Tuesday, October 08, 2013

How To Leave A Traditional Church

I recently received an email from someone who had a question after reading my book.

"Hi Keith,

Thanks for your book, "This Is My Body". I've been on a journey for the last two years or so as I work out what organic New Testament Christianity looks like.

 There is one thing I am wrestling with that I hope you can help me process: How does one leave a traditional church gracefully, without losing the relationship of genuine spiritual mothers and fathers? While I may not agree with the model of church that they subscribe to, my issue is not with them personally as believers. These are people who have laughed and cried with me and encouraged me to pursue the dreams God has placed on my heart. I'm now convinced of the need for Christians to gather in a more organic way like a house church setting, but equally convinced that there has to be a better way to do this than just telling my church "You guys have got it wrong. I've found a better way. See ya!” 

Does that make sense?"

Since I believe this is a common question that many struggle with, here’s my answer:

First of all, when it’s time for you to go you’ll know it. The pain of staying will be greater than the pain of leaving to pursue a more organic form of New Testament church.

But, when you do leave, be sure to leave well. As it says:

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18)

Just so you know, it might not be possible to leave without a few hurt feelings, especially on the part of your pastor and leadership staff. They will most likely see your exit as a betrayal and as a criticism of their ministry no matter how hard you try.

Even so, make sure to bless them on your way out. They may not bless you, but you need to bless them.

To do this, ask the Lord to give you love and mercy and grace for them, even as they mock you and shun you and slander you behind your back. Consider this is an exercise in sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

Also, remember that you are not "leaving the church" because the Church is the Body of Christ (all over the world). Yes, you are choosing not to fellowship with a specific group of Christians in a certain place and time, but you are not leaving Christ - therefore you are not leaving His Church.

This also means that you are still a member of those people. They are still your brothers and sisters, and you should treat them as such even after you step away from that fellowship. In other words, don’t break the bond of love, even if you break the bond of weekly fellowship.

Now, I have to ask, “What are you leaving for?” I mean, where are you going next? Are you looking to start a house church in your community? Are you looking to join an existing group? What's next? Where is the Lord leading you?

This is just as important as “How do I leave?” because you have to know what it is that God is leading you to go and do next. Even if all you know is that you’re going to pursue a more open meeting where every believer is free to participate and share according to their gifting, you still have to have some idea of what comes next.

Finally, just remember, you are not alone. There are hundreds and thousands of other Christians who have made this same step.

If you're not already part of a house church community, I'd suggest joining a few Organic Church groups on Facebook.

The important thing is to move closer to Jesus in this process, and to move closer  to the Body life experience that you know is part of God's plan for you and your family. Don't walk away from one fellowship into a vacuum. That's probably even worse than staying where you are.




NoahM said...

"What are you leaving for?" I suspect for many of us it is about spiritual growth.

2 Peter 3:17-18 "Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

Many traditional churches want to keep us corralled with their mixed messages, unwittingly denying us growth through knowledge of the grace of Jesus.

Marshall said...

many do leave into an apparent vacuum, while this may simply be the taking a one step before another. others are leaving a traditional model with confidence that they know their next step... only to find that next step isn't. In all, the Good Shepherd watches well to His flock.

Anonymous said...

Some are "led" into a wilderness designed just for them. One may not know what is next but one thing for sure they don't want to repeat where they have been. Leave or exit in peace and it shall be the way you enter the next.