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Thoughts on a Local Church
The tension is rising is my house!

Not among my daughters, but in me. I've got baking to do, and knitting to finish, and a bit of shopping to do. I've got to plan a cooking schedule for Christmas Day. But, all in all, I'm rather excited by it!

I think I'll take a break from blogging for a few days after Wifey Wednesday tomorrow, but before I do, I have another subject for discussion, because I'd honestly like people's thoughts on it (and I know those thoughts will not always agree! That's okay!).

First, a bit of background. I don't really have a place to call "home" except for where I live now. As a child, we moved every few years. My mother, as a child, moved frequently, too, so she didn't have a place to call home, either. Belleville, where I live now, has been my home for 11 years, the longest of anywhere I've ever lived. So this is my home.

My husband, on the other hand, always felt that "home" was in the Maritimes, where he grew up until he was 10 and where my in-law's huge families still lived. Every holiday they'd take the 14 hour drive to New Brunswick and spend it "down home".

My children also have a sense of home, because this is the only place they remember living.

Because of my background, perhaps, I have less of a sense of loyalty to any particular town or organization than many, because I have never had a home. I have made a home out of wherever I happened to be, and never felt that it had to be a lifetime commitment. And I have translated that feeling into churches.

When we moved here, we tried about a dozen churches before we settled on one. It was a good fit, and we attended for nine years. But after that a whole bunch of things started happening, including problems with how my then 12-year-old daughter was fitting in to the youth group, and we decided it was time to make the switch. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done because I felt that the church was my home--really the only one I had ever had.

But I wasn't growing there. I had been seriously hurt there, as had my husband, when he served in leadership. So there we were, in a church where Keith felt it difficult to serve, where I had been hurt, and where Rebecca felt that isolated in the youth group.

We made a switch. We still love many people from my former church, and still consider them family (I'm frantically knitting a baby sweater right now for one of them). I love the pastor and his wife at that church. But in the end, what a blessing the move was. Even though it was wrenching, God was in it. My girls were both baptized within a year of going to our new church. The moment they stepped into the door other youth embraced them, and within three weeks they weren't sitting with us anymore. They were sitting with the youth. I've been helping with one of the youth programs, and I just love it. My kids are thriving. Keith ALMOST became an elder this year (he turned it down because his work schedule is so intense right now, but I never thought I'd see the day when he would willingly agree to serve in church leadership again.)

So here's my question: When do you think it's okay to leave a local fellowship? And what do you do if your family doesn't agree?

For instance, I think that it's okay to leave if you aren't being fed, you are being discouraged from using gifts, and your kids are suffering. I don't think it's okay to leave if you're simply in conflict with people, because I think it's biblical to work through conflict. I also don't agree with people who switch churches every two years, because then what you do is create a situation where you have no close relationships with other Christians and thus no accountability, which is, after all, the main purpose of a local church.

I don't, however, see a biblical injunction that once we attend a certain church, we have to be there for the rest of our lives. However, some at my former church feel that way--that somehow you are betraying God if you leave. I believe the biblical injunction is that we be part of a fellowship of accountability where there is teaching and where you contribute. We aren't to be lone rangers. But that's not the same thing as saying that one is "married" to a particular church building or particular church members.

But here's another problem: what do you do if you just can't worship in a church anymore, and you want to leave, but your husband doesn't? Or maybe your kids don't? But you just feel like you can't worship there anymore? I know it's important to worship together, but what if you've given it an honest effort, and the church is smothering you (which does happen). Then what?

So what are your thoughts? When do you leave? Or do you leave? And what if your spouse or your kids don't agree? Let me know!

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20 Comments:

At 8:58 AM , Anonymous Melinda said…

It's really hard to leave a church when you are knit in and part of the family.

We had to a few years ago. We both realized that, although we had pray-fully tried to effect change, things had stayed the same. If we couldn't accept things as they were and couldn't change them, then it was time to move on.

The ripping apart left a lot of pain, but the new fellowship is so rich and so sweet.

