How to Properly Leave a Church
Leaving a church can often be a complicated, and painful, process. Especially if you have been attending that church for a long time. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says to help shed light on this topic.
Seeking Blessings in Departure: The Model of Moses
God told Moses to leave his father-in-law, Jethro, and go to Egypt (Exodus 3:10). Instead of leaving abruptly, Moses demonstrated remarkable respect for Jethro by seeking his permission before he left (Exodus 4:18). Moses understood the importance of maintaining harmony in relationships, even in times of transition. In the long run, Jethro reciprocated this respect by providing Moses with valuable advice when needed (Exodus 18:1-27).
Importantly, Moses applied this principle not only to his departure from Jethro but also to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. He sought Pharaoh’s permission, saying, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). Despite Pharaoh’s initial refusals, Moses persisted until he granted them leave.
The Consequences of Silent Leaving: Jacob’s Experience
In stark contrast to Moses, Jacob left his father-in-law, Laban, secretly. God instructed Jacob to leave Laban and return to his father’s house (Genesis 31:3), but Jacob chose to leave without informing Laban, causing frustration and potential harm (Genesis 31:20-22). This secretive exit, accompanied by Rachel’s theft of Laban’s idols (Genesis 31:19), demonstrates the negative impact of departing without open communication and blessings.
Lessons from the Bible
When leaving a church, one should openly communicate their intentions to leave, not doing it silently or causing unnecessary disruptions. Spreading gossip, trying to pull others away, or tarnishing the reputation of the church is not the right approach. Instead, take time to bless the ministry you are leaving.
A respectful exit prevents misunderstandings and maintains harmony within the church community. And even if the church’s situation seems unbearable, remember Moses’ humble approach to Pharaoh. Seek the blessing of the church leadership as you transition out, allowing for a smoother, more peaceful process.
1. Shaking Off the Dust: Embracing the New Journey
As you leave from one church to another, it’s essential to “shake off the dust,” a metaphor used by Jesus (Luke 9:5). This means not carrying the negatives or positives from the previous church into the new one.
An analogy can be drawn with moving from outdoor work in your dirty boots into your clean living room. Normally, you’d remove your dirty boots at the door to prevent staining your clean carpet. Similarly, when transitioning between churches, it’s important to leave behind past experiences – like those “dirty boots” – and start afresh.
Don’t penalize the new church for the mistakes of the previous one. Don’t expect the new pastor to be your best friend if your previous pastor was. Recognize that each church has its unique dynamics. By shaking off the dust from the previous church, you can step into the new one with a fresh perspective and open heart, ready to embrace the new season God has prepared for you.
Leaving a church properly involves respect, open communication, seeking blessings, and shaking off the dust from the previous experiences. This approach not only aligns with biblical principles demonstrated by men of God like Moses, but it also enables you to transition smoothly, maintaining harmony and respect within both the church you are leaving and the one you are entering.
2. Understanding Your Season
Knowing when and how to leave a church isn’t always an easy decision, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. It requires discernment and understanding of the season of life you’re in. You should avoid leaving a church out of anger, resentment, or unforgiveness. If it’s simply not your season to be in a particular church anymore, it’s essential to handle the transition with grace and dignity.
3. Respecting Leadership
Even if you’re moving to a new location or feel led to attend a different church, it’s respectful and beneficial to let your current pastor or leadership know. This conversation gives them a chance to pray with you, provide counsel, and potentially even assist with your transition. By being upfront with your church leadership, you contribute to maintaining unity and understanding within the body of Christ.
4. Blessing the Ministry
After you’ve made the decision to leave the church, and have communicated this with the leadership, continue to speak well of and bless the ministry you’re leaving. This practice is essential in maintaining a healthy relationship with the community you were once a part of. Remember that the church is a collective body of believers, and causing division or strife is not what God intends for His people (1 Corinthians 1:10).
5. A New Season, A New Start
As you transition into the new church, remember to “shake off the dust” of your previous experience. Don’t let past disappointments or unrealized expectations cloud your judgement or taint your experience in the new church. Similarly, don’t project the positive aspects of your previous church onto the new one; each ministry has its unique strengths and weaknesses. Welcome the new season with an open mind and a receptive heart. Allow God to work in you and through you in this new phase of your journey.
In conclusion, leaving a church properly is an act of respect and grace. It’s a delicate process that requires discernment and intentionality. Reflecting on the biblical examples of Moses and Jacob can provide guidance on navigating this journey. By approaching the process with a spirit of humility, openness, and love, you can ensure that your transition is done in a manner that glorifies God and fosters unity among believers.
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