Leaving has never been easy. Who claims that saying farewell is as simple as waving your hand and bidding goodbye? Surely enough, expect that you are required to exert a lot of efforts to bring back your life to normal once you decide to turn your back and go.
So you wake up in the middle of the night and come out with this intention of leaving your local church. Easy? Just walk inside your pastor’s room and say goodbye or simply not attend the service the next Sunday?! No, it’s not as simple as that. Trust me, I’d been there before. As for me, that’s the most challenging, nerve-wrecking and mind-blowing decision I’d made so far. I visited forums, blogs.. I read articles about leaving church…I connected all the dots before I jumped out there and cut all the strings.
So here are just 7 points to ponder. All of these are based on my personal experience, so it’s up to you whether to put a grain of salt in every single one.
1) You are leaving your church and not your faith
If you are starving for food, will you still continue searching in a place with food or water scarcity? No, you go out and search somewhere else. It’s human instinct for survival. Even insects do that! So if you assessed that you are no longer growing spiritually, you have to go out. Feed your spiritual being somewhere else.
You are not saying it’s your church’s fault. Of course not!
You are the only one who seems hungry as you are noticing your churchmates seem to be fed well. Whatever their appetite is, it’s them. Your concern now should be the nourishment of your soul and spirit and if you are not getting that, even God will direct you to move out!
2) Leaders should bless people who decide to leave church and not curse them
If you are still undecided whether to leave or not, try this and surely this will be your “deal-breaker”. Gather all your courage and discuss your intentions to your pastor, in particular the senior one from your church. Be attentive, be observant, be open-minded and lastly but more importantly, be focused… try to remember every single word from that one “catch-up”.
I agree that no church is perfect and even pastors have imperfections. But I believe that this talk will summarise all that happened in your 5 years in that local church and will give you a glimpse of what will happen in the future should you stay.
Here are some of red flags:
– Disclosing stories of other people who left church, even the behind-closed-doors sharing and counselling. They are meant to be confidential, am I right?
– Instead of comfort and peace of mind, that atmosphere of accusation is hovering over you. You’re feeling intimidated and overpowered by their words. You will recall those moments wherein you heard them referring to those people who left church to be under one category. Sooner or later you will be categorised under that group… the blacksheep of the family, one of the crew who abandoned the ship, or a castaway who will never return home.
– You are just transferring to another church and not altering your faith. Why do you feel like they are making you question the standing of the other church? Their way of sharing the Word? Their traditions and practices?
– and the ultimate red flag is when you feel being threatened. So many words heard but the final message is that if you leave your church now, something undesirable will happen to you. In a span of I dont know how many weeks or months, you will experience the worst in your life. If it sound like a curse, walk out straight away, run!!!
3) This should be your personal decision and not influenced by other people around you and current circumstances.
At the end of the day, this is your journey not theirs.
Take a step back and ask yourself. Are you doing this because your closest friend has left? Are you the only one in your family who has a Sunday dress?
4) Try to attend another church or some other churches
If you didn’t try, then you will never know. If you didn’t try, you will never experience. If you didn’t experience, you will have no basis for comparison.
Of course, you will feel the guilt. People from your church will surely look for you. They will ask you where have you been and why are not attending the service. It will even be more obvious if you’re serving a ministry or heading a team.
But again, of course.. it will take some sacrifices to discover yourself. This will be your sacrifice! You won’t be lying but you’re simply not revealing everything. You’re not disclosing that your spirit self is undergoing some processes of discovery.
Try not to use health as your excuse. A big no! no! Just dont.. you don’t have another choice. You should not use the typical reason of not feeling well if you’re not attending the service.
But if there is no other way .. just dont elaborate it more or have a very detailed explanation of why they don’t see you! Even God wont agree…
5) Each of us has a unique story to tell. How the leaders react on the other person leaving the church will differ on how they will respond when you discuss your plans with them.
For a place as constrained as your church, it is expected that they will ask you what your underlying reasons for leaving and convince you not to go.
What I experienced was a long talk but most probably the reason was because I was going in circles. I could not say everything! Why would I? It’s like getting a rock to hit myself on the head!
So when I finally came to a decision to leave, I didn’t set a meeting again with them. I just stopped attending the service and emailed them goodbye. Here is the copy:
Dearest Pastor xxxxxx,
First of all, I would like to extend my thanks to both of you for taking time meeting me last Tuesday. I appreciate it, but most especially grateful towards the role you have played in my spiritual formation over the last years. Through my fellowship at XXXX Church under your leadership, I’ve been blessed with your teachings and advices.
Since the day that we’ve talked, I have pondered through my concerns. I have tried to make changes with the way I think. I assessed myself and tried to understand if this is only because of me just relying on what I feel or if God is truly leading me to a different church or ministry or if there is any other valid concerns. But I know that whatever the reason is, my leaving will still feel like a leaving marriage or getting a divorce. It will never be an easy task. That’s why I am not taking it lightly. Since Tuesday, I have always been praying for enlightenment for the decision that I should make which will eventually direct me to the path that I should take.
I send my sincerest apologies that I have decided to move on to the next stage of my spiritual journey. I wrestled with this plan because in no way do I have any intention to hurt or offend you. As our spiritual parents, I know and I believe that you are concerned that I won’t drift out into the world once I leave. With that, I am praying that you will understand my decision and bless me in this new chapter as I create a new fellowship among other Christian believers where I can also grow.
I assure you that my only intention is to leave quietly as I respect you, all pastors and leaders and the whole XXXXXX Church body. And for the ministries, I will reach out to the leaders to convey my decision.
God bless you both and thank you again.
and trust me when I say…I didnt receive a single word as a reply. They didnt bless me (ouch!)
6) God is everywhere and in everyone!
It may sound like a cliche but indeed we need to remind ourselves from time to time that God is not residing in one place only. Yes, we worship Him at the altar but that does not mean that God stays there, just there.
Sometimes we forget that God stays within our hearts. He considers our bodies as His temples and He is residing within us.
Yes, your church is the place where all believers gather together, worship in one voice and exalt the Name of the Lord at the same time but remember, there is another church at the next block with another set of believers who gather together, worship in one voice and exalt Him at the same time!
7) The post-leaving-church stage is as challenging as the pre-leaving stage.
Dont expect that things will be the same. Expect the worse but expect also that the best is yet to come.
There will be a line up of all sorts of awkwardness… awkward discussions, awkward laughs, awkward jokes, awkward encounters, awkward small talks, awkward nods and so on and so forth.
You will be invited on some events and you will be incredibly sorry but you will opt to turn down those invites for that mere reason of trying to avoid that awkwardness. But it’s ok. No one will blame as everyone understands.. you will be the most awkward if you will attend and all of you want to avoid that. Period.
This ends my 7 bullet points. Strangely, I’ve summoned all my courage and managed to pour out all my thoughts regarding this subject. This topic used to be a taboo..
Well, I realised it is still a forbidden subject. How? When I googled and did my research before, only a handful of blogs and articles came out, meaning less people are interested about this subject or less people have the urge to tackle this topic or less people care at all.
I care about your well being.
And this one, I can guarantee.. there is a Higher Being upstairs who cares about you more than you do.