Jump Start # 2371
Ephesians 5:21 “And be subject to one another in the fear of the Lord.”
Here is a tough question, “When is it time to leave a congregation?” You won’t hear many sermons on that. Many have thought about this and wondered about this. We are not talking about someone who is moving far away. We are considering a person who could still attend the congregation he is at, but thinks it’s time for him to leave. Something is not right. He feels that he can no longer stay with that group. Should he stay or should he leave? It’s hard to know.
Some give very little thought about this. They float about like a little butterfly, here, and then there, and back here again. Never really establishing spiritual connections or roots and never really making much of an impact. But we ought to give this some thought.
Leaving a congregation has an impact.
- It impacts the fellowship. The subject we are addressing involves a person who is not happy or agrees with what is going on. Their leaving makes others wonder.
- It impacts the spirit of a congregation. Just as we are excited to see new families come in among us, to see some leave hurts.
- It impacts the budget of the congregation. Some congregations run on a very tight budget and when a family leaves, that means adjustments have to be made.
- It impacts classes, schedules and teaching programs.
Some folks leave too soon. They leave every time they disagree or no not like things in the congregation. Some leave because they have had their feelings hurt. Some leave because they didn’t get their way or their suggestion was not used. And, like that butterfly, off they go to another congregation nearby. It won’t be long and they will run into the same thing. No one gets their way all the time.
Our verse today reminds us that we do not run the church, always get our way, but rather we are to be subject to one another. Subjection is a choice. It’s bending our will for others. Subjection is an attitude. Some can go along but they make it pretty clear that they are not happy about it. That’s not subjection. There are lots of judgment calls that must be made in a congregation that are necessary to make things run smoothly. How many times will the church meet on Sundays? Some congregations meet for one service. It’s their choice. They are still worshipping God. Others may have an evening worship. Some start Sunday with classes. Others start with worship. Some do not have Sunday classes. What time are we going to start? What’s the order of worship? Who is going to preach? What subjects are going to be taught? Lots of decisions that the leadership must think about. No one will have it their way in all of these things. Where I worship, we start at 9:30 on Sunday morning. I’d much rather start a lot earlier—like 7:30. But those with children would die and we have many that travel a long way. Do I complain about 9:30? No. Do I fuss about starting at 9:30? Nope. Do I walk around sighing about how late in the day we are starting? Never. Why not? It’s not about me. I am in subjection to the others. It’s fine.
When someone says, “I’m thinking about leaving,” we wonder, why? Is it a matter of you not getting your way? If that’s it, you best keep your bags packed because you’ll always be leaving. We must work together to be together.
Some, however, wait too long to leave. Some stay, hoping to change things. Some hope to influence others in a positive manner. Some hope to bring life and bring a group closer to the Biblical pattern. But in the process, staying too long, one can get so discouraged that they quit or they can ruin their family by staying so long. There comes a time when a person realizes that the ship is sinking. One can keep bailing water, but that won’t do much good if you go down with the ship yourself.
The first priority is getting yourself to Heaven. Then, your family. Then anyone else that you can get.
Here are three times that a person needs to think about leaving:
First, If I cannot worship God without violating my conscience. If the church is causing me to worship in a way that I feel like is unscriptural, then after I have tried to show the leaders what the Bible pattern is, I ought to leave. This is not about differences of opinion, but a matter of what the Bible teaches the church should do. To continue when I think something is wrong, makes me participate in what is wrong.
Second, if I am dying spiritually and I have exhausted all avenues to stay alive, then I ought to leave. It does little good to remain and become lukewarm or to lose my first love. But this decision should come after a person has tried all sorts of options to pump life back into themselves and the congregation. Hospitality, home Bible studies, sitting in different places, taking notes are just a few things that a person needs to try. Focus upon the Lord and all that He has done for you.
Third, if I am compelled to fellowship those who are not in fellowship with God. That was the situation in 1 Corinthians 5. A brother was living immorally and the church was doing nothing about it. Paul instructed the church to deal with this man who was not living righteously. They did. What if they didn’t? What if they continued to act like nothing was wrong? Then it becomes a time that you ought to leave. Fellowship with God is more important than fellowship with one another. Far too many churches have given up on discipline. The membership roles are filled with those who are living ungodly and unrighteous and no one dares mention a word. Not only is that shameful, it doesn’t help anyone and it certainly doesn’t honor God. Influence is destroyed and fellowship doesn’t mean anything.
Now, if a person must leave, do it without making a scene. Don’t walk out in loud protest. Don’t be slamming doors. Don’t be texting others to get them to join you. God hates division, remember? Don’t be the cause of it, nor the ringleader behind it. And, if you leave, don’t be trashing talking the place you left.
Shepherds in a congregation ought to be on the ball and recognize why some are leaving. I’ve seen places where there were so many holes in the boat and yet the leaders were sailing onward as if everything was fine. It wasn’t. Denial and pretending problems will fix themselves never works. Sometimes there are some tough calls to be made. Sometimes a “come to Jesus” talk is necessary.
Now, another study would be what can be done to keep people from leaving? For some, nothing. Some walked away from Jesus. Some are not interested in the Biblical way of things. They want a party church and they’ll keep floating around until they find one. But for others, back to Biblical shepherding, Bible preaching, and relevant studies will make a big difference. Lets talk more about how we can walk closer to the Lord rather than what’s wrong with everyone else. Let’s focus upon our families, our worship and our hearts. Let’s find ways to build stronger faith and become more engaged in the kingdom.
A time to leave…it’s important to know when that time is.