3. Leave cleanly and kindly
If it’s time to leave, do so with the right spirit. It will be better for everyone – including you and the people you leave behind.
It’s hard when good people leave a church they love. It’s harder on everyone when they leave a mess behind them as they go.
So please, talk to the people who need to know what’s happening (which may or may not include the pastor, depending on the size of the church or the leadership environment), but avoid gossiping or bomb-throwing on your way out the door.
4. Don’t separate yourself from healthy Christian relationships
If you’ve been heavily involved in a church for a lot of years, it’s not just a place where you sit for an hour on Sunday mornings. It’s a big part of your spiritual, social, economic and emotional life.
Remember, the church is not a building, a denomination or an institution. It’s people who love Jesus and each other.
So even if you have to leave a specific congregation, don’t make the mistake of disconnecting yourself from healthy relationships with fellow believers. As you negotiate the challenge of finding a new church home, those relationships will be more important than ever.
In fact, maintaining healthy relationships with other believers is probably the most significant determiner of whether-or-not you’ll find a new, healthy church home or drift away from Christian fellowship – and maybe from the faith – entirely.
We need each other.
5. Rediscover Jesus
More and more, people are saying that they aren’t leaving the institutional church because they’re leaving Jesus – they’re leaving to find Jesus again.
As someone who has been blessed to serve, worship and minister in a healthy church environment for all but a couple years of my life, this is both understandable and heartbreaking.
No matter what you may have experienced from other Christians or in a difficult church environment, never take your eyes off Jesus.
People who have committed to a congregation for decades haven’t had 100 percent smooth sailing – they’ve learned to outlive the bad times and stay anchored to Jesus.
I know because I’ve been through it, too. I’ve been deeply damaged by bad church experiences. But I’ve stayed in the church (sometimes changing congregations, sometimes staying put), not because the church is perfect, but because I need to be with others who are just as imperfect in their attempts to follow Jesus as I am.