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by Pastor Chris Williamson
I believe the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts with pinpoint accuracy and undeniable clarity, especially when it comes to our season in a local church. When people join STBC, I’ve heard it said countless times, “We just knew we were supposed to be here. God made it very clear that STBC is to be our church home!”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” I have always taught that seasons come and go and no one is expected to bring his or her tombstone when they join STBC. God is the sovereign One who leads His people when and where He sees fit, and wherever He is working, freedom is to be present. It’s obvious that some people will stay at a church for a season of years. Others will stay in a church until the Lord calls them home. I believe that just as God calls people to STBC, He also calls them away.
“The Lord gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21
Not everyone leaves a church because of carnal or immature reasons. Some people leave churches because God tells them it’s time. When God sent Elijah to the Brook Cherith, the ravens fed him there (I Kings 17:1-10). After a season, the brook dried up and God led Elijah to the next place. Sometimes the brook dries up for people in the best churches. God will use the “dryness” as an indicator that it’s time to move on, bearing in mind that what may become dry for one is a refreshing reservoir for another. We must be careful not to judge the entire church over the season we’re in.
I always appreciate it when people leave our church the right way because there is a wrong way to leave, too. We should all make it a point to leave church out of the same door we came in—the front one! I love it when people either contact one of our leaders or me to express their intentions. Knowing that it’s not an easy decision or call to make, we do our best to be kind, gracious, and non-defensive. I have always taught that the kingdom of God is bigger than any one local church, and God has the prerogative to lead His people in and out as He pleases.
As a pastor, I usually go through a momentary grieving process whenever anyone leaves the church. I grieve because I love the person and I enjoyed sharing space with them in the church. And as the people move on, I move on in my emotions and I become all the more excited about the people still rolling with us as we experience and expand God’s Diverse Kingdom in the city and throughout the world.
So I say to my parishioners, if God is calling you to leave STBC, please obey Him and leave respectfully. If a face-to-face exit meeting is too uncomfortable for you, make a phone call, leave a voice mail, or send an email. By leaving the church with integrity, it will help you join the next church with a clear conscience and a clean slate.
POSTED: January 31, 2014