 

At 9:14 AM , Blogger Courtney said…

Hubby and I grew up in church, so it was without question that we would find a church home in Florida when we got here. We visited around and settled on a church where we felt welcome. We felt there were opportunities to get involved in small groups and help with the youth group [our passion in the ministry]. We never officially joined because of conflicting schedules with their new member classes and husbands job. I was only 4 months pregnant when we started and we attended every time the doors were open.

Husband was in a small group, I was in a small group, we working with the youth on Wednesdays, and hubby played on the softball team. We knew people and people knew us. When I went into labor, we called & emailed all of our closest friends at the church so they could spread the word of exciting news.

It was over a MONTH before anyone from our church called, emailed, visiting, or attempted to make any kind of contact with us. It was a hurt deeper than any I had ever felt before from a church. This was supposed to be our home. Our family away from family. And they didn't even acknowledge one of the happiest days in our lives.

After that, we just couldn't stomach going back. We tried to make amends with people, but the damage was done. We talked to the pastor and it just wasn't something we felt comfortable going back to. We felt like everyone now felt "sorry" for us because of the way they had acted. We have now joined another church that we are both growing and thriving in. We have built strong friendships and couldn't be happier.

Sorry to have rambled on, but I definitely believe there are times when it just isn't worth staying in a church where you are being hurt. God has a place for all of us, we just have to trust him to put us there. Great post! [as usual!] :)

 

At 9:26 AM , OpenID storygal said…

We left a church nine years ago and found another one in which I've become quite active.
Two days ago, our youngest daughter and I talked about the troubles we had at the time, how she had been disappointed by the organization of church. It really came down to the church had let us down when we both really needed it. We had asked for the church to consider moving toward a scent-free church, since we both had sensitivity to fragrance that was causing serious health issues.
Even after a presentation to council and repeated attempts to teach folks about the problem, which we knew others shared. It didn't work and tensions increased.
My husband had been on a committee and when that happened; he handed in his keys and was as frustrated as I was.
That was all happening at the time our youngest was preparing for confirmation. We left the church that summer, after she was confirmed, and found another church, one more accommodating, not that it's perfect, since we are all imperfect beings, but it's a healthier place to be.
Best of all, my daughter is planning to come to Christmas Eve service again after a prolonged absence.

 

At 9:55 AM , Anonymous Greg said…

As a pastor in a new church I think about this often! I helped start a new church 6 years ago so it's not so much of an issue for us now, but I especially saw it in a previous church.

I can't really say "when" someone should leave a church, but I know there are times, such as when the leadership takes the body in a direction that the person can't support. (This is happening in some Anglican churches now.) Or perhaps when there's no place to utilize your giftedness in the church.

Many times, however, I think people who change churches are just bored and looking for something different. I've heard people say "God led me to move to ______ Church" as if they are the only ones to whom God speaks! Or they are trying to justify their going to the other church, which happens to have more activities, "better" worship, etc., by "blaming" it on God! I've known pastors who have done the same thing because of a bigger and better church/opportunity, so this is not just a one-sided issue.

I'm concerned about your comment that it's OK to leave when you're "not being fed." To me that's a consumer mindset--what can/will the church do for me? (Rather what can I do for the church?) Too many followers of Christ feel like the pastor should give them all of the knowledge/wisdom/application/etc. they need for the week or the worship leader should give them all of the worship/connection with God they need for the week. But we need to learn to eat "on our own" without anyone having to feed us! And we need to learn to worship on our own--even without the use of "worship songs/hymns"--otherwise we've compartmentalized "church" as just something we do at a certain time during the week. I know this is a touchy subject, but in our church we've chosen to focus on Sunday morning teaching, etc. toward the de-churched. That means we don't go as "deep" as many longtime Christians would like. Why not? Because the de-churched who are coming back are often spiritual babies who, like physical babies, need help feeding themselves. And if we insist on "going deep" each Sunday it's like serving everyone steak without regard to the fact that babies can't handle it! In addition, too many Christians want "deep" preaching/teaching even so they can have more knowledge, even though they aren't applying the biblical knowledge they've already received. (For more on this consider the wise builder who built on rock rather than sand; faith without works.)

