How to Stay and Change Your Church When You Feel Like Leaving
- Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Caleb Breakey’s new book Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church (Harvest House Publishers, 2013).
Problems in your church – such as apathy, judgment, gossip, and conflict – can discourage you so much that you feel like leaving. In extreme cases, God does sometimes call people to leave unhealthy churches. But usually, God stands ready to help believers stay and change their churches for the better.
God can use you as a powerful change agent in your church if you choose to stay and inspire others in your congregation. Here’s how to stay and change your church when you feel like leaving:
Consider the benefits of staying. If you decide to stay and work to change your church, you can be a great influence on everyone there. Gradually, as God works through you, others in your congregation will join you in your efforts to change the church, and the transformation will grow. The power of that change will keep rippling outward, since a changed church can change the world. When you cooperate with God to help change your church, some benefits include: you help yourself and other believers become more like Jesus, you bring balance and perspective to the church, you practice the forgiving others as God calls you to do, God notices and appreciates your efforts even if others don’t, you gain wisdom from other people, you make the church more attractive to the world, you live out the Gospel message and Jesus’ beatitudes, you overcome evil with good, you help teach people how to obey God’s commands, you embrace God’s plan for church structure, and you bring greater unity, depth and purpose to your congregation.
Identify your church’s weaknesses and encourage your fellow church members to seek God’s strength to help overcome those weaknesses. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pinpoint your church’s specific weaknesses. Then use the Bible’s wisdom to encourage the people in your church to grow beyond those weaknesses. Some examples include: churches that operate from head knowledge can focus more on heart, churches that emphasize outward appearances can pay more attention to people’s souls, churches where people are hypocritical can emphasize the importance of practicing what’s preached, churches full of proud people can become more humble, churches that teach a watered-down version of the Bible can start teaching it more faithfully and radically, and churches that avoid difficult questions can encourage people to ask hard questions and explore possible answers together honestly and openly.
Pursue change in your own life, as well as in your church. Humbly admit that, just like any person in this fallen world, you’re not perfect and can change for the better with God’s help. Include yourself as part of the congregation of people who needs to change at your church. Honestly assess how well you’re currently obeying Jesus in each part of your life. Examine your motives for the decisions you’ve been making lately. Ask God to let you see yourself the way He sees you, and allow your heart to break where it needs breaking. Then confess and repent of specific sins you’ve noticed in your life. Tell God that you want to grow closer to Him, and ask Him to forgive you, heal you, and restore you.
Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit living inside you. Pay attention to nudges you sense from the Holy Spirit, who lives inside the souls of Christians. Listen to the Spirit’s messages to you. Seek guidance and empowerment from the Spirit every day as you work to help change your church for the better.
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