Don’t Ghost the Church
Leaving a church is a painful topic for Christians and for pastors. And certainly, during the last couple of years through COVID, election crises, and racial crises, every church has tasted this. It is one of the saddest things that I've experienced. And I know I'm not alone. All my pastoral colleagues in other churches in our area have seen this ghosting move where, literally, brothers and sisters just back away, disengage—no communication, no conversation. That's not a healthy way to leave a church.
As a church, we are committed to Christ and to one another. The Lord's Supper is this table where there is a bond and a unity. Baptism is a public witness of our initiation into the people of God as one—having one Lord and one faith and one baptism. So there should be a different kind of approach for Christians leaving a church than somebody who no longer wants to eat at a particular restaurant or shop at a particular store.
3 Tips for Leaving Well
First of all, be honest with what the issues are before you even bring them to a pastor or an elder. Pray. Ask the Lord to guide. Seek counsel privately and carefully with people that know you and are able to speak into your life.
Second, go talk to a pastor or elder. They may have actually been someone that you feel offended by or in complete disagreement with, but they are your brothers or sisters. Talk to them. Have a conversation. Work it out.
We've got to see each other as brothers and sisters. We've got to have open conversations.
And thirdly, take time. It shouldn't be quick. It shouldn't be done in anger. It shouldn't be done as a way of revenge or attack. It shouldn't be done in a way of slander. If you find that you're unable to commit to this church because of biblical or gospel reasons, that's a legitimate concern. Make sure they're accurate. Make sure it's done in love. Make sure it's done with patience. We've got to find a way to do this well.
Our consumeristic, individualistic society has not helped catechize us toward this, but we've got to see each other as brothers and sisters. We've got to have open conversations. We've got to agree to disagree. At times, we've got to ask the Lord to guide our process of not just coming to a church, but also leaving a church.
If you came to a church through a process that involved meeting with elders, sitting down and confirming your faith in Christ, and your belief in the gospel, then your departure shouldn't look that much different. There should be the same kind of conversations and discussions. And even at some point, agree to disagree just as you entered in, to make sure that there's balance between coming and going.
I pray that in our churches we're able to have those conversations and not separate as the unbelievers do in a broken and fallen world.
Edward W. Klink III is the author of The Local Church: What It Is and Why It Matters for Every Christian.
Ultimately, the local church makes visible what is invisible, and reflects in words and deeds the kingdom life that is to come.
As much as a church does facilitate and organize relationships and practices, the church is more than a means to an end, a utilitarian resource for an individual Christian’s needs.
Jonathan Leeman discusses the vital importance of in-person church fellowship, how we can and should prioritize involvement with the people of God in a local church—especially after a year like 2020.
Mickey Klink talks about what you should look for in a new church, what factors should impact your decision, and what warning signs to be on the lookout for in your search.