By Cameron Triggs
Amputation is painful and has long-lasting effects. It can also serve as a metaphor for what it’s like to leave a local church—in the wrong way, at least.
Churchgoers are not members of a country club, but rather members of the body of Christ. We should therefore stamp this image upon our hearts.
If you feel called to leave a local church, here are seven things to do to ensure you leave it in the right way.
1. Ensure your reasons for leaving are biblical.
Consumerism often runs in the veins of many church members. For that reason, many church members see the church as an avenue for pleasure and entertainment. It’s not biblical to leave a church because of mere inconvenience or preference.
There’s not enough time to cover all of the various reasons one could consider joining a church. However, I urge everyone to read the Pastoral Epistles in the community of godly leaders to see what God ordained the church to be.
2. Get advice from the church leaders before making your decision.
If you’re in the context of a healthy local church, you likely have leaders that welcome feedback. Before you decide to leave, give your leaders the privilege of shepherding your heart and speaking into your life.
Making a decision before seeking their advice, counsel, and prayer is highly discouraging to leaders and potentially harmful for your spiritual well-being. It’s not healthy to make decisions in isolation and without pursuing solutions to honor your commitment.
3. Be sure to leave in good standing.
Don’t leave with bitterness, resentment, or passive-aggressive tendencies. The Bible tells us we’ll show the world we’re disciples by loving one another.
Let people know you love them. Let the leaders know you’re moving along, but make your love for them abundant and clear.
4. Do what you can to find and equip a church member to replace your ministry position before leaving.
Try your best not to leave your church hanging. You, at some point, found this church to be home. It has served you and your family.
If at all possible, make sure that ministry continues to flourish. One way to do so is to recruit and equip a replacement for your ministry responsibilities.
5. Ask your church leaders to help you plug into your next local church.
Pastors are called to be the shepherds of our souls. Tragically, there are scores of churches with abhorrent theology and abusive leadership.
It’s highly likely your church leaders are aware of such ecclesial landmines. Allow your pastors and leaders to direct you toward another healthy local church.
6. Consider a transfer letter from your elder.
I know this is considered “old-fashioned” in many circles. But like classic fashion, good theological practice is always in style.
If pastors are indeed shepherding the souls of people, we should connect church leaders with church members and affirm their salvation and service.
This is a safety net for pastors and churches. It allows good practice and good faith to flourish during the transition process.
7. Express gratitude to those who have poured into you.
When you leave, something will be missing. Members may feel deserted, pastors may feel discouraged, and you may feel disoriented. Often, these emotions arise due to lack of clarity, unshared expectations, and rumors or gossip.
You can easily defeat these strategies by expressing gratitude for the ways your former local church served you well. As you thank them and love them, you’ll leave a sweet aroma instead of a bitter taste.
CAMERON TRIGGS (@CamTriggs) is a husband, father, and the church planting pastor of Grace Alive in Orlando, Florida. He formerly served Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, Florida and was sent by The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.