Going and coming

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It is a major challenge to leave one church and join another, but there are some key success factors on both sides that can help you.

I already mentioned How to start at your new church.  We basically did these without the list when we switched churches last year and it worked well.

Also see How to leave your old church for some more good advice.  We did those things as well.  Having been there for 15 years, we had a lot of very good friendships that we wanted to maintain — even though as a matter of conscience I couldn’t worship there any longer.

I heard from a third party that our former pastor said we left in the most gracious way he had seen, which told me that I probably wasn’t mean enough ;-).  I say that not out of self promotion but to point out the importance of a clear exit strategy.  I spent a lot of time thinking and planning how to leave without burning any unnecessary bridges.  We tried to tell our small group friends and then immediately told the pastor so he wouldn’t hear it from others first.

One thing the link mentions is to “kindly and honestly answer the question ‘Why did you leave?'”  I tried to be simple, thorough and accurate when answering that for the pastor and anyone else who asked.  I gave the pastor the full list and more context.  I didn’t want to nitpick or be spiteful, but I also didn’t want to pull any punches on the main reasons we were leaving.  It is a win-win situation when you do that: Either they take the constructive criticism and make positive changes, or they ignore it and validate why it was wise for you to leave.  With others we didn’t know as well I gave them a shortened version (some as brief as “creative differences”).

5 thoughts on “Going and coming”

  1. Both articles were excellent and I’m glad you put them into use when you left and started. I have had a few people tell me why they were leaving a church (other than moving) and they were not putting these principles into practice. They were looking to take a pound of flesh from me. But that comes with the territory.

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  2. I can’t disagree with the idea that we should leave a church graciously, no matter how heretical they may have become. But, having tried to do that in one instance, and being essentially pushed off again and again, I finally just gave up, wrote a short letter of resignation and never darkened their doors again. And, apparently, no one has ever cared. I’ve never heard a thing from them.
    The second church (same as the first, just didn’t want to admit it) went differently. Talked to the pastor, expressed my issues with his approach and unbiblical teachings, and was told to find a new church. The following Sunday, after sitting through several secular rock songs that had nothing to do with God, I got up and walked out. Stopped to get my daughter out of “children’s church”. As I signed her out, she asked why we were leaving early. I explained that I could no longer stay in a church that so dishonored God. She said, “Whew, I wondered how long it would take” Wisdom from a 5 year old. Rather interesting note: the lady who checked her in and out looked strangely at me when I told my daughter that. Didn’t say anything. But, about a year later, her family had started attending our current church.
    So, it’s great to be gracious and try not to be bitter when leaving, but sometimes circumstances work out so that grace doesn’t happen, but better things happen in the long run.

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    1. Great points, James. I apologized to my daughters for not leaving earlier. Sadly, I thought that staying would be better for them, but they were bored silly with the Sunday School and had no interest in the youth group games. God is so good that they are now in great churches and continuing to grow their faith. They actually switched churches while they were still in high school, with our blessing.

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  3. The church I left? I simply never came back, after a particular service that I’d decided was the last straw. What’s even worse is that I’d invited my cousin to join me that day, who himself is a committed Christian. I wound up apologizing to him for the pastor’s crackpot ideas.

    The one I left was one of those ‘megachurches.’ Total membership was around 6000 from what I remember. It was too big anyway. I prefer a more midsized congregation – more like a few hundred. (And po-dunk churches of a few dozen members are almost as unpalatable to me as the mega ones are.)

    Even though I’d been active in their choir for a year and had gone on a mission to Africa with the senior pastor and a dozen members of the congregation, nobody called to ask why I’d never been seen again on Sunday mornings. I mentioned my departure to one member that I’d stayed in touch with, and all he said was that he hoped I’d committed myself to “a” church home, even if it wasn’t his. (He disagreed with my reasons for leaving.)

    It didn’t seem to bother him in the least that the church board had voted 12-1 to force the pastor to step down (I never found out why they wanted him out), and when the vote failed, the 12 had resigned in protest. I thought that was interesting, really – an overwhelming majority of the governing body tries to get rid of the pastor, and when he refuses to leave, THEY do…and that’s all fine and dandy? Huh?

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