One thing I always struggle with in this discussion is the biblical analogy of the church as a body. Perhaps we would do well to consider what our leaving does to the body before we think about how it will benefit us. Thus if the "hand" decides it wants/needs to be part of another body what does that do to the previous body? And what does it do for us as the "transplant"? Too many times I've seen Christians who join a new church (in the same town) and in a while start lobbying for what they had in the previous church--same type of youth activities, same style of worship, same service projects, etc. That goes back to the focus on me/my needs/my wants--the consumer mindset. And it does nothing to advance God's kingdom.

 

At 10:14 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Greg--

Great points! I hope you come back and answer some questions I have, because I'd like to keep this discussion going.

First, what you said about leaving becuase you're not being fed is probably true. Mostly true? I hear you, I really do. I'm not in favour of consumer shopping for churches, either, and if there's something we need, we should be part of the solution, not just complain about it. Absolutely.

But there does come a point, I think, when you are just stagnating at a church. It could be that the preaching isn't that great, but it could also be that the congregation as a whole isn't as in to Bible study as you are (I'm not saying that's the case with my former church; I'm just putting it out there).

In my last church, I did lead Bible studies, because I've always felt a good way to "be fed" is to have to prepare something to share! But I think there can be a point where a church is too superficial and you just can't grow.

I don't think worship should be all about type of music, either. When I speak at different churches, I've encountered the whole gamut of musical styles, and I can still worship there. But I do think it can be important for kids, at least, and that's often where I struggle.

Courtney--I've been there! I know how you feel! I'm not sure why some churches develop that kind of culture, where they seem to devour those who serve, and reach out to those who don't. That's quite common, though, and I can understand your hurt!

I'd love to know Greg's take on your particular story, if he's still here in the comments.

And I think storygal's story is symptomatic of something else: sometimes, when we experience problems with church leadership, it really does affect the kids. And it's their spiritual health I'm really worried about!

I'm glad your daughter's coming to church this Christmas; I'll pray that God really touches her!

 

At 10:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Very good question...

We were part of a church for nearly a decade. The last 3 years we were there we became more and more aware that we needed to leave. It was such a difficult decision because we LOVED the people there and didn't want to hurt anyone. BUT. We felt like we were not thriving, actually we felt lifeless. We had some pretty big opposing views not necessarily with the Pastor but with many others that had leadership.

...to be continued...

 

At 10:23 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

continued...
...

We did end up leaving. We took a break from Church to spend time alone with God in the safety of our own home. We were pretty broken, disappointed and oh so feeling "dead". After a time we visited local Churches. Our second Church that we visited blessed our hearts. We got to know EACH other the leaders and asked the Pastor many questions. We found kindred spirits. AND our kid's fit in quickly and LOVE IT SO MUCH (such a blessing)! We thank God all the time that we had the guts to leave. Some have judged us unfairly. Some have believed things that are simply not true.

In the end it has all been worth it and we are thrilled to be in a Church were the whole family is thriving. Full of life and spilling over!!!! :)

 

At 10:26 AM , Blogger LAURA said…

When we first got married we had found a church that we loved. It was a 40 minute drive but it was worth it. We were able to serve and be a part of things. Then we had kids. It got harder to get there. We still loved the church and the teaching but because of the long drive anything we did with the church took up sooo much time. It became stressful. I was finding that I was always in a bad mood when we got home because 40 minutes in a car with a screaming baby can really try ones patience! We found that we were getting to church less and less. It was becoming a chore. The distance was the problem. And it was hard to develop meaningful friendships because anytime I met someone they lived an hour or more away.

My husband still wanted to go to that church. We were having troubles at the time I knew that something needed to change and part of that change was going to be getting to a church that we could really become a part of... one where distance wasn't an issue. I started going to the church that was a mile and a half down the road. It's a great church that teaches the Word. The children's and youth programs are great. They have small groups and a gazillion ways to connect. And they have a million ways to serve and use your gifts.

