What Not to Do When People Leave Your Church

by | Mar 14, 2013 | Blogs, The Plumb Line

We were about to take a great leap of faith. Everyone was excited about the new season. But I sensed something awry among the leadership team.

As I stood before the group, the Holy Spirit moved me to warn them that the enemy was looking for opportunities to knock folks out of their positions. I knew in my heart that not all of them would make it.

After the warning I put forth a call for commitment, asking, “Does everyone in this room absolutely know that God has placed you here? Does anyone have any doubt?” Across the board, everyone voiced their agreement that God called them to serve in the local body. Some clearly thought it was strange that I even asked.

A few days later, the Holy Spirit showed me some weren’t called to be there. After a few days more, one of them—one who had been the most vocal about his calling to the house—disappeared. He wouldn’t return my calls or text messages and finally told the senior pastor he was leaving. He never spoke to anyone else. He never said goodbye to the people he served with. He just left without a trace, just a week after he vowed God had sent him there to serve.

When I write about topics like spiritual abuse, folks invariably email me with their horror stories and ask for advice on whether or not they should leave their church. Lee Grady recently penned a column, “When Is It Time to Leave a Church?” that offers some solid advice. But there’s another side to the church-leaving coin: what not to do when people leave your church.

Whether you are in leadership or just a member, it can be disheartening to see someone leave your local church. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle these situations. Here are five things not to do when people leave your church.

1. Don’t keep your leaders in the dark. This first one is for pastors. When someone leaves, especially someone who had a visible place in ministry, don’t keep the reason a secret from your presbytery. Failing to offer any explanation—or just giving a pat answer—for why someone with a position in the church left suddenly can hurt morale. There needs to be a level of honesty and transparency among your core leaders or distrust grows roots. It’s not necessary to tell the entire congregation, but your core leaders should pray together about the matter (Acts 15:6).

2. Don’t make assumptions. When people leave your church, it can lead to a lot of assumption and presumption among the congregation. These are dangerous waters. If leadership doesn’t offer an explanation about why a person with a visible position in the ministry left (some things are best kept private), you have two choices: You can ask the person yourself or you can let it go. But don’t sit with your friends and try to figure out why someone left. That typically leads to presumption, and the Bible doesn’t have much good to say about presumption. Remember what the Preacher said: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19).

3. Don’t spread rumors. I wrote more about this in my column, “Why Spread Rumors About People Who Leave Your Church?” Assumptions can lead to gossip and gossip fuels rumors. If someone comes to you with gossip and rumors, tell them you don’t want to hear it. Bring correction in love. Exodus 23:1 says, “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” Even if you know the rumor is true, you should direct your energy to prayer, not gossip. Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). One way to get someone to stop gossiping is to immediately suggest praying for the one who left. Usually, that ends the conversation.

4. Don’t paint them as the enemy. Some churches position exiting members as enemies. (Some actually curse them on their way out the door.) And some even make it clear that you are no longer allowed to associate with the one who left. This is not the love of God. We are all members of the kingdom of God. If someone leaves trying to drag other members out the door with them, it’s understandable why the leadership and the congregation would be cautious. That’s wisdom. But we still have to walk in love, and that includes our words. We are to bless and not curse (see Rom. 12:14).

5. Don’t burn bridges. When someone leaves your church, that doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship has to end. You never know what synergies remain between you or what the next season will bring. I’ve only attended a handful of churches in my Christian lifetime, and I still have good relations with all of them, save the one where spiritual abuse reigns. And I am praying for them all the more. Remember, it’s about the kingdom.

Sometimes, it’s better that people leave your church. Remember, before the incident where the sold-out ministry leader left, the Holy Spirit showed me not all would make it. He also showed me some people in the congregation needed to leave. People who flow in wrong spirits and won’t repent, people who are practicing sin and won’t give it up, people who consistently breed strife and division … these are like weeds in your church plant. If they won’t repent, it’s usually better that they leave because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Jezebel rips churches apart. Sin can spread like wildfire. But you still shouldn’t make assumptions, spread rumors about them, paint them as an enemy or burn bridges when they do leave. I assure you that you can walk in wisdom and walk in love at the same time. Amen.

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including Did the Spirit of God Say That? You can email Jennifer at   jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Why Becoming Like God Requires Special Effort

Why Becoming Like God Requires Special Effort

Read Time: 2 Minutes 7 Seconds We can walk with God and come into unity with Him by clothing ourselves in His nature. This will require that we restrict and control the desires of the flesh by putting our focus on obtaining the very substance and characteristics of...

Jonathan Cahn: How the Great Seduction Overwhelmed America

Jonathan Cahn: How the Great Seduction Overwhelmed America

Read Time: 7 Minutes, 16 Seconds Is it possible that ancient entities known as "the gods" have returned to our world? If so, who are these gods? And could they be the hidden agents transforming modern culture? Is it possible that in the mythologies of the ancient...

3 Reasons for Hope This Advent Season

3 Reasons for Hope This Advent Season

Read Time: 3 Minutes 6 Seconds I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent. When I was little, we put up a tree, got presents and had a Christmas Eve service. It seemed to me that most grown-ups were stressed over Christmas and thankful when it was all over. It wasn’t until...

How To Be Hilariously Happy in Your Giving

How To Be Hilariously Happy in Your Giving

Read Time: 4 Minutes 17 Seconds The day after Thanksgiving is culturally called Black Friday, in the U.S. It marks the beginning of retail sales that could ensure a successful and profitable Christmas-gift-buying season. Black Friday In decades past, book-keepers...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am About to Redeem the Times’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am About to Redeem the Times’

Read Time: 3 Minutes 39 Seconds In corporate prayer the other day, I was in place of deep prayer and intercession when I heard in my spirit, "Redeem the times." As I continued to pray, I just kept hearing "Redeem the times" echo in my spirit. Then the Lord said, "I am...

Kingdom Economics: How Godly Traditions Convey Kingdom Truths

Kingdom Economics: How Godly Traditions Convey Kingdom Truths

Read Time: 3 Minutes 53 Seconds WalletHub estimates 97% of Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and were expected to spend $835 million on Thanksgiving turkeys for last week’s holiday. More than 50 million people were expected to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on...

The Hidden Antisemitism of Misappropriation of Scripture

The Hidden Antisemitism of Misappropriation of Scripture

Read Time: 4 Minutes 49 Seconds I know that what I am writing in my blog today will cause some people discomfort. Others will become angry and still others will choose to stop reading my blogs and articles. Yet, knowing that there is a danger of the above happening,...

RECENT ARTICLES

Charisma Highlights: Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven?

Following are snippets of the top stories posted on charismamag.com over the past week. We encourage you to visit the links to read the stories in full. Is Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Heaven? Is...
10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

10 Ways to Practice Gratitude With Your family This Thanksgiving

This month we are entering a season which, in the United States, has been devoted to gratitude and thanksgiving for 400 years! While the Thanksgiving holiday has had a long and varied history within the United States, the practice of devoting sacrificial offerings,...

The Power of Being Thankful

The Power of Being Thankful

One of the best ways to show God we love Him is to be thankful. When we express our deep gratitude to Him, it actually invites His presence onto our lives. Being thankful also neutralizes the enemy and brings victory into our situations no matter what the outcome....

Get Off Your Pew!

Get Off Your Pew!

As God’s clock inches closer to the final hour before His return, many people find themselves filled with angst, anxiety and despair. People are not sleeping well, many have fallen into depression and are feeling hopeless. These are the very days that we have been...

Pin It on Pinterest