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Getting the Most Out Of Church 9: Advice on How to Graciously Leave Your Church

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted August 8, 2012

RELIGION – So you may be praying about finding a new church? Some of you have prayed and have recommitted to your church and want to see it become all that God has intended for it to be! Others of you still feel the Spirit of God leading you elsewhere. If you feel you are being led to leave what should you do next?

First, leave your church with grace. Many times when people leave a church relationships are hurt and discouragement is felt and bitterness can easily creep in. Please don’t look for and accumulate lots of little faults in the church so that you can justify leaving to your friends. Simply seek to follow God’s will to the next place He has in store for you.

Second, let your pastor know you are leaving.  This can be good for both parties. You should have some legitimate reason or concern for your departure. The Pastor or leaders might be oblivious to the problem and maybe they could learn from your experience. A good pastor will also pray for you as you leave and could even help direct you to another good church. It could also be a time to clear up a misunderstanding.

Third, “leave off a ledge.” I heard this from another pastor who was told it by a member who left his church. The member said “as he thought about leaving he decided he didn’t want to drift away, slowly pulling away and dropping his commitments. He said he’d rather take a leap off the ledge and be fully engaged until the moment when he decided it was time to go. Be in while you are in, and then when you are out, jump right out.”  Don’t let yourself slip in bad attendance habits, gossiping about things you are unhappy with, and dreading going to church. Be committed and serve as long as God has you there.

Fourth, decide how to answer the question “Why did you leave?” People will ask you, so pray about your response. There is no need to hurt people or the church with your response. It may feel good to do so if you have been hurt, but this just causes deeper wounds in your life and it will make it harder to be fruitful in your service to your next church.  I am not saying you should lie. A simple direct answer and not going into all the details will be sufficient. I did not care for the Pastor. I did not care for the new music at the church. I did not care for the doctrine being taught.  Less will be more in your response.

 Fifth, and this really important, you need to have a plan to look for a new church. As a pastor, I had a family at my first church in Rolesville, NC leave my church. They were an awesome family who followed God. They went to a new church and jumped in and were a blessing to their new church and they have thrived there. It was clearly God leading them to move and they have prospered spiritually.

Sadly, I have also seen families who were formerly very committed to church that left, and during the time of looking for a new church suffered spiritually. They began to miss Sundays. They stopped tithing, and they got lazy. Then they find it hard to pull themselves out of a spiritual funk. So make a list of what you want in a church, what is important to Jesus and to you. How many churches will you visit and how long will visit for? Don’t rush into a new church, but don’t wander aimlessly, sloppily seeking one either. Pray and seek the advice of the others during this time.

This has not been an exhaustive study; there are many other issues to consider. Think and pray through the choice to a leave a church long and hard. Be on the side of being overly cautious in your departure, don’t leave just based on your hurt feelings.  Again, the Bible can shed light on these issues, but you need to pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit of God.

Praying for the spiritual health of all the congregations in Edgefield County,

Pastor Phillip

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