Friday, September 19, 2008

Loving the church you are leaving

This month Dave and I moved churches. Last Sunday we were fare welled at our former congregation, Crossroads, and said a few words. We were grateful for this opportunity to tell many people we know and love that we will no longer be attending this congregation. Instead, we will be regularly attending a morning service just five minutes from our home, and also hope to become involved in a small group there.

I have known for a while that we would almost certainly be leaving, but our decision came as a surprise to many who spoke to us after the service. In many ways this is a good thing. It means we had not been going around complaining to everyone! It is also probably a result of our efforts to remain involved and serving until the end of our time there. In fact, Dave preached in late July! We told the elders beforehand that we would be leaving, but they still wanted him to preach.

As we have gone through this process of moving, I have thought a lot about what it means to be loving in leaving a church. I regret the few times when I have shared the details behind our decision. Why? This could give others fuel for discontentment or gossip, and it adds nothing to either their lives or ours. I'm happy for us to state that we feel we'll be more passionate about the vision at our new church, but saying any more may be unhelpful.

Instead, it may be better to simply say what I did at Crossroads on Sunday: "I am thankful for the love and care many people in this church have shown to me over many years. I am also grateful for the teaching I have received. My theology has improved a great deal, and I'm sure this will bring lifelong benefits". This also is true, and it is a truth I'd rather share.

What about you? What are your experiences in moving churches? How do you think we can be loving in the process of leaving?


  1. My husband and I have left two churches in the 24 years we've been married. The most recent was two years ago. We tried to leave in a loving manner, not wanting to air our dirty laundry. We went so far as to send letters to those we were closest to, explaining that we felt God moving us on, and thanking them for their love and support. I think only two or three people/couples responded; some people told our oldest daughter, who has continued to fellowship there, how wrong we were to leave. The whole situation was so sad, because it was the pastor who drove us away, something that could have been avoided. But he'd done it to countless others before us, and some afterwards. We truly needed the support of our friends there, because 18 months before, my husband was diagnosed with incurable cancer, but instead we were driven away. We are now attending a new church, but it's size and my husband's and my poor health, has prevented us from getting to know people as we could if we were able to attend more services. Still, the preaching is great, and the senior pastor warm and genuine, and he has done much to heal our hearts. We've also reconnected with people we knew two churches ago; one couple in particular has been wonderful. God truly works in our circumstances for our good. All this to say that sometimes, being loving when you leave a church may come back to bite you. (Sorry to be so long-winded!)

  2. What a difficult situation! I'm sorry you've had such a hard time. Sadly there are situations in churches where abuse - often psychological - does occur. Thankfully that was not the case with our church at all, and I'm sure the congregation will continue to love us. However, I do feel like there was an element of "spiritual abuse" so to speak in one church I attended years ago. It was terribly hard to leave as a result.

    It sounds like you made every effort to leave well, expressing thanks to church members, and so at least you have that comfort.

  3. We had an awful experience when we left our church of about 18 years (11 years there as a married couple), just a little over 4 years ago. I would prefer to email you my experience. It was not well handled from the leadership's end but...the Lord got the glory anyways because we refused to go against what the Lord was showing my husband and I. I can email you about the experience and what we learned as a couple and what we learned about the concept of grace.

  4. Hello Faith,

    I think you are very wise not to share details on the Internet. Thankfully Dave and I really don't have anything bad to say about how we were treated at our former church - only good things!

    Please only email if you think what God taught you could be of use to us, as I'm sure it must be troubling to you to recount details of what happened.

    I'm so grateful to know that you're well settled in a new church now, as you often mention it in comments :). It is always encouraging when people don't withdraw from Christ's body as a result of negative experiences.

  5. So which church are you attending now?

  6. Bay Christian Church, a Reformed church plant that meets in a hall at the beach at Blackmans Bay. It is quite closely linked to Crossroads in some ways - for example, several elders preached there while Brian was away on long service leave.