People in America leave churches regularly. But for the leaders of these churches, it often stings when people leave. We take it personally. We feel rejected. We don’t separate well. Relationships are broken. But does it have to be this way? What should I do as a church leader when a person leaves the church? How do I deal with the separation?
4 things to Recognize when a Person Leaves your Church:
1. People Leave Churches
American Christians switch churches regularly. In many communities, Christians shift from one church to another. Churches are made up of people who have been a part of several different churches in the past. It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating. It’s sad. But it’s true. You may have thought that yours was the church that no one would leave. No matter how amazing your church is, people will sometimes leave. We live in a consumer-driven culture. There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from and dozens of church options in your city. Christians in America are normally quite comfortable leaving a church behind and going to a new one. There are few consequences for people leaving your church. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop people from leaving.
2. Most of your People Came from Other Churches
Though most of us work hard to reach new people for Christ, we can’t help but attract people from other churches. While this is not our goal, it is often reality. Consider the people of your church. How many of them came from another church? In most churches, the percentage is high. Every person who did not come to faith in your church was once a part of another church. You were excited when they came, but it hurts when they leave.
3. Part On Good Terms
It hurts when people leave, but don’t make the mistake of parting on bad terms. People ARE going to leave, and you ARE going to run into these people in your community. You don’t need enemies all over town. You don’t want to have to duck and hide at the grocery store when you see a person who used to be a part of your church. Don’t make enemies with people who leave – part on good terms. Thank them for their involvement. Celebrate them on the way out. Some of these people might someday return to your ministry. Keep Romans 12:18 in mind.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 ESV
4. Keep the Goal in Mind
Consider the words of Jesus to his followers:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20a ESV
Your goal is to make disciples. Your goal is to reach your city. Your goal is to help people live in light of the gospel. Your goal is not to keep every person in your church at all costs. I wish that people were more committed to churches. We should teach people to be committed to a local church and not bounce from church to church. But we should also stay focused on the goal even when a person or family decides to leave. We must continue to bring the gospel to cities that are desperately in need. We must continue to make disciples. We must continue to carry out the mission of Jesus.
He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4: 18b-19 ESV