There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this from 2013 in the hopes that it may be helpful to some who may be considering a new church home in the new year:
One of our faithful CLC-NWI members writes, “You recently pointed to a link of steps someone should follow when leaving a church under difficult circumstances. You also faced a difficult situation with a specific denomination. I’d like to have you comment on the steps you could or did not follow and how forgiveness played a part.”
Interesting question….I honestly hadn’t thought of it in regards to my experience in leaving the denomination in which I was raised. First, here’s the link I cited before.
Now, here are the 5 actions recommended by the writer & my personal experience:
- Share your reasons & thinking with the leaders. I did this, kinda. By that I mean I did share my thoughts and heart with some other ministers prior to leaving, including some in positions of authority. But I did not seek out the specific leaders in authority over me, because my issue was doctrinal and I had no expectation of changing the entire denomination’s stance on those issues. I guess I felt that if I couldn’t support the denomination’s teaching, I should just leave. So I did.
- Resolve any outstanding conflicts. I guess I could say I did this, because I honestly had no conflicts with the denomination or it’s officials on a personal level. There really was nothing for me to forgive, because I wasn’t offended.
- Express appreciation for the church’s ministry in your life. Yes, I did this, both to various ministers that I knew then, and at times, even to this day. (I will admit that I probably should do this more, for in spite of what I perceive as legalisms and Biblical errors that I no longer support, I am very grateful for what my faith family deposited in my life that helped shape me into the man I am today)
- Say “goodbye” to friends & family. I did not really do this, and if I have any regrets for how I left my denomination, this would be it. At the time, I didn’t want to influence anyone else or try to persuade them to leave with me, since my decision to leave was based on the fact that I could no longer uphold the established teachings of the denomination, so rather than hurt or influence friends, I just chose to leave. Looking back now, I’d say my motives were right but probably my actions were not, since my failure to communicate no doubt caused some confusion among my friends.
- Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives & Failings. This I did, because the main reason it took me so long in making my decision to leave (probably at least 4 years) was me making sure that I was hearing God, and not acting out of any other motives. I distinctly recall conversations with some of my minister friends who were leaving the fellowship at that same time for what I considered insufficient reasons – things like church politics or their family’s desire not to keep the ‘dress codes’ any longer. I made it clear to them that I would only leave if I became truly convinced that our teachings were not Biblical and that God was leading me to leave.