My husband didn't like the idea of changing churches because we really did still love our church and pastor. But being active members of that church would consume all of our family time. It was a slow transition for us. I really pushed my husband to just simply pray about it and think it through and do what is best for the family. I told him that once he did that and was certain that he heard from God then I would go wherever he decided. Until then I kept going to the new church. After praying he started coming along with me.

It wasn't an easy issue for us at all and it took a few months for my husband to really let go of the other church. But today... just over a year later, we are in the process of membership, we will finally be publicly dedicating our almost two year old and we are both serving regularly. We feel that we have found our place and are being used by God. We have found small groups to be a part of and have built some great friendships.

The church switch was so good for our marriage. We eliminated some stress from our life and we were connecting with an amazing Christian community and finding support and marriage workshops. It was a turning point for us.

Anyways, that's our story. I don't know if I really answered any of your questions. I guess what it came down to is that the husband is to be the spiritual leader in the home but at the time he wasn't leading so I had to do what I needed to take care of myself spiritually in the mean time.

 

At 10:29 AM , Blogger Shaun and Holly said…

I love what Melinda said:

"The ripping apart left a lot of pain, but the new fellowship is so rich and so sweet."

Amen and Amen. We had this experience and are so thankful to be in a Church that is "home" for our whole family!

 

At 11:56 AM , Anonymous Greg said…

I'm sure there is stagnation for some in churches. And sometimes it's the church leadership that's at fault. The church of Laodicea (Revelation 3) is a reminder that it's easy to become stagnant (whether because of an inward focus, desire for comfort, lack of challenge, etc.). Many churches have been like this for years and it would take a miracle to revive them. That's why it's so important to continue planting new churches! And that's where many stagnant (or even restless) Christians can be involved. There are so many new church starts throughout North America that need Christians who can help them grow and develop into thriving, life-giving churches. This helps not only for the stagnant believers but especially those who don't know Christ yet. But this takes risk, work, sacrifice, etc. And many Christians (including pastors) would rather go to an existing church where growth is easy rather than one where it will require a lot of work.

I've been a part of 2 new churches in the past 12 years--only 1 as a pastor. We left an existing church to go to a brand new church in the same town to help start a youth ministry there. We had 3 children, ages 11, 7, and 2 when went to the new church. We met in a YMCA for 3 years and my children discovered realities of church (such as those mentioned above--risk, work, sacrifice, etc.) that they never would have known if we had stayed in our previous church.

I'm not suggesting that all Christians need to leave their current church to help start a new one. But often we (as Christians) not only want to "have our cake/eat it too," in a sense we want someone to buy the ingredients, make it for us, and then feed it to us!

As to Courtney's comments, I understand the hurt other Christians can inflict (often simply by ignoring the needs of others). I (and my family) have experienced similar hurts. There's no excuse for people in the church (especially close friends) not even contacting them, especially at such a joyful time! Why do Christians do such things? I expect the reasons are varied, but often it's selfishness--the "I've got enough to worry about with me and my family" mindset. At times the church itself contributes to this (when leadership schedules or allow more and more activities every week and we promote/expect people to be involved in all of them!).

Should a person always leave a church when a hurt like that has occurred? Perhaps. But what if we consider a similar situation in a marriage--one spouse neglects or hurts the other. Is there value in working through the hurt and staying married? Yes! And that often brings great potential for growth in the marriage (for both partners). Obviously many times, even with counseling, etc. the couple can't work through the hurt and they divorce. But I've known couples that wouldn't even work through the issues--one spouse had been emotionally neglected for a while and he/she finally gave up; wouldn't consider counseling, sometimes because they were "sure" the other person was never going to change or other times it was just the "I don't deserve this" attitude.

I'm not suggesting that our relationship to a church is like a marriage relationship, but simply that too many times we look for the easy solution. As one marriage counselor used to say, "Too many couples take the last-ditch solution for the first-ditch problem they encounter."

I've seen where church members who had been hurt worked through a biblical process that brought reconciliation. In some cases the person who had experienced the hurt had to swallow their pride and go back to a class, small group, etc. that included the offending person who was genuinely remorseful. Thus the church had the opportunity to grow from that experience.

