It’s August and this is the time of year that it seems I start hearing people saying they are thinking about leaving their church and going someplace else (from our church and other churches). They say things like “It doesn’t feel the way it used to” or “I don’t feel like I fit in anymore”.
Many times, it happens about this time of year because they have often been absent from church for the summer. They have disconnected from their local church family to travel or do activities and then feel it’s something in the church that caused this feeling of distance.
However, it’s not just the end of summer distance that cause people to feel this way. Sometimes it’s because they enjoy the feel of when things are fresh at a new church and then when things start getting a little more real, they want to run and get the high of being at a new church again.
This season when things are fresh and easy is called the honeymoon period.
In the honeymoon period, you have new relationships, love the music, enjoy the pastor, and start volunteering in exciting new ways in the ministry. However, after a couple years you find the other people are no more perfect than you are, the music isn’t quite your “style” anymore, the pastor’s preaching style is the new norm, and volunteering is just one more thing on your schedule (and if you were in charge, it would be better anyways).
This is the season when some start to wonder if it’s time to move on. There’s a new church across town with an exciting new jungle gym and their band just put out a CD. They wonder if maybe they should go visit there.
Then they leave. Often times, they leave without having a conversation with those in the church or looking for any Godly counsel. Often times they leave saying things like “God is leading me away….”.
Now, there are times people are led by God to a new church. There’s also times a church is getting off base and after addressing it in conversation; nothing changes so you have to leave. This is not what I’m talking about.
I am talking about when you go to a church because it’s new and then leave when it gets real. It’s a huge problem and more prevalent than some want to admit.
God has called us to be mature in our Christian community.
Paul has given us great instruction on how to be a church family including not giving up meeting with each other as some are in the habit of doing.
The books of Acts chronicles the early church (large body and local church bodies) to encourage and spur us on.
It’s more than a good feeling where you get all your needs and wants filled. It’s a family.
One of the metaphors that Paul uses to define the relationship between Christ and the Church is a marriage. When we look at this trend in light of that metaphor, we start to see the concern with skipping to a new church every time things don’t “feel the way they used to”.
When a couple gets married, the honeymoon period is wonderful. You laugh, you have deep talks, you go out together all the time, there’s natural intimacy, and everything you do is magical.
After a couple years, things start to change. You’re dealing with the bills, trying to raise a baby with different views on parenting, trying to get the housework done, and things don’t “feel the way they used to”.
This is when you have a choice. You can bail out and find someone new to get that feeling back for a season or you dig in for the work and effort of having a real and mature marriage. The joy that comes from a marriage you work on is greater and deeper than the honeymoon period.
Yet some jump from church to church like someone jumping from spouse to spouse. They are never fully satisfied because they have never sacrificed for something greater than their short term wants.
Now some reading this might think I’m being unfair comparing going to a church on Sunday mornings and a marriage. That’s because I’m not talking about going to a church on Sunday mornings.
I’m talking about Christian community through the local body church. I’m talking about the family of God. I’m talking about what we see in the Bible, not on Main Street. I’m talking about something bigger than you and I having something on our schedule that may or may not work out this weekend.
If you are at a point that you are thinking about leaving your church, take a breath and see if there is anything above that might apply to your situation. If so, have a conversation, let some things go, or plug back in for something deeper and more mature.
If there is another reason you are thinking about leaving your church, get into the Bible and have a good talk with a mature Christian friend who wants God’s best for you to find out what your next move should be. Do not go off of emotions or “it just feels like” as your best guide.
If you have given up on church because all you have experienced is the “Sunday morning schedule” brand, touch base. I’d love to share with you what God has shared that He desires for us in Christian community. It’s a mature community that is devoted, relational, generous, serving, and one that makes an impact!
Pastor Tom Hypes