- They prayed about it as a couple and felt God calling them to a church more focused on world missions.
- This family left so the young daughter starting school could attend a church with her peers. The grandparents decided to join them in the move.
- I never got to know this family very well. We spoke only a handful of times but I saw them take up half a row every Sunday. I watched their children grow. Even though our relationship was from a distance, they felt like family to me. After several Sundays of seeing another family in their seats, I realized they’d left for good.
Every time someone leaves my church, I ache a little. Why did you have to go?
We live in a time when it’s pretty common to leave a church. For any number of reasons. You’ve heard them all. Maybe you’ve used a few of them yourself.
When I read the above quote in Sarah Bessey’s new book, my breath caught in my throat a little. Her book was about a much bigger picture. The times you feel out of sorts in your faith; like you just don’t fit in, and how it’s OK to be there and walk that. Jesus will walk it with you.
These few lines in a bunch of words and paragraphs and chapters and a book about another topic. But I think she’s on to something. I think there’s a great big discussion to be had about the holy work (make no mistake, there’s great work involved) of staying.
A disclaimer: This post isn’t written in judgment. There are legitimate reasons to leave a fellowship of believers and if yours is one of those, embrace your new church family and worship. Amen.
But what if we decided to stay? I’m attending a Reformed church now and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about what that means exactly. However, one thing I’ve appreciated about this church of Dutch heritage is its teaching on covenant.
A covenant is so important to believers because it is an agreement ratified by blood by a God Who cannot lie and never abandons what He promises. It is the agreement between two parties, us and God, which are contained in the Scriptures which have been revealed to us. (Patheos.com)
Based on this covenant agreement God has made with believers, our church offers a covenant membership. We basically publicly commit ourselves to this local body of believers as an act of obedience honoring our original covenant with God.
I don’t agree with my church on every fine point of theology. Each member of my family has Sundays when we don’t feel like going to our church. I wrote about my appreciation for the Methodists and their homemade Communion bread here. There are Sabbaths when I long for more liturgy and a celebration of the Church Calendar. Other Sundays I long for more charismatic worship. Still other times I want to worship in a Synagogue on a Saturday like Jesus did. Sometimes I flat out disagree with decisions our leadership makes on behalf of the church.
But I believe in the holy act of staying. From time to time I sneak off and worship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm always praying for our leadership, that they would seek God’s will for our church. I have found that the church goes through a sanctification process much like an individual Christian so I patiently watch God work among us.
When I hear someone complain about facets of the church, I wonder if they’re remembering the covenant agreement they made with the local body. I think our society has taught us to make light of this. I’m not so sure we should.
How much stronger would our churches be if we invested in making them what God has laid on our heart? What if we stuck around to have the hard conversations? Think of the message we’d send our children if we rode the highs and lows a church family will surely experience in their 18 years of childhood.
Please understand. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I just spend a lot of time sitting with the question,
Am I about the holy work of staying?