After service on Sunday, June 12, 2011, news reports rang out when Atlanta Pastor, Dr. Creflo Dollar encouraged any visitors who had left New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, and were considering joining the ministry he leads (World Changers) to go back where they came from. â€œIf you\’re from that church,â€ said Pastor Dollar, â€œand you trying to join here, I don\’t want you to join here.â€ Click HERE to view Video of Dr. Dollar's Message
The truth of the matter is, leaving a church is painful. It means leaving friends and dissolving relationshipsâ€”which is never easy. It also means experiencing a deep sense of disappointment, especially in the wake of scandal.
The â€œtraditionâ€ of church membership used to include generational as well as unconditional allegianceâ€”in other words, the church of your grandparents and parents became your churchâ€”for better or worseâ€”until death, and Jesus, claimed you. These days, that\’s changing. New moves in church leadership, whether driven by scandal or changes in philosophy, have caused many to take flight and seek another place to worship, or even, multiple places to worship (see this month\’s Gospel Today, â€œGatekeepersâ€ article by Dr. Sam Chand). Of course, there\’s also the mobility many people experience due to job relocations. All in all, finding a new place of worship can be extremely stressful.
If you are in transition and looking for a new house of worship, here are some guidelines:
1. Leave prayerfully. Never leave a church because you are upset, frustrated or â€œhurtâ€ by the actions (or inactions) of others. If you decide to leave, do so prayerfully and carefully, recognizing that even though your season of fellowship there has ended, that God\’s ability to use that ministry to bless others is not over.
2. Leave honorably. Don\’t gossip about the church you just left. Acknowledge that God hears your conversation, knows your motives and will hold you accountable for what you do, and just as importantly, how you do it.
3. Leave graciously. Be mature about your choice. Realize that a perfect church will never be found this side of eternity; so get used to going to an imperfect fellowship. Look for ways to allow your membership to bless your church members and leaders as opposed to looking to â€œbeâ€ blessed.
4. Leave thankfully. If at all possible, have an exit interview with one of the leaders, elders, or pastors of the church you are leaving. Explain the reasons for your departure, express your gratitude for their hard work, and commit yourself to praying for the church with which you will no longer be associated.
(Notes on Church membership
The Bible speaks of our being members of one another (Romans 12:4-5). We are joined together in Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16). We eat from one loaf and drink from one cup (Ephesians 4:4-5). We are to carry one another\’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). We might even find ourselves selling our property in order to meet another\’s needs (Acts 4:32ff.). We are to be a forgiving community (Colossians 3:13) that is deeply in love with one another (John 13:34). The church is a precious gift to God\’s people. Christ died to bring the church into being (Ephesians 5:25)! The church is the mantelpiece of God, the display of God\’s splendor before the angels (Ephesians 3:10)! So let us take care that we cherish the organism that Christ suffered to createâ€”and may God bless his church!
What do you think? Have you ever left a church? Blog about it here!