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Church Leaders Have a Responsibility to Those Who Leave the Church

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

Members are walking out the doors of the church.

Members are walking out the doors of the church.

Article in 'Christianity Today'

Michelle Van Loon wrote an article that was in "Christianity Today" on Saturday, February 3, 2018. Van Loon is the author of four books and has an upcoming book, "Born To Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity" that will be released in the summer of 2018.

In her article, she contends that every leader and member of the church should offer support to those who leave their local assembly. She gives six ways that those who are left behind can be more supportive to those who leave.

The fallacy of this concept is that if the person wasn't supported while he was a member of the church, chances are he will not be supported after he leaves.

Reasons People Leave the Church

People don't always leave the church for negative reasons. Sometimes God has a different vineyard for him to work. Van Loon says the reasons someone leaves the church might have something to do with dishonored leaders, toxic politics, institutionalized racism, sexual abuse, or spiritual abuse. Some people leave the church because they get tired of being wounded and beat up every Sunday.

For every person who leaves the church, there are three more with one foot out the door. Therefore, when one person leaves, the top officials should find out why so they can fix whatever is wrong in their midst. The sad thing that is the church fail to live by the example Jesus gave in Matthew 18:12 that says,"If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?"

One pastor said adamantly that it was not his responsibility to inquire when people leave his church in droves. He said he was called to preach only to the ones who come through the doors of his church on Sunday mornings. Needless to say, God is going to have a special meeting with him about that one day.

When someone departs from a congregation, the responses from those “left behind” range from criticisms, gossip, shame, shunning, or silence. There should be a positive response and a blessing bestowed on those who leave.

What the church does when one leaves proves what the church is really all about. It practices love and truth within its own walls, but not out in the world like Jesus did. That is where it really matters.

The leaders say to the ones who leave that as long as you are here adding to our numbers and helping to increase our budget, then you are welcomed. However, unless you are under our roof, then you are dead to us.

Something Is Wrong

Something is wrong with the church if it feels nothing when a member leaves. The Bible tells us that we are a part of one another, a body connected with Christ as the head. According to 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, the body is made up of many parts, and when one part is missing, the other parts of the body should be impacted by it.

People who have lost a limb have reported that they feel as if it is still there. Even though they eventually adjust, their body is not complete without the missing part. That's the way the church should be as the body of Christ.

Six Supportive Measures

According to the article, Van Loon gives six supportive measures that should be taken to help those who leave the local assembly. The headings are the same ones Van Loon used. However, the commentary is a mixture of hers and this writer.

1. Name the Losses

Those left behind should recognize the loss when someone leaves the church. Many times leaders ignore the departure. At other times, they put a lot of blame on the person who left. They conclude that there must be something wrong with the person because there is definitely nothing wrong with the church and the person who are still there.

If the church is doing what Paul says, the body should hurt when someone leaves. There should be a void within the body.

2. Look in the Mirror

The church should look in the mirror and see if something is wrong with its values, mission, and goals. The church should reflect on possible solutions so that others will not leave for the same reasons.

It should not be overlooked if one sheep leaves the fold, and it definitely should not be taken for granted if a lot bunch of sheep leave. The church is not living up to what it should be doing if people's exits are overlooked.

3. Communicate Your Unconditional Love

Church leaders and the congregation have a responsibility to communicate with someone who has left their church. This is not to convince them to return, but the response should be based on unconditional love, the same love that was extended to the person when he was there.

How can the left behind have professed love and admiration for someone while in their midst, but once the person leaves, so does the love? Those left behind should love the person even to the point of helping him adjust to the transition by finding a new church home.

4. Wear Sackcloth and Ashes

When someone leaves the church, he is not a loser, and those who stay are not winners. After all, some of the ones left behind could leave themselves one day soon.

Those left behind should learn from those who leave and offer love and respect toward them. They should not be ostracized because they are leaving one particular congregation. They are still in the family of God. Those who stay should grieve through the transition along with the one who left.

5. Listen First, Then Speak

It is advisable to refrain from trying to convince someone to return to the church. After all, it was God who told them to leave. To stay in a church after God has given the mandate for a person to leave would be disobedience.

People may mean well when they rush in to try to fix a leaver’s hurt, but they should refrain from giving them a long list of why they should stay. Listen if the person wants to talk, but refrain from speaking your mind because you really don't know how God is dealing with the person's faith and his journey to the cross.

6. When Appropriate, Ask Hard Questions

Ask hard questions only when appropriate. Respect their answers no matter what they are.

When someone is standing at the exit door, he should never be put down for his decision because it probably was a hard choice to make even if the mandate came from God.

Church leaders are not finding out while people are leaving the church.

Church leaders are not finding out while people are leaving the church.

Comments

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 05, 2018:

Tim, you make some very good points. Thanks!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 05, 2018:

Reverend, the future is the kids - We must lead by example. I work with under served and under achieving kids daily. (Working in verses and thoughts on Jesus when appropriate with the consent and participation of parents through a private Christian nonprofit.).)

These children are learning how to be respectful, care about their communities, and act in love by being around appropriate mentors who show them. (Role modeling is a powerful tool.)

I'm glad I know my friend, Savior, Counselor, and Lord Jesus Christ now because even if churches are failing in many ways today, perhaps, these children can help repair the damage in the long-run.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 04, 2018:

Eastward, thanks for sharing your story. Perhaps it will help someone else who is feeling the same way.

Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on February 04, 2018:

Thanks so much for your positive feedback and your testimony. I was encouraged by reading it. Hopefully, my readers will see it and be edified as well. Shalom!

Eastward from Bangkok, Thailand on February 04, 2018:

One major reason for me leaving the church was watching how the funding was used irresponsibly used. In far too many cases, it was used for grandstanding rather than to help the community. I couldn't stomach trying to fit the principles that people were claiming to believe in with the blatant lack of prioritization. I'm sure there are much more attuned communities out there and I give them credit.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 04, 2018:

As I read your article, I couldn't help but remember the churches I walked away from. Eventually, I found another religion. I didn't know it then, but that was what God needed me to do. In that faith, I learned more about Christianity than I did from any church since my grandmother was alive.

In any case, overtime, I met a young man who befriended me. He said he was a Christian (shivers down my spine at first.)

But he listened to me tell him about my new faith. We prayed, he didn't judge, we went to ball games, ate dinner, hung out. I found myself at his church. Meanwhile, another Christian was befriending me at a barbershop, a pastor. Again, these men took time to develop "friendships" with me.

Before long, I was working with congregations and finding myself preaching.

My point is: most churches don't want to take the time to invest in friendships, all of the disciples were "friends," Jesus calls us, "friends." But the church forgets this important aspect of the Christian life.

When you get so high that you can't see the lowest man, the potentially lost soul, then you can't walk among the sick and downtrodden with My Lord. You become afraid to get filthy, and My Jesus will remind these people of that when he tells them, "I don't know you." They will be spat out because their faith was lukewarm, based on collections taken up at the end of service.

I don't think Jesus spent much time among the wealthy. He went to the weakest and sick first.

Thank you for being an informative Christian "friend," my sister.