Not too long ago, I was in deep contemplation about a crossroad that I’ve been facing. Do I leave my church or do I stay?
Well, I think I’ve made my decision. Or, to put it another way: I think my decision was made for me.
Without getting in the explicit details, my pastor pulled a REALLY FOUL number yesterday; in the middle of worship service no less. He blatantly lied against someone and blasted him in front of the entire congregation. Interestingly, he did so immediately after he “apologized” to the guy for a previous scuff. Don’t get me wrong: I don't necessarily feel bad for the man whom my pastor attacked. He’ll be fine. He’s a big boy and is more than able to spiritually handle his affairs. What bothered me most was what this situation represented: an insecure pastor who has to validate and protect himself at other people’s expense. That, to me, is not a healthy body.
That’s why my decision has been made for me.
That’s why I’m leaving.
The truth is: if I hadn't grown up in my church (my whole family went there so it was a given that I’d be there too), I would've probably left a long time ago. While we're at it: I probably would not have ever chosen a place like this as my church home to begin with. I never put much thought into being there. I was really there because everybody else was. Simply put: being there seemed like the easy and appropriate thing to do.
Sadly, after being with this particular church for over 20 years, I can only remember a handful of important sermons, a few worship experiences, and a tiny morsel of cases where I can recall actually being “fed”. Perhaps the saving grace of it all; the thing that makes sense out of my time at this church; are the relationships that I’ve built over the years. I was talking to one of my best friends the other night and we spent a couple of hours reminiscing about our childhood experiences at the church and all the fun we had. Although many of my relationships have dematerialized over the years; almost to the point where I’m now just another face in the crowd, they have always been the most important and significant part of my time at this church. I think that I put up with all the church’s nonsense (past and present) because of the J.D.’s, the A.D.’s, the R.R.’s, and the J McQ’s, in the congregation whom I know and love (I used initials here to ensure anonymity. They know who they are…). Above everything else, these people help to make up my spiritual lifestyle.
In some ways, I would argue that my only legitimate reason for being at church (lowercase “C”) was to create, build, sustain and edify relationships with other believers who have accepted God. From those relationships, you can then form the Church (capital “C”). I don’t think that I’d have as much of issue with the instituion of church (lowercase “C”) if it didn’t try to be the end all for spiritual growth and development. All of the attributes of the Church (capital “C”), like love, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, humility, compassion, selflessness, etc., have been replaced and substituted by the programming and routine of church (lowercase “C”). Yesterday morning, for instance, to make up for the fact that we were finished with morning service before the end of our radio broadcast, we filled in the remaining time by doing some fake, half-assed attempt at worshipping. D’oh! Was that a worship experience or was it another example of service being dictated by program?
Things only get worse when my pastor pulls the foul numbers that he did yesterday.
** End of digression **
Don’t get me wrong: I think that we should always remain in prayer for our leaders. We should always love and support them, even when they screw up. But, I refuse to believe that we have to tolerate their antics when they’re done so blatantly and disrespectfully as to tear down another person. As the Bible reminds us, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory. But do we all intentionally fall short while using the power of the pulpit; the very place where you should be sharing God’s word?! If this is the behavior I’m to expect from my leader, I need to go elsewhere.
All things being equal, I plan to let him know that I’m leaving and exactly why I’m leaving. To just get up and leave is not only irresponsible on my behalf, but I believe that God would hold me accountable if I did that.
Make no mistake abou it: I'll always keep the church and its pastor in my prayers and I'll always consider it home. But I'm done with that place.