This morning, as I checked my Facebook newsfeed, I was struck by an overwhelming sadness. What a sinking feeling it is to have confirmed that you have lost another church family to “somewhere else”. Over the years, we have seen it many times. People you loved, prayed for, cried with, worshipped with, attended their weddings or family funerals, rocked their babies, played volleyball with, and shared your heart with have slowly evaporated. They show up less and less, until members that have convenanted to be church members disappear without a goodbye. That leaves the rest of us in mourning. Was there something we could have done, some need we could have met, if you had but shared it? Was it something we did? Why have you left us, your church family, without so much as a goodbye, no explanation? Yes, I know that God sometimes calls us to make a church move for the growth of our family, but wouldn’t that same God want you to go to your old church family for their blessing and a release from membership? Wouldn’t He want you to say goodbye? Oh, it’s easier this way, you say as you just slowly slip away. Easier for who? For you. What about the rest of us, left feeling hurt, betrayed, confused and abandoned? Have we not invested enough of our hearts in your life to deserve a decent goodbye?
We see you at Walmart, and in politeness make pleasant conversation. Yet, inside, our heart cries out, “What have we done, why have you abandoned us?” Leaving a church is not like leaving a social club, it is leaving your family that has loved and cared for you. It’s like serving divorce papers without a chance for reconciliation, while one party has no clue there is a problem or an unmet need. Oh, dear Lord, how it hurts those left behind, like an unhealed wound that is poked again when we remember you are no longer sitting in your usual spot, or sharing your warm smile with us.
In a society rampant with divorce, people are divorcing their churches and skipping off to greener pastures. If God is really calling you to change churches, He will lead you to do it the RIGHT way, with due respect to those who have pastured you, and the people who have loved you all these years. How it must grieve God’s heart to see His children wounding their own family members by their actions. If you have ever left a church without going through the proper goodbyes, search your heart and ask God if there is a way to make that right with those you left behind. Please give us closure, a letter, a visit, a phone call, an explanation, an apology, or even a return? Leave your gift at the altar and make things right with your brothers and sisters.
Most days, I don’t even think about all those who have left, but today the overwhelming sense of loss came crashing down. To those of us left behind, may God bring healing to the wounds buried deep in our hearts. May He continue to enable us to love without fear of losing, and trust in His faithfulness to bring our church to fulfill its purposes in Him.
In His love,