Probably the number one question we receive in speaking, nearly any place we go, revolves around the question of people leaving the church. Inevitably, church folk will ask us, with sincerity and innocence, “If we change our church strategy, if we change our church’s direction, won’t people complain, maybe even leave?”
Sure they will, and maybe they should.
If you are considering leaving a church, or someone in your church is threatening to leave, consider three good reasons to go.
1. You do not plan to ever get involved, give, serve.
For a number of years we preached about parishioners getting involved in the ministry and mission of our parish, because the vast majority of them were just showing up and consuming. At a certain point, about 5 years ago, I thought we needed a game changer. So I preached a message all about leaving the parish if, in fact, you do not intend to ever get involved. I said, “We need you to get up out of the pew and start serving, or, we need you to get up out of the pew and give us your seat back.” Perhaps a hundred or more people left our parish that weekend and never looked back. And they were right, this was not a parish for them. I am confident they had absolutely no trouble finding a church where no such expectation will be placed on them.
Same for giving and serving in missions. If these aspects of parish life are permanently non-options for you, it’s time to go. Even, or especially, if you’re not giving or serving because you don’t agree with the strategy or direction of the parish, you should absolutely leave.
2. You can’t/won’t invite unchurched friends to your church.
This is two sides of the same coin: If you develop a relationship with an unchurched friend and don’t feel comfortable inviting them to your church, and, in fact, never do, why would you attend the church yourself?
On the other hand, if your parish is simply not a place where you could possibly bring guests, that is cause for concern too. Either way, if your parish is no place for your unchurched friends, its no place for you and you should leave.
3. You don’t trust the pastor or his team.
If you can’t trust me, or you basically hold in suspect the vision and direction I have for the church, you are absolutely in the wrong church. While I am confident very few people actually feel this way in our parish, I am, from time to time surprised to discover such attitudes. And I know they exist and even flourish in many church communities. It is a puzzlement and need never be so. Find a parish where you trust the pastor and his team and the direction they are taking.