good. It’s okay and good that we reach and connect with different people in different ways. Right?
“Could I meet with you please?” I asked. Three times. Desperate to explain, to make sure I was not severing ties when we moved on.
“Sorry, I am too busy right now.” Three times. Taking the hint, I backed off and thought you would reach out in a few weeks when you were ready. Of anyone there, I wanted to talk to you first, start with you… I have since given up waiting for that conversation.
In the silence of miscommunication, we lost a piece of our lives. Out of respect for the church, we didn’t want to meet with everyone to explain why we were leaving. We didn’t want it to look like we were trying to spread unrest or gossip among the church-goers. We thought it was best to keep it mostly to ourselves. Obviously we did that wrong too. The rumors and glances grew more piercing before they dulled.
To the ones who reached out to us – to hear our story – I thank you. You were a comfort, a friend. You stood out with your loving presence as you sought to understand and not to judge us.
Today, all I can say is that every step was purposeful, and prayerful, and we did the best we knew how.
Years later, the pain has faded. But the place in my heart where you lived may always feel empty, and unfinished. I know without a doubt that my family was supposed to move on, branch out. Yes, it could have gone better. I forgive the places where it didn’t go as I had hoped. I pray that others have done the same in their hearts towards us, but in the end, I only control me.
Church is about family. Sometimes family looks different than we want, sometimes people don’t follow in the footsteps of dad’s family business so to speak – but we are still kin. May we all reach out to someone today who might feel shut out and embrace them as family. May we realize that hard decisions such as leaving a church are usually not taken lightly by those people that we have known and loved. They are the same thoughtful people, trying to listen to the voice of God and follow His leading. May we be the peacemakers.
And to you, dear Pilgrims, I wish you well on your journey as you embark on this change. It may be a hard road, but I pray it is blessed. I hope for you that you feel “sent” – that you feel supported as you go, and not shut out. I hope you find that your family of friends only grows and grows. To God be the glory.