The fact is that in a consumeristic culture like this one—a culture in which the customer is always right—too many people leave too many churches too easily. It’s unlikely that any of us is above the temptation to depart for poor reasons and to leave behind us a trail of hurt and confusion. So before you make that decision, pray for the people of the church and diligently serve them. Ask God for wisdom and ask others for guidance. And then, only then, leave with confidence that your departure is God’s will.
Every one of us has become familiar with the pattern. Every one of us has seen church members becoming dissatisfied and then disgruntled, missing church occasionally and then consistently. Every one of us has seen the pattern and begun to dread the nearly-inevitable conclusion. This is especially discouraging when the reason for the departure is not an area of essential theological disagreement but something much more common and much less important—hurt feelings, petty squabbles, matters of preference.
This pattern is so common that we should all assume we ourselves may at some time fall into it. This being the case, what should you do when you begin feeling discontent at your church? What should you do when you feel that yearning to pick up and move on? What should you do when you find yourself eager to slip out of one church and into another? I’d like to offer just a few suggestions that I hope you’ll consider and put into practice.
Pray through the directory. Find yourself a copy of the church directory and commit to praying through the entire thing at least once. Pray for each person or each family by name. Pray what the Bible models and pray what the Spirit prompts. Prayer is one of our core responsibilities toward one another and has a way of stirring up our affections. As you pray for those people may it remind you that you’re not just walking away from a club or institution, but from a community—a family, even.
Commit to serving. The temptation when disgruntled is always to stop serving—to remove yourself from whatever ministries you’ve been involved with. Before you leave, recommit to serving others for a period of time—several months at least. Love tends to grow cold when we stop loving others and it tends to be rekindled when we start loving again. Plus, it’s as we serve that the Lord reminds us that he has gifted us specifically so we can use his gifts to bless our fellow Christians.