I love growth. I’m excited and encouraged when new people join our church. I am even more excited when they stay. I find it hard to say goodbye or to let go. When you have a small congregation (and the structure of what we have done in Bearwood means that we have a cluster of small congregations) it is painful and maybe discouraging when people leave. It can even be frightening. We don’t have a guaranteed steady pipeline of new people coming to fill the gaps.
Yet, there are sometimes good reasons why people leave. I’ve hinted and mentioned these in previous posts. Recently, I did some analysis about why/how people come and join us but I also included some analysis on why people leave.
Here are three good reasons for people to leave:
1. Because they’ve gone to be with Jesus in Glory. This is sad and painful but also a cause of great joy. They are with the Lord, this is the day we are all preparing for!
2. Because God has called them to serve him somewhere else. It’s hard when someone moves away. It’s perhaps a little easier when we are commissioning them to go as pastors and supported missionaries elsewhere. However, even when it is circumstances such as a new job or the need to find somewhere for the family to live, this should till be an opportunity for people to move in order to serve the Gospel in another needy mission field. We can be intentional about this.
3. Because God’s Word challenges and disagrees with them. Now, from one perspective this is bad news. It usually means that someone has been stubborn and unrepentant. However the positive side is that God’s Word is still doing its work of challenging and convicting. You will see people who come and go, they won’t settle. You will see people who decide of their own accord that they cannot be in the church because they simply don’t want to accept the demands that God’s word makes on their lives. Sometimes and painfully it will require proactive church discipline.
The third example is particularly hard but particularly necessary. It is good because it means that the elders are doing their job through teaching and shepherding of guarding and protecting that we mentioned in the previous post. It can also be good when the result is that the person is pruned. God may need to take them out of their currently local church context in order to strip away their reliance on and even a false assurance based on the comfort and stability of their current church.
Don’t mishear me on this. I still love it more when people come and stay. I still find it terribly sad when people don’t seem to respond as we would hope. I still find the western Christian culture of church hopping deeply distressing. However, there are sometimes good reasons for people to leave you and those reasons can lead to fruit.