For the past two days, we've been talking about how to decide when it is okay to leave a church. I told a little bit of my own story, and talked about how to make this kind of decision. So what if you (and your spouse, if you have one) prayerfully and humbly come to the conclusion that you need to move on from your current church? Today I offer some practical things to do which will go a long way toward preserving the peace and purity of Jesus' bride.
Meet with your pastor. Instead of just disappearing, without a word to anyone, make an appointment with your pastor. If you haven't been in discussion with him yet, he deserves the courtesy of knowing that you will be moving on. I also think you should gently tell him the reasons why. Most pastors want to know if there are things about their churches that they need to do better. Too often we have seen people fall off the map, making it terribly hard for the pastor to extend care, or make sure that everything is okay. Openness and honesty win the day here.
Gently let others know of your decision. Again, please don't let yourself just fall off the map. It hurts the body when people disappear; it is unsettling and causes suspicion, speculation and sometimes gossip. We can love the church and respect its members by maintaining gentle honesty and humility. This leads to my third point.
Resolve to not bad-mouth the church. This is a hard one, isn't it? If you're leaving a church, you obviously have reasons for doing so, and they may very well have to do with some negative aspects of the church. How can we still respect the church as Christ's bride, even while we have not-so-great thoughts about it? In my mind, we should resolve to either only speak encouraging words about the church, or not speak of it at all. It would be a terrible thing to cause strife within a body, and it would also be a terrible thing to keep someone from joining a body based solely on your opinion. This doesn't mean we can't have honest discussions about churches; it does mean that we ought to exercise discretion and wisdom in doing so.
Above all, we must remember how important the church is to Jesus. It is the visible manifestation of his body, the vehicle for the sacraments and so many means of grace. We ought to seek not only to preserve it, but to uphold and promote it, as best we can, even when we move from one local body to another.
This is the 20th part in a series. Go here to read the series from the beginning. Go here to read over 700 other 31 Day series on all kinds of topics.