 

At 12:13 PM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Storygal, I am allergic to fragrances to, but I think it is the height of rudeness to ask an entire church to go scent free just for one or two people. And, even if they did, would you pitch a fit and threaten to leave if a visitor came wearing fragrance? Those of us that have the health issues are the ones that have to adjust, and I don't think it's right to expect others to adjust their standards of living for us. The fragrance thing is, in my opinion, an extremely pathetic and very selfish reason for leaving a church.

I mean, there are people wanting to leave churches for REAL issues, instead of looking for an issue they can make up because the majority rightly won't cater to their individual wants.

We have been hurt pretty bad a couple of times in our church, but we have to stop and consider did they really mean it or were they being human? Even when a hurt is aimed at us on purpose and directly, often it has been because the person involved for some reason thinks they are doing the right thing. Maybe that person is struggling with their walk with the Lord, or just with everyday stuff, and is having a bad time. We don't know. So we have to think "is this an issue we can just forgive and get over and fellowship here?" For really big stuff, maybe you can forgive but you can't stay and fellowship with the people, and it is ok when that happens, so long as we aren't using petty disagreements and calling them major.

Sheila, I think it is important as wives to be on board with our husbands about where to attend church. However, with the kids, I think it is ok to ask their opinion and why they think that way, but, ultimately, the choice is not up to them, and if the parents decide to leave and the kids don't like it then tough. And they better learn to adjust their attitude about it, too. A lot of kids do not really know what is good for them.

We have a few non negotiables when choosing a church. Our church does meet those. There are several things our church does that we disagree with and wish they wouldn't, but it's not one of the major non-negotiables, so that means we stay. We don't agree with the church having nursery or children's church, and it does, but it isn't a non-negotiable even though we disagree. We just don't let our children participate in those things.

 

At 12:34 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Hi everybody!

Couple of things:

First, Mrs. W., I understand what you're saying about the fragrance issue, but I'd just ask you to be careful how you word things. I think that can sound a little harsh to storygal, and a little judgmental.

I'm not really familiar with all the issues with fragrance allergies, but if, as storygal suggested, you actually can't be in a building with people wearing fragrances for health reasons, then perhaps a church should accomodate that? I'm not sure that's unreasonable. Our church is fragrance-free, even though I don't know of anyone in particular with that problem, just because enough people do have the problem that it's better to be safe than sorry! We're also nut free for the same reason.

Greg, good to see you back. I think you're right with the marriage analogy, although, as you admitted, it isn't perfect because we're not committed to a local body in the same way as we are to a spouse.

But perhaps what we need is more of a framework for "what to do before you leave".

Before we left our church, for instance, we sat down with the leadership and tried to work things out, repeatedly, over a period of about five years. We didn't just march out the door one day. And we did meet with the elders and talk to our pastor before we did leave.

In Courtney's case, I'm not sure the same level of conversation is warranted since she had only been attending for five months, even though she was quite involved.

If you've been somewhere for a period of time, and that is where you identify yourself with, then I don't think "up and leaving" is right without some meetings and compromise. Church may not be a marriage vow, but there does need to be some degree of commitment.

At the same time, if such effort has happened over a period of time (however long that may be), and if attempts at reconciliation have been made, and things still aren't going anywhere, then I think there is freedom to leave, providing you still have some degree of accountability with other Christians.

But I do think some sort of effort at resolving differences need to be made. Great point, and I hope that we can all do so in a spirit of humility and love, as in Matthew 25.

 

At 1:28 PM , Blogger Courtney said…

What a great discussion! So many good points have been made.

 

At 2:03 PM , Blogger Casandra said…

IMHO the decision to leave a church is a highly personal one. I do not believe there is an answer that is right for everyone. Too often Christians try to force everyone into their own "mold" of what they believe is acceptable when it comes to worship.

Church is not just about Christian fellowship, but also includes worshiping God. If you go into a church more worried about the issues that bother you, then you are much less likely to focus on worshiping God. Can some of this problem be yours? Absolutely! Unfortunately, there are not always solutions to those problems that do not include a change of venue. No one should feel forced to attend a particular congregation just because they grew up there or it happens to be the one they have attended for x amount of years. Jesus resides in your heart, not in a building.

