We live in divisive times. As such this era of angst, red states, blue states, choosing sides and picking enemies has filtered into the church and has made pastoring more challenging than ever. Blame consumerism, politics, sinfulness, or selfishness for the discontentment that has led many folks to break up with their church by either walking completely away or seeking greener pastures.
I have had people leave because they didn’t like my preaching; felt that we talked too much about money; or didn’t like the style of music in the worship service. Some folks didn’t like the denomination’s stance on (pick the topic): the Bible, women in ministry, homosexuality, speaking in tongues, social justice, our colleges, evangelism or the end times. Once a lady broke up with the church because she received a thank you note and she didn’t like the way the thank you was worded. I’m not kidding, she left over a thank you note. One week, two different families told me they were leaving the church. One was breaking up because they thought we were too liberal. The other was breaking up because they thought we were too conservative. Go figure.
When people break up with their church, usually there is a stated reason and then there is the real reason. For example, people know that if they gave the real reason (i.e. “my kid didn’t get picked for the lead role in the Christmas program”), it would make them look like a church version of a wacked out Hollywood parent. So instead of being honest (“I really don’t want to tithe and don’t want to be reminded of my disobedience!” Hmmm… maybe I do talk too much about money), they give a more spiritually sounding reason. My favorite is: “we aren’t being fed.”
The “we aren’t being fed” excuse is a popular church break up line. Usually, it’s spoken by someone not involved in a small group, not reading their Bible on a consistent basis, not tithing (there I go again) and/or not spending time in prayer. If their actual eating habits mirrored their spiritual disciplines they would have starved to death long ago. But it’s easier to blame the pastor’s meatless sermons. “We aren’t being fed” sounds so deeply spiritual. You can’t argue with someone who is simply looking to grow in the Lord, can you? Another popular exit reason is given when their adolescent child is unruly. Again, it is easier to blame the youth pastor for the misbehaviors of their Jr. Genghis Kahn rather than accept responsibility for their parenting skills (or lack thereof) or the free will being exercised by their little tyrant.
Listen, if you are looking for the perfect church. Good luck. It doesn’t exist, not as long as people attend. I tell people all the time, “our church isn’t perfect because they let me pastor and I am not perfect.” No one has hollered an “Amen” to my “not perfect” confession, but I think a few disgruntled folks have wanted to express it. The truth is our Enemy loves it when people storm off or quietly slip away from a church that is attempting to follow after God. As long as they are gone, the Enemy is happy.
Instead of church shopping when you don’t like something in your church, how about trying this tactic instead: pray and serve. Pray for your church. Pray for your pastor. Pray, serve and love with a Christ-like attitude. Pray that you can be part of the solution instead of problem. Determine that you are going to love, love and love some more. You’ll be surprised to discover how great your church really is when you are praying, serving, loving and giving.