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Dr. Ray Pritchard Christian Blog and Commentary

How to Leave a Church

  • Dr. Ray Pritchard
    Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The ABCs of Christmas, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 39 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law--Leah and Vanessa, and four grandchildren grandsons: Knox, Eli, Penny and Violet. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
  • 2007 Sep 14
  • Comments

This week I received an email from someone I do not know asking for some advice. Recently they left the church they had attended for more than eight years. It wasn’t anything doctrinal and it apparently didn’t have anything to do with worship styles or mode or baptism or a new building program. They left because they were unhappy with the pastor. Here is what the person wrote:   

"The problem is with the senior pastor and his bullying of staff, deacons, and members. There has been about fifteen families that have left the church. That includes some staff, deacons and members. This has been a very hurtful time for many of these people. Some people have tried to talk with the senior pastor and he just blows them off. As I look back over the years I see a pattern of behavior that that has contributed to his caring only about his agenda."

I don’t know the name of the pastor or the church or the denomination or the location or anything other than what is written here. I have no way to evaluate the facts as they were presented to me. And I don’t know what process led to their decision to leave or how long it took. What I do know is that now they are in a new church and are very happy there. “It is such a joy to be in a healthy church."

Someone suggested that they meet with their former pastor to detail their concerns. This was his comment in response to that suggestion:

"Many others have done this very thing and have left the church as a result. I don’t believe that my speaking to him would result in changing my mind nor do I feel prompted that God is wanting me to do anything more than pray for him. I would appreciate any feedback you might have."

Every situation is different, obviously, and we can’t make blanket rules regarding this sort of thing. With that qualification, this is what I wrote back:

"Dear Friend,

I agree with you 100%. You’re in a good church now where you and your wife can worship God with freedom and joy. 
Let your old church go. Pray for the pastor and the leaders as they come to mind, but put your energy and your focus on the future, not the past.

I think your instincts are correct that meeting with your former pastor will do little good. I have been involved in meetings like that and they are rarely productive.

I have always felt that when you leave a church, leave

Quickly,
Quietly,
Graciously. 

You don’t need to talk to anyone about why you left. Especially you don’t need to talk to those who are still in your old church. That can only entangle you in those problems.

And I wouldn’t discuss it with those who have left either.

Here is what I call the First Law of Spiritual Progress: 

I can’t go back.
I can’t stay here.
I must go forward. 

You have already made the hard decision to leave and now you have found a good church where you are blessed. Enjoy that and give thanks to God. And keep moving forward in your new church. Let the past be past and let God deal with your former pastor and the church. Give your energy to your new church and you will be happier for it.

I hope this helps. 

Cordially, 

Ray Pritchard"

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You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.