Reflections on God, life and people starting in my hometown of Liberty, Ohio going into whatever the future brings.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Gracefully Leaving My Church
I woke up recently just after reading a letter from church leadership to realize that the time has probably come to leave my current church. Prayer seemed to reaffirm my thoughts. Much good happened in the church over the last 15 years to me, my family and others. God is good.
Part of me realized that I was out of alignment with something. Was it me or the people in the church or God or some combination of those three that left me feeling uncomfortable remaining in my home church?
First: I'm flawed and could have done better in my service and growth. Second, is God pushing me out or pushing my guilt button? (I better watch out implying I know exactly what God may be doing). Thirdly, the people in this church seem to be "normal", basic suburbanites, representing the merger of two churches. I confess to feeling annoyed a few times in committee work here over many years and impatient with some processes. This could be a manifestation of my misalignment with what I perceive to be God's purpose for me in church life and spiritual skills.
How do I leave if that is what I perceive to be God's will? How do I pray to discern his will? What scripture gives direction?
I've read up on United Methodist doctrine and beliefs. I appreciate the Methodist use of scripture, tradition, experience and reason to make decisions. I sent out a couple emails: to one of the pastors and to my music and choir friends about my search for a new church home.
My wife and I attended the closest Methodist church to our home on Palm Sunday to further our search. It was a satisfying experience. It'll take a while to focus in on what we're supposed to do and where.
The internet has a lot of blog posts about leaving a church, most of which refer to pastors leaving a church. Here are excerpts from one of them:
From Pastor Eric Partin in Tips for Leaving Your Church Gracefully: " if you are going to leave your church, let me give you some steps to help you:
Make an appointment to talk with one of the pastors of the church you are leaving. If that is not possible, a phone call, e-mail, or letter will do. It is not as scary as you think. They are not going to be mad at you. I know all the pastors in this area — they are big boys and can handle it. Do you know what hurts more? Having a friend depart and not tell you.
I would talk about the way God had changed my life through the ministry of that church. I would talk about how some of my family members met Christ there, were baptized, went on missions trips, and more. I would talk about how my own thoughts and beliefs were formed through my years at the church. I would talk about how I am more like Christ because of my time there. I would tell stories of specific retreats or camps or services where my life (or those of my family) was changed because of the church and its leaders.
I would not gripe or complain. I would not talk about the stuff I don’t like or decisions with which I disagree.
I would say, “My wife and I have decided to attend and serve in a different church for this next season of our spiritual growth.”
I would assure the pastor that he/she will never hear us talk badly about this church. I would encourage the pastor to feel free to share this with anyone who questions why we left."