By Michael Mooney, Exec. Elder
A few observations of common behaviors and attitudes that tend to follow people who break fellowship from their churches, etc.
This report was inspired by a conversation that surfaced among fellow ministers regarding the question:
When it is time to move on?
It is reasonable to conclude that most ministers reach a time in their lives when they feel that God is leading them to leave their present posts of duty within a Christian fellowship. In many cases, it is their posts of duty, or lack thereof, that really motivates their consideration to move, and is accompanied by frustration. While there are reasonable times and circumstances where such moves are ordained of God, this article sees them as exceptions to the information presented here.
Making a decision to leave a fellowship is not an easy thing to do. This is especially true when the attitude of a heart is to please God. The wisdom of Solomon says “to everything there is a season…” From a personal standpoint, my flesh has always made it easier to move on than to submit to the present circumstances. In some situations, moving on was the right thing to do. However as I look back, I believe in most situations I was supposed to wait on the Lord and did not. I let my frustration become the cause of my action, rather than the Spirit’s guidance.
During such times in my own life, as well as serving in the lives of others, I have observed an interesting phenomenon that occurs within this context of the lives of believers. Consider the following common relationships with why people leave churches:
1) The pastor leaving the church, at some time affirmed that God led them there.
2) In consideration of their departure, they are now stating that God is leading them to move on.
3) Often they feel they must move because of some perceived injustice, lack of holiness, or spiritual maturity in someone else.
Ironically, it is almost never that a person believes that they must move on because of their own lack of holy living. It is true that in some cases God would call a person away because of a lack of godliness around them. However, the real question is if God is abandoning them. If He is not turning His back on them, the person leaving might reconsider how they are called to be a part of the positive change that He hopes to bring about among them.
- Both of these possibilities have all the potential to be valid. However, it is interesting that both of them also assume that the person considering them “always follows the Lord’s leading.” The mathematical probability of this is unlikely.
- Another assumption is the subtle dismissal of all that God is doing in the lives of those who will remain at the fellowship after the person leaves. The reality is that God does sometimes call people to move on, but this does not mean that He will not continue to use the situation that is left behind to work in the lives of others. In other words, even if God genuinely does lead someone to move, it does not by default equal “ichabod”.
- Lastly, God seems to give people insight, calling, and vision for the sake of a lifetime of events. Often, we tend to want to realize those things much sooner than they are intended to transpire. Yes, God does lead people to move on. In most cases it is to move on with blessings, -to be sent as opposed to leaving. Yet, it is also God who calls people to stay.
- The good news is in my last observation. No matter what direction in which a person goes, even when it is the wrong one, the Lord will use it for good (Romans 8:28).