The manner by which people leave churches is not what it ought to be, when one considers all the ”one-another” commands. When we know that our local church body is only one location in the true Church, the Body of Christ consisting of all true believers everywhere and at all times.
People leave churches badly. I have lost dear friends, co-workers in ministry, elders— all have walked away not only from church affiliation but our relationship.
Three of us ladies created and led a successful, substantive women’s ministry. Each of the other two in turn one day departed our church, without having ever discussed with me that they were discontented, or that they were deciding to leave. I cannot help but conclude that I was seen as part of the problem.
Dear friends, also partners in ministry, sharers in private Bible study, slowly moved away. They engaged less and less, they were absent more and more, and eventually it became clear they had moved on. What hurt was that that same process applied to our friendships. Phone calls ceased. No acknowledgment when my mother passed away. That’s serious ghosting.
Shaking the dust off the feet. People leave church badly.
They leave long before they leave. They nurse their gripes and grudges carefully and quietly. It’s like they dont want resolution. By the time they decide to go, they don’t want fixes; they want to move on. If people meet with pastors to discuss problems with their churches at this point, they are there to register complaints on the way out the door.
Some people do try to work out their differences with leadership, or present their cases for what they see as problems, before they eventually leave. Some do so in good faith, but if they don’t get the resolution they’re looking for, they choose to go. And sometimes that is the right thing to do! Good churches are legitimately different, and it can take a couple tries to find your church home.
Some people present what they see as error to their leadership, and even when they don’t get the answers they want, or see the changes they want…they stay. They are satisfied with being responded to and they accept their leaders’ decisions. As long as the issues aren’t differences over core Biblical doctrine, this may be the correct course. Being a member of a church is a serious commitment not to be discarded lightly, and we are called to unity.
It’s my experience that those good-faith exiters tend to maintain at least their best friendships. It’s when people leave in a disgruntled manner that they tend to ghost relationships.
Weren’t we friends? Do we not all together belong to the universal Body of Christ? Aren’t we spiritual brothers and sisters? Isn’t our connection Christ himself? Then how do you put me behind your back and disappear me from your life?
We ghost the church body, we ghost the relationships we had there. Maybe it’s simply embarrassment. And if you have mentally moved on, you don want to dwell on it anymore.
But it seems obvious to me that we in the Church have better ways to conduct relationships. If we try to walk Biblical paths, if we love one another as The Word says we must, that love ought to show even as we leave our churches.
We leave church badly.