Part 4 in the series entitled, Biblical Principles to Consider Before Leaving Your Church
How will leaving affect your family? Most often, the actions of the husband determine the stability of the family. If a company fails, the president is held responsible. If a team fails, the coach is held responsible. If the spiritual health of the family is deteriorating, the father—well, you get the picture. Granted, there are men who, through no fault of their own, experience failure in their home, but for the large majority, there is a critical need for spiritual leadership. Our country is in desperate need of this. It’s generally the wife who encourages Bible study, church attendance, and prayer, while men willingly forsake their God-ordained role as spiritual leaders. There is no greater investment than investing in your spiritual growth and in the spiritual growth and health of your family.
If the family isn’t growing at church, or if it doesn’t seem to be the best environment, fathers (or single parents) need to ask some hard questions: What can I do to nurture their growth? Is this partly my fault? The primary mission of the church is to care for others and equip the saints, but, as men, we are called to equip the home—to educate, nourish, guide, and instruct; much of the responsibility falls on us, not the church. However, if the church is not contributing to the spiritual health of our family, we may have biblical grounds to leave. But be careful here, there are seasons in life. Don’t make an immediate decision without careful prayer and consideration. God may be orchestrating the circumstances to draw you closer to Him. And, as always, seek godly counsel and check your motives before leaving. This leads to the next point.
Do you have a consumer mentality? Another comment most have heard is, “I’m just not being fed at church!” On occasion, this is very valid, but it sometimes deserves a closer look. For example, if someone isn’t growing from food, but others are, it may not be the food or the chef, so to speak. Yes, the pastor has a responsibility to teach the Word, but we also have a responsibility to listen and to apply what is being said. Sadly, many have a “consumer” mentality when it comes to church. (I’ve been guilty of this myself.) We come asking, “What can I get?” rather than, “What can I give?” That’s why some say, “I didn’t get much from the church service today; it seemed dead.” I’m not suggesting that this isn’t valid from time to time, because it is...we should benefit from the service and the fellowship, but we are called to give as well as receive. Be careful that a move is not prompted by a subtle, self-absorbed motive. I’ve noticed that many leave because they are not promoted, or allowed to start a ministry, or because they get offended and/or don’t feel appreciated. If we’re guilty, we need to replace our “consumer” mentality with a “servant” mentality.
Ask, “Am I seeking to be used or recognized?” Another reason people leave is because they feel that they are not being “used.” Unfortunately, this can be the catalyst for resentment, bitterness, and gossip. They are, in fact, being used—that’s not the problem. The problem, many times, is that they’re not being recognized, esteemed, or promoted. They’re not being given center-stage attention. Their name is not on the PowerPoint or printed in the bulletin. For them, it’s not about being used, it’s about being recognized. God desires humility and servitude, not arrogance and pride—meekness and boasting cannot co-exist.
Oswald Chambers said, “God buries His men [and women] in the midst of paltry things, no monuments are erected to them; they are ignored, not because they are unworthy, but because they are in the place where they cannot be seen.” It’s often more desirable to teach, lead, or sing than to pick-up trash, clean the restrooms, or change diapers, yet our goal should be to serve - not to be served. We will not be disappointed if we understand that God desires the heart of a servant. “Those who follow Christ must not expect great or high things in this world” (Matthew Henry). “Expect” is the key word. God may promote a person for His glory, but we should never “expect” this.
Am I leaving my church simply because I’m not being recognized or getting my way? Maybe the Lord is teaching humility, patience, contentment, and servitude, or maybe He is directing you elsewhere. Don’t rush when God may be saying wait. When God develops character, He does so to help us meet the challenges ahead, to prepare us for life, and to mold us into Christ’s image. Trying times are not intended to break us down but to build us up. The only way to build such qualities as love, joy, peace, humility, and patience is to be confronted with situations that require love, joy, peace, humility, and patience. How do we develop patience if we’re not tested? How do we develop forgiveness if we are never wronged? How do we develop humility if we’re never humbled? How do we develop character if we are never challenged? James 1:2-4 advises us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction” (C.H. Spurgeon). Seek to be used not recognized, and focus on character development not comfort.