Ep. 243 How to Leave Churches, Ministries, Employers, Etc.

Ep. 243 How to Leave Churches, Ministries, Employers, Etc.

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Show’s Main Idea – I interact with folks leaving ministries regularly, which reminds me of something many believers don’t think about, which is showing honor to the leadership before you leave. In the last three weeks, I’ve had three encounters with people leaving churches or ministries. Here are twelve things to consider if you’re planning to leave.

Show Notes

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Only One Point Here

This podcast is about frictionless relationships, not abusive ones. It would be the height of unkindness and manipulation to ask an abused person to go back to their abusers to “talk it out.” People who only have experiences with controlling relationships may interpret the point of this podcast as authoritarian, heavy-handedness, which would be them mapping their experience over what I’m saying rather than hearing what I mean.

Illustrating My Point

The specific point that I want to tease out in this episode is communicating with your leadership before you leave. I have written about other aspects of “leaving a church,” which you can read from the list at the top of these Show Notes. In this episode, I want to deal with one specific point, which is showing honor to those who have invested in your life before you leave.

Let me illustrate. When I was a pastor, there were instances when folks would approach me and say something like,

Hey, Rick, we’ve been praying about attending another church, and this is our last Sunday. Thank you for serving us, but it’s time for us to move on. Any thoughts you have for us?

In this illustration, there was no friction in the relationship but a friendship between us. Here are two more examples of what I’m saying:

Hey, mom, I’ve started dating this guy. What do you think?

Hey, pastor, I got a job in Wisconsin, and we’re leaving next week.

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Lead by Showing Honor

The question that I want to tease out in this podcast is Paul’s language in Romans 12:10 about outdoing one another in showing honor. Paul is not talking about competing with each other but about being out in front, which is a matter of being a biblical leader. In this case, you want to lead in showing appreciation.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10).

Here are the three situations of my friends who have left or are in the process of leaving. As you can see, each situation is different, but all three of them must wrestle through what it means to show honor, as much as it depends on them to do so (Romans 12:18).

  • Left, But Discussed – One of my friends is leaving a church that does not value biblical counseling or discipleship.
  • Leaving, But Undecided If They Are Going To Talk to the Leaders – Another friend is leaving an authoritarian church.
  • Left, without Talking – The third friend left an organization without talking to the leadership.

Wrong Ways to Leave

  • Adamic Fear – They struggle with fear of man or “fear of pastor” or “fear of ministry leader,” etc.
  • Shaping Influences – Though bad things from your past can become the soil that grows fear, which I have mentioned already, this point is isolating one of the more common reasons for being fearful. People who have had heavy-handed experiences can easily map what they know over their future relationships. E.g., those who come from legalistic cultures typically have no category for grace-based encounters. They assume that if they disagree with any leadership, they will go into the Christian penalty box. This fear is real and painful for them.
  • Maturity vs. Immaturity – It never occurred to them that there is such a thing as Christian etiquette—a biblical way of doing things.
  • Deception – They may be using “I have prayed about it” as a way to sanctify their desire to leave. They drop the “God card,” which soothes their conscience at the moment, though it will harden it over time rather than being honest with why they wanted to leave.
  • Don’t Want to Be Talked Out of It – Sometimes, when folks make a decision, they talk to others but not to the people who dare to challenge their opinions or assumptions. They couch their choice within a “biblical framework” by seeking advice, but they ask those who will give them innocuous, unbiblical, or insufficient counsel. They want to maintain control of the narrative.
  • They Don’t Want to Do a Hard Thing – Perhaps there is something about staying that would require them to do things that they aren’t comfortable doing. I’m not speaking of doing unbiblical things but something that would help them to mature in Christ.
  • They Have a Habit of Running – This idea is similar to the one above; when things get tough, they have a habit of leaving. They don’t understand or desire practical biblical endurance, which is one of the primary ways the Lord strengthens His children.

  • They Are Lazy – You can tie this one to the previous two, but it’s essential to mention slothfulness because if it’s true, you will find it in other areas of their life.
  • Self-Reliance – When a person is up against something that they cannot control, they rely on themselves rather than trusting the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). If the situation proves to be an unmovable object, for them to continue to be self-sufficient, they must leave. Leaving enables them to stay within a self-reliant framework, but they have to change circumstances to do so, which means their world becomes smaller. Alternately, if they had persevered, they would experience empowering favor, which would expand their lives and opportunities.
  • Aren’t Open to Input – Some folks don’t want anyone to tell them what to do.
  • Don’t Think Anyone Cares – You may have concluded that nobody cares if you stayed or left. Perhaps that is true, but people’s inadequacies should not be the thing that determines how you’re going to live your Christian life. “If they aren’t going to lead, then I won’t either.” The proper response is to lead when others don’t. They may not care, but you can show them that you do care. Who knows, maybe the Lord would use your example of leadership to change a heart or two.
  • No Culture of Grace – This final point is about them, not you. There is no environment of grace, so you leave. Though I’ve said this episode is not about authoritarian or abusive situations but about how we should explore our motives, I’m adding this last point for why a person may not want to talk to the leaders. Even so, for this podcast, my appeal is for you to think less about the “speck” and focus more on your “log” (Matthew 7:3-5). I have written many articles on abuse and authoritarianism, which you can read—if the issue is truly about them and not you.

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What I’m Not Saying

I’m not suggesting that you have to stay anywhere. I’m not saying that your reasons for leaving are invalid. My desire in this episode is to help anyone who falls into the first eleven categories I have mentioned. If any of these are tendencies with you, please address them.

Before you stay or leave, you want to make sure that you have done appropriate self-assessment to ensure that you’re operating with the purest possible motives. We live in an “unfriend-you culture,” where all you have to do is tap a button to remove a “friend.” This cyber habit can become a real-world habit quickly.

To be a Christan leader, you must have a broad understanding of the mistakes, pitfalls, and shortcomings of weak Christian leadership. The gospel-empowered person has nothing to fear, hide, or protect. If you’re confident in Christ, you should be free to explore decision-making biblically.

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