At some point in every Christian’s life we will be faced with struggles in our local church. There are many opportunities for people to disagree and to have differing opinions on a vast issue of things within the church. Most of this comes from the belief that “leadership runs” and “people attend” the church. People aren’t simply “not perfect”, people are simply sinners. We can quickly start weighing our options when agendas start being pushed or sin and struggles start to be revealed. I’ve been there, I get this. The foundation and the essence of a healthy church is when the only agenda the leadership follows is God’s. Unfortunately, Satan works best from the inside out and he is quick to push our agenda’s ahead of God’s, ever so slightly and packaged very pretty.
I have read many articles and been asked many times “When is the appropriate and right time to leave a church?”. The answer is “That is the wrong question for Christians to ask”. Why, you ask? It’s never right to leave, but it’s always right to go when God calls you.
I know that might sound like pure semantics but it’s really not. Let me explain….
When we “leave” a place, we look for excuses to justify our feeling by aligning ourselves with others that have the same view. With our list of excuses, (or as Satan packages it, our reasons), a lack of desire to be at church slowly creeps in and we start to distance ourselves with our service, our involvement and our money. A great disunity becomes evident every time we speak to someone at the store or on the field. Ever felt this way?
When we choose “to leave” our focus is on the problems, and “leaving” is an ending to a time spent. If I ask you about a time when you “left” a place or a person that you loved, whether a dear friend, a home, a school, or a family member, the response is usually heavy and filled with emotion. Even if the change was a good one, the “leave” can bring about a great sadness. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah, God called them away and said don’t look back, but Gomorrah looked back, either sad for what she was leaving or maybe because she was so curious as to what would happen because of their sin. With social media so prevalent today, it’s so easy to stay in the middle of other’s drama. If Gomorrah had access to Facebook or a comment blog she would have given Sodom a step by step detail of what was going on back home and would have posted her every thought on what God called her from instead of what He was calling her to. If we leave with all this baggage, we only take it with us to the next place. We will eventually be looking for an excuse that allows to us leave the next church as well, as we continually seek to compare it to the one we just left. We often will hear stories of people who “left” a church and the only focus is how good the new church is in comparison to how bad the last church was. This is not biblical and it takes the focus off God and onto our own agendas. It allows us to become the judge and the standard and not God. So what do we do when our heart is stirring and unrest fills our souls?
Do we stay or do we go?
When our heart is restless and unrest fills our souls, we have to get on our knees. Seriously! We have to determine if our flesh is seeking something that we feel we aren’t getting or if our heart is being called to serve God in a different way. Let’s face it, none of us like change and we would rather sit and complain than take the risk of change. However, God can use frustration and unrest in our lives in order to move us to where we can serve Him best.
We need to seek the source of our feelings.
When our focus changes to “listening for a call” our attitude shifts as well. When we go places like vacations, we go to see people we love, or we start a new job, there is a sense of anticipation and excitement, even nervousness. I love the days when I can’t wait to be in church, with a fresh renewal ready to worship My Creator. God seeks our heart and when our heart is right our ears are more likely to hear Him. We need to be so in-tuned with God and His word that when He calls, we are able to go with a passion and excitement for what He will do and how He will use us. When we are called to something, there is place that is already established and prepared just for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”(NIV) God’s plans go before our circumstances; allow the circumstances to draw you to Him. Psalm 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (NIV) Wait on God and allow Him to establish your next move. You don’t want to wander like the Israelites, you want to go the direct route only led my God. Listen for his direction. It’s not a mystery that is hidden. At His appointed time God will reveal your next step.
If you are listening for a call and you haven’t heard it, then stay firm and stay in His word. Seek His will and His purpose not only for your life but for the church as well. We often forget the church is the Bride of Christ. It’s important to God and He will protect it at all cost, even from us! Allow God to flame the fire of desire and wait for the opportunity to use that gift. Be open to ways you never thought off. Allow God to develop a new strength and passion in you that was made especially with you in mind.
Don’t look for excuses to leave, listen for a calling to go! Go where God calls you so that you can serve him with a fervent, generous and open heart.