Recently a friend linked me to the following blog post, asking me what my thoughts were. I gave him a rather long and rambled reply, which I think bears repeating here, with some minor modifications.
I think its dangerous to make sweeping statements with a one size fits all answers. Rather, the points in this blog can be valid reasons for leaving a church as well as being valid reasons for not leaving a church.
The first thing for us to all acknowledge is that we are God’s people. We need to get deep into our souls the ingrained knowledge that God’s church is comprised of every fellowship that meets making him central. Simply put, if your heart is for God, you cannot leave HIS church, because he promises never to leave nor forsake us.
As pastors, we need to acknowledge there is no such animal in the bible as a “senior or associate pastor. The leaders in the church are all equal elders in the church.. Yeup, right now I’m treading on toes.. but so be it… get this right, there is no seniority in God’s kingdom and the eldership / leadership of every church is a co-operative leadership with only God in charge.
Thirdly, excuse me as I jump on my soap box.. Its not our job to build the church. Simply its not.. so stop trying. It’s not our job to get bums on seats.. so we got to stop trying. God promises us in Scripture that if we love his people, he will build the church. He tells us plain as day.. building the church is his business, loving people is ours.
Wow, doesn’t this create a relaxing atmosphere? Ok. I am really sorry about the ramble here, but now lets look at the points. And while reading this points, please remember, right now, I am looking at them as being valid reasons to leave.. later I will engage with why they can be valid reasons to be challenged to stay.
1.) If your a pastor with a teaching gift.. why are you running around doing what your not gifted for.. let those who are gifted to do it, do it… I recommend you read some of Eugene Peterson’s stuff, where he become burnt out trying to do everything, finally he was going to quit his pastorship.. went to the elders and they said….now its time for you to let us do this.. you do what your good at.. you do the teaching.. .
If someone from your church tells you their not being fed.. we have a responsibility under God, to ensure we prayerfully consider their critique to see if their is truth in what they are saying. After all you have said, you have the gifting to be the teacher / preacher.. your job is to make sure they are fed.
Yes its true they have a responsibility to contribute to the church… the real question is.. are you really releasing people to contribute and use their God given gifts.. or are you in reality trying to do it all.
2.) Personally , if the church is getting too big, you need to deliberately downsize and make it smaller. Remember that Gods gifts are varied and different with different manifestations and the same God works through them. Perhaps the gifts on these people are to help get a small group going.. to help a church plant get established. I have seen people who are great church planters, but terrible pastors. In turn, I have seen great pastors, who are not cut out to plant churches… we need to recognise God’s gifts working through people and understand that their gift mix, may not be, what is needed for your fellowship (Note I say fellowship as there is only one Church) And yet, their gifting and anointing may be perfect for a small fellowship down the road. Our role as pastors is never to build a huge fellowship, but, rather equip the people in our midst to do the work of the ministry… Sometimes releasing people is equipping them to do the work of the kingdom.
3.) I think we need to be careful about this one. We need to ask what is it we disagree with. Is it the doctrine of the church.. prosperity gospel, word of faith, calvinistic, wesleyan, pentecostal / charismatic or any other calathumpian type of doctrinal belief. As a pastor, you might say you only preach the Bible… I can truly assure you, that every one of these pastors from these doctrinal flavors say the same.
Now time for a personal example from a time I became very ill. I had encountered God through a charo Anglican fellowship, and at the time of becoming ill, I was fellowshipping at a AOG church. I had up to this time enjoyed the energy and the fast pace.
But, after collapsing at work, paralysed on the right side, was in hospital for a few months.. the fast pace of church wasn’t good for me. My brain was scrambled from what the viral encephalitis had done to me, and I was going to throttle the next person who told me to just have faith and God would heal me. … Yes God has been healing me.. but, its taken like 7 years to get this far. And believe me, I have seen instant miracles before – so I believed in healing and miracles.
What I needed was the slower and quieter pace, and more reflective and calmer contemplative nature of the previous Anglican fellowship.
See, I know, I am treading on your toes as a pastor again.. but, hey, we are not prison wardens.. its not our job to put bums on seats and make sure those bums stay there… God is in charge of HIS Church… we need to ensure we know that.
4.) My needs are not being met.. again, I kinda have touched on this prior… but, also, lets remember, God has gifted these people with gifts and talents and abilities.. part of needs being met.. isn’t in doing what the so called senior pastor tells them to do.. nor is it meeting the needs of the senior pastor – rather, these people need to be able to exercise their God given gifts in a way, that does meet their needs.. and guess what.. if your releasing your whole congregation to operate their gifts and talents… perhaps you will hear less of our needs are not being met.
5) Unresolved conflict. This is a huge one. We got to remember that fellowships can be terribly cruel and painful places.. even in the midst of thinking we are going about God’s will. Sometimes for reconciliation to take place.. its got to be a journey of process. Forgiveness and healing isn’t always automatic. Shit.. its taken me 7 years to reach the stage of forgiving my ex wife for her abuse… and the stunts she pulled in church.. And if your more worried about me saying “shit” then you are with pastorally responding to my pain.. then I for one would run away as fast as I could from your fellowship.. because you don’t understand the basics 101 of pastoral care.
Sometimes, its very right and proper for people to leave because of conflict. Yes there has to be a process of reconciliation to take place. So, a good pastor will say, I care for you. I understand there is a conflict happening here.. how about I get in touch with another pastor I know, one who understands your pain and the processes involved, and together we can work together through the pastoral process that’s involved in this.