Monday, September 13, 2010

Leaving Gracefully

Over the past couple years, I have witnessed several committed people in the church leave the congregation where they were serving (both paid, full-time ministers and church members/volunteers). Some of these departures have been personal choices, made by the people leaving (job switches, ministry moves, etc.). Sometimes the choices are made for them (fired by church, family emergency move, etc.). Sometimes people have chosen to leave for reasons and situations happening inside the church.

Switching churches is a decision that carries with it an incredible impact for you, your family, and the families that surround you. In the midst of such an important choice, I ask you to consider keeping one attitude central in all things you do. Christ's attitude is the one we are called to follow (
Philippians 2:5). He has called us to have an attitude of love. In fact, that's how our personal witness to the world is supposed to be established.

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:34-35

Reputation...who will people both inside the church and outside the church think about when your name surfaces? Will they think about Christ or not? I'm not asking whether you left a fair situation...if you agreed with leadership...if you were making a point...or if you were treated correctly. I am asking what your reputation as a Christian looks like?

Do people remember Christ when they remember you? Do you love the Kingdom of God enough to do everything you can to promote Christ's cause with your speech and your actions, whether online, in a public setting, or in private meetings? How will leaving the church you are currently at impact the Kingdom? What can you do to represent Christ and develop His reputation of love among the congregation you are with...the one you just left...the one you are heading towards?

The instructions we can find in the Lord's prayer are powerful and convicting:

9"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,10your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Matthew 6:9-10

When leaving a congregation for any reason, whether by your own choosing or not, who's kingdom will you consider first? Notice ___________ (insert your name in that blank) is left out of the beginning of the Lord's prayer. That's because it's His will that's His name that is to be set's His Kingdom that is to be considered first in all things.

If you are choosing to leave, is it to further the Kingdom of God? If you are asked to leave, will you choose to uphold the Kingdom of God no matter what people say or do? I'm convinced that words and actions based in self-focused anger (the usual emotion that gets us focused away from God's will) can NOT be the foundation for any type of positive Kingdom work.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:30-31

Remember that Christ died for the church. The people that make up the church can sometimes make really bad decisions that cause us to be angry. However, when we give in to our anger and lash back, it is the Kingdom of God that suffers most. God loves the church...He died for it. We need to love it no matter what...imperfections and all.

Paul understood this when he wrote to the church in Corinth:

1"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Paul makes the simple point that nothing we say or do matters if we fail to love...period. Sometimes we get mistreated by the people that make up the church. However, if we check our love at the door to make a point, we fail to represent Christ and become no better than the people that have mistreated us.

"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
1 Peter 4:10

God's grace is an unbelievable gift given to us...HIS CHURCH. It's time to be thankful enough for the grace you have received from Christ to show it to others.

Sometimes that might mean leaving a congregation to move on to a new one in order to further Christ's Kingdom. When you leave, show thankfulness, love, and grace to the congregation you have had the honor to serve.

Sometimes you might be asked to leave a congregation. When you leave, show thankfulness, love, and grace to the congregation you have had the honor to serve.

Like Paul wrote, "Love never fails." Never stop showing love towards each other, the church that Christ gave His life for. Put His Kingdom first by deciding to unconditionally show patience, kindness, forgiveness, protection, trust, hope, and perseverance towards those who surround you. Trust in God and bring honor to Him. Stay strong.


P.S. “A person is remembered for his entrances and exits.” - Shakespeare