Maybe you've seen it happen. Somebody in a church—among both laypersons and leaders—gets angry about something and leaves the church quickly. Even staff members surprisingly leave rapidly at times. Here's what might happen if you do that:
- You might later learn that your information was wrong. You responded to what you thought was true, only to learn later that you had bad data.
- You might live with conviction and regret for not dealing with the issues in an appropriate way. That often happens when we get beyond the emotions of the moment and have to face our choices.
- You might discover that the grass is not greener on the other side. No church is perfect, and you'll learn that truth wherever you land.
- You might harbor bitterness, and thus hinder your own walk with God. Leaving a situation doesn't always means you leave the pain behind—especially when you leave quickly. If you don't forgive others, though, your own walk with God will be affected (Matt. 6:14-15).
- You might learn that other churches will not welcome you into their membership. More and more churches are requiring potential new members to deal with any residual issues in their previous church before admitting them to membership.
- You might reveal your true heart by your hasty response. We show who we really are not when things are going well, but when things get tough. Your real self might not be as godly as people thought.
- You might harm years of your faithful work and witness in the church. No matter how long you've been in the church, and no matter how faithful you've been, people will always most remember how you left—especially if it was negative.
- You might lose long-term friends. When you leave a church quickly, you often leave relationships behind, too.
- You might be leaving others to deal with real issues in the church. The congregation you leave may seriously need your wisdom and your input.
- You might wound the next generation of believers in your family. In essence, you're teaching them to run when they get angry. That's not a good pattern to start.
- You might later realize that you were part of the problem. Sometimes life teaches us that we weren't always right.
I realize there are legitimate times to leave a church. Let's just make sure that we've prayerfully and lovingly dealt with the issues when we do.
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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