 

At 2:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Greg said:
I've heard people say "God led me to move to ______ Church" as if they are the only ones to whom God speaks! Or they are trying to justify their going to the other church, which happens to have more activities, "better" worship, etc., by "blaming" it on God!



Be careful about casting the broad net of judgment, you may catch more than you intended.

Not everyone who says that they feel God has led them to something is using that statement as a way of blaming God for anything, nor does it mean they think God only talks to them.

 

At 7:47 PM , Blogger Jules said…

We've attended a number of churches during our almost twenty-six years of married life. The first time we left a church was because there was sin in the church that was not being dealt with (the pastor's wife was having an affair with a deacon). There's a lot more to the story but we felt that we had no choice but to leave. We had been there since before we were married and it was hard to go. The next church we were only in for a short time - about two years - before we left. Week after week we would go and no one would talk to us. After two years of feeling lonely, isolated and as if we were never going to experience fellowship, we left. We'd been gone quite a while before anyone noticed! The third church we left when a move took us overseas. Our current church we've been in for almost 14 years. Both our church now and our last church have had their share of problems (as all churches do) but they are related more to personality differences than anything else. A bit like siblings learning to live together in the same house. However if our kids weren't happy there or we were feeling that we were never being fed, then we might seriously look at going elsewhere. It's hard to leave a church that at one time had felt like home, and it's even harder when others feel that you should stay and "stick it out", but in the end you have to do what you believe God is speaking to you and what is best for you all as a family.

 

At 11:35 PM , Blogger Lylah Ledner said…

As the wife of a pastor - I can't help but jump up and down and clap wildly as I read Pastor Greg's comments.

Often, I threaten - kiddingly - to write a book: True Confessions of a Pastor's Wife & the Stupid Reasons Why People Leave Your Church.

The western mindset is so much about the consumeristic (is that a word?) and entitlement mentality - what can "you" (meaning the pastor/leadership) do for "me." What program do you have for me, for my kids, etc.?

It's interesting you mention the "2 year" mark. In my 14 years in this ministry role - I can watch a person (and it's mostly the woman) get itchy - and uncomfortable - (the relationship gets a little too close and upfront and her "stuff" starts getting revealed) and often she is the one who "leads" her husband out of the church and to the one down the street.

Again, I applaud Pastor Greg's comments and the courage to write a good post on an important subject like this.

Merry Merry Christmas . . . Lylah

 

At 1:13 AM , Blogger shale said…

Very interesting. I am in the position of wanting to leave our church for two reasons: one, distance, which means I'm about an hour away from all but one other woman in our church, and two (which stems from distance I think, as everyone in our church lives in a 25-30 min radius from the church so none of us spend much time there or in the surrounding neighborhoods), we haven't grown in the 17 years we've been there. We'll get a family here, lose a family there, but mostly we're still running like 23 people, and half are kids! It's discouraging. I feel I have little fellowship, no Christian friends who can be a mentor to me because I have ended up being the mentor to them somehow, and of course there is no teen ministry at all, and I have 2 teenage girls.

And yet...for all my reasons why I want to leave, I also shared my concerns w/ my husband and asked him to pray and that I would abide by his decision. He really believes we're to be there, so we stay. I cannot begin to understand why our church is so small after all these years. The truth is being preached (maybe that's the problem??!) and the Spirit of God definitely is at work in individuals' lives and in the words of the Pastor. I've seen my girls grow spiritually anyway, and God has been faithful to minister to me when I would have run to other women had I been able.

I want to burn white hot passionately for my local church, but honestly if I never darkened the door of that particular church I'd be ok. That seems wrong. I would think if I was supposed to be there I'd feel it. Sometimes I might catch a glimpse when I'm able to mentor one of the other women in a particular area. I care about them, but it's hard to develop strong relationships with them because of distance, so I'm not emotionally cemented there.

Until God moves us or changes my heart, I am choosing to believe that he has a plan and doesn't need my emotional agreement, choosing to serve where he has placed me until he moves me, and choosing to have a good attitude about it with faith and trust in His ultimate plan. If we are to leave, I believe he will make it clear to both my husband and myself with peace at the decision.

