(To start at the beginning of this series click here)
Somebody is going to leave. Somebody is going to get hurt, or get mad, or generally not fit into your congregation and they are going to leave. So. There are many reasons people leave. They may be going back to the church where God really called them to grow. If that’s the case, then don’t get in the way. They need to be where God called them to be. Some may not be ready to live their life one hundred percent for Jesus and church life is overwhelming them. It happens. I had several starts and stops at my church. The first time I went I wasn’t sure it was for me. I answered an altar call and gave my life to Jesus. I got baptized in water. I went a few weeks longer but wasn’t ready. At least that’s what I thought. I listened to the voice in my head that said "you're too young to give up the party life." I really should have stayed but I didn’t. It took 10 years of hard living, lots of drama, and near marriage ending circumstances to draw me back to God. I visited the same church on occasion, each time thinking I would try to make a go of it, but I couldn’t. All the while God was putting people in my path to tell me of His goodness. To give me chick tracks. To tell me Jesus loves me. I finally sat down and read my bible all the way through. I thought I didn’t need “church.” That God was wherever I needed Him to be. That he would be there whenever I needed him. Which He was and still is. After reading my bible through I had a change of heart. God was there. But I wasn’t there for Him. How long was He going to pursue me through His Holy Spirit? I saw myself in the word of God, and I wanted more. I wanted to give up the “party” life. I went to other churches for a while, but nothing spoke to me. I was not called to grow in those churches. Then I really felt I should go back to the church where I was first saved. As the pastor preached that morning, I recognized the scriptures that he was reading. I knew in my spirit that I was home. He was applying God’s word to my world. It really spoke to me. I felt as if someone had told him what I was thinking. What I needed. From that moment on I knew I was where God wanted me to be.
Somebody is going to leave. It doesn’t mean that you should leave too. In fact, don’t follow them. Even when they try to convince you to see things their way. You are where God put you and He is the only one that can direct you, right? Pray, ask him again if you must. Ask him, “Am I where you want me to be?” Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you and keep you from influences that would take you out of Gods will.
Don’t be hurt when they leave. It isn’t your fault. You’ve friended them and invited them into your life. You prayed with them and believed God with them. Now let them go. Just like you, they get to choose whether to stay or go. And who are we that we should try to direct their lives? We are in charge of our own. If they confide in you that they’re thinking about leaving, don’t ask why. In doing so you open a door of bitterness that might suck you in. Instead ask what could change their mind? Offer to pray. Then pray out loud together to usher in the presence of God into your conversation. Guard yourself. Let the Holy Spirit lead the conversation. Don’t try to rationalize staying or leaving.
If it’s you that’s leaving, then go quietly. Don’t try to convince people to go with you. Who are you that you pull someone from Gods will? Woe to you if you do. And don’t be mad when, after you leave, your friends from “that church” don’t fellowship with you as much anymore. It just naturally will happen. We saw each other all the time because we were working side by side in the kingdom and now, we’re not. You’re working in another camp. That was your choice. Our conversations will change too. They’ll become more about the “weather” because neither one of us will want to come off as “judgy.” Also, our social circles will change and we’ll have less in common. I’m not leaving. Sorry you left, I pray that you are in Gods will and that everything works out for you.