I do not feel like once we are in a church we have to stay there forever. I just don't believe that. But neither can we church hop for all the reasons you said, but I think also because God uses situations and people and disappointments to ... not to trip us up, but rather as fuel for the journey as our characters are built and we become who he intended us to be. If we leave too soon, we may miss out on what he has in store. I learned a long time ago that his time table does not always make sense by human standards, and neither do his methods. My husband and I joke that God is the most inefficient of managers. At stable. Really? How inefficient. And yet it was the most perfect plan ever. And like it or not, agree with it or not, I absolutely must be in the center of His will for my life.

 

At 8:00 AM , Blogger foxxy said…

Well I am a couple days late reading this post but i wanted to comment because switching churches is something my husband and I had to do a couple of years ago. We live in a really small town and the local church we attended only had about 6 faithful families ourselves included. What you should understand is that most of these people have been going there forever. Only our family and another older couple were "new". When the church is so small as in our case there is a HUGE burden to carry financially speaking. 6 families keeping the church doors open paying the preachers salary, paying utilities, insurance, van payments, etc. So although we were not completely happy there we did feel an enourmous amount of guilt leaving because we were needed. If we left then the financial burden would have to be carried by only 5 families instead of 6. The reason we left is because our preacher had a Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde complex. He was a fine person off the pulpit but on the pulpit he transformed into a completely different person. He said wild random hateful things. It's like things jsut flew out of his mouth without any tact or self control. He said things like the N word for African American and the D word for lesbians and the W word for Mexicans. He preached with a lot of hate and disrespect. We knew in our hearts this was wrong but we felt guilty leaving the church. Ultimately I couldn't take listening to this man rant any more so my husband talked civily and respectfully to the preacher and told him we would search out another church to attend. He seemed to understand. We found another church 30 miles away that we loved. One or two certain people found it necessary to inform us that our former preacher dissed us and bad mouthed us to the congregation telling them lies making us look bad. Obviously he was offended that we left his church and took it very personal. It was the most hurful church experience. Church is supposed to be the place where you get encouragement and support. Not get kicked when your down. Preachers leave all the time. They get discouraged in one church and move on to another. I think people should also move on to another church until they find one they love. This preacher i'm talking about left town shortly after we left and the people of the church asked us to come back. We now go to church there and are not completely happy but it is tolerable at least.

 

At 5:54 PM , Blogger sarahe said…

Church has honestly always been a hard issue for me. My parents have been involved in a campus ministry since I was a child and always stressed that our relationships with God were not dependent on church but were more personal. That is not to say that they discouraged fellowship, but I never really felt that our church was the main source of worship, study, or fellowship in my life. In college I was involved with campus ministries and Bible Studies but did not go to church regularly. After I married my husband, we started going to a small church and were there for a little over a year. Though my husband was never as committed to it, I took every opportunity that I had to go to bible studies and women's events. As hard as I tried, I never was able to really connect with the women in our church. The ones my age all started having children shortly after we began attending, and there was naturally a difference in how we could relate to one another. Then I developed a chronic health condition which had me practically house-bound for the first few months. Though my pastor and his daughter live in the same neighborhood, they never called to check on me or stopped by to visit. We had a short amount of time when people from the church brought us food and we greatly appreciated that. Then a few weeks later I got an email from the pastor and from his daughter telling me that I needed to be coming back. The pastor went on to say some negative things about how even before I was sick he didn't feel like I was dedicated. Then he said some negative things about my husband. I explained my feelings and told him how hurt I was to be chastised--over email--without him even trying to relate to us and find out what was really going on. We left the church after that and unfortunately have not been able to find a place where we feel at home or connected. My husband was so hurt and turned off by the whole issue that he doesn't want to find a new church at all. Since we left at least 3 other couples have left for similar hurtful reasons. It's sad and hard, but in this situation is was just that the pastor had an idea of how things should be and if anyone disagreed with him or challenged his perspective, he wrote them off. It's so sad that church is such a divisive isssue.

 
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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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