Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why We Left Our Church: The Simple Truth

When you leave a church sometimes the following questions are asked and statements are made: "They must be mad or holding a grudge."
"Who do you think offended them?"
"I bet they didn't get their way on something and called it quits."
"I guess they weren't happy so..."
"Well, something must have happened and ticked them off or they wouldn't have left."

Something did happen. It had nothing to do with a feeling. It had to do with a holy stirring.

In Mary Poppins, Burt is playing along in his one man band, entertaining the crowd. Happy. Routine. And something breaks his "day as usual." 

The winds changed. 
The atmosphere around him stirred. 
He pressed pause, and looked UP.

In wonder, anticipation, and maybe even a bit of confusion, he slowly sings, ""Somethin's 'bout to begin. Can't put my finger on what lies in store..." Then he goes back to singing, "Step in time...step in time..."


That's what happened to us. Something in our spiritual atmosphere stirred and we knew something was about to begin, though we couldn't quite put our finger on it. So we went back to stepping in time, all the while, waiting...watching...praying for clarity and direction. We looked UP--to Jesus. We did this for over a year. 

"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV

Some seasons are relatively short. And some...some are long. We spent fifteen years in the church we left. I grew up spiritually there, we dedicated our children, watched them get saved and baptized there. I stepped into all kinds of ministry and stretched...grew. We poured our hearts, our service, our time into the people of this church. We don't regret a minute of ministry. We cherish those memories. Every. Single. One.  



But God began to place the direct community we do life in on our hearts. He strategically placed us in areas of the west end of the county where we have unique opportunities and great relationships. He opened our eyes to see things here we haven't seen before. 


We knew where God was calling us to focus ourselves. Here. Living #thewestlife (as I like to call it).

God's timing has fallen perfectly into place. One small step at a time. From an established church accepting God's call to Go West with a 3rd campus to my book contract coming exactly when it did, to snow days that moved dates around to help me finish out my committment to people and God, with grace in a class I love to teach. I could go on and on about things that were divinely set up, but it wouldn't be a blog. It'd be a book.  
My son, front and center, about to be baptized! Good times.


Not only God's timing, but His fingerprints, blessings, confirmations constantly reminded us that we were in the center of His will. And that's a peaceful, joyful, wonderful place to be. If we were leaving over hurts, disappointments, anger, bitterness, offense, name the poison, God wouldn't be showering blessings. He'd be laying on conviction for us to repent. To say we've never been angry or upset, disappointed, let down, or frustrated would be a lie. In fifteen years that's to be expected. For anyone. I mean, good grief I get irritated with the people who came from my body. You think I'd never get miffed at someone who didn't? 

But it's not a reason to leave a church. If you've been in my F.O.R.W.A.R.D. class, you've heard me say that. If you know Tim and I well, then you know the kind of people we are, and our hearts, and it wouldn't cross your mind that we might leave because we're bitter or angry.  We're not quitters. So right here, right now, if you're reading this and your feelings have been hurt and you're considering leaving your church over it, DON'T. Go to that person. In love. Talk about it. Forgive. Always forgive. Make things right. You're a family. Family should love each other. The Bible says, "They  (the world) will know us (the church) by our love for one another."  
On a Missions trip in Thailand. We had lunch at the governor's home
in Chaing Rai, but here we are at her office. Good times.


A few questions that might need answered:
Does that mean we don't love the people in the church we left? No. Does it mean we love the people in our new church more? No. Because guess what? At the end of the day, we're all ONE BODY. Church #1 isn't a body. Church #2 isn't a body. Church #3, 4, 5, and 6, aren't a body. They are all PARTS of ONE body and Christ is the head. In fact, gospel preaching churches ought to be working together not competing for who can have the coolest programs, biggest attendance, and more photos on Instagram to brand them, but that's another post for another day. And thank you so much for those of you who wrapped your arms around me at book club and last night after F.O.R.W.A.R.D. who have cheered us on and are excited for us. It. Meant. Everything!!

Does this mean when we champion our new church and post updates on how amazing the preaching is, the worship is, the events/LifeGROUPS, Youth is that we're slighting the church we left or other churches in general? NO. If you personally take it that way, then you need to personally deal with it. Sheesh, my most favorite female voice on the planet is still singing on stage at church #1. Waves to my BFF Heather Williams! Will she take offense if I post how beautiful another woman's voice is that sings on Sunday? No. Because she's secure enough and knows me well enough to know I'm not slapping her in a passive aggressive way by saying something nice about someone else or the fact that I can be moved by someone else's voice and anointing. I doubt Beth Moore gets upset when folks talk about how great Priscilla Shirer is. She's probably overjoyed because that means a woman is getting the Word into her soul. And really...isn't that what we should be doing as well? Being excited about people growing and maturing in Christ wherever God chooses and by whomever God uses. As I've matured in Christ, I've come to realize this more and more. 

Does this mean we have to stop doing life with the people in Church #1 because we're not sitting in a Sunday service with them? NO. Faith Readers book club isn't a leisure group under church #1 anymore, but it is a community Christian women's book club that meets at the Southaven library. Love you, ladies, and appreciate your amazing outpouring of love and support! Anyone can come and I hope they do! From churches all over the county. We're all sisters in Christ. Aren't we? It means I still go to movies and dinner with couples from church #1. It means I still ask them to pray for me. We still go to lunch, shopping, and the zoo. We text and talk over the phone. It means you don't have to dodge me, hide from me behind Walmart or Target end caps, or pretend you don't see me in the grocery store (not that you would but just in case). It means you can still send me that invite to lunch you promised and text to check in on me. It means you can still love me.  You don't have to feel awkward around me. I'm still me. I still love the same Jesus. I still care about you.  Because we've established a friendship over faith, not over a building we attend two or three times a week. And this goes for anyone leaving a church or for those who haven't left. Love each other. Don't let awkwardness or "territorialness" (is that a word?) keep you from continuing to be friends. Love. Love. Love one another. Even if someone DOES leave over anger or bitterness...those who stay behind, LOVE them, text them and tell them that but mean it. Those who left under those circumstances, pray about that heart condition. Those who stay behind, give a call or text those who have left due to God's leading and say, "Hey, we love you no matter what and we're glad about what God is doing in your life. Can't wait to see how He uses you to reach others. We're proud of you. We appreciate all you've done in this season with us and if you ever need anything...we're here. With open arms. Always. (cue Journey). And if you can't say those things, if you don't feel those things...you should pray about that heart condition. 
Okay so I might look angry here, but I'm not! I'm flipping cold! This is the BBQ team serving at Springfest. Good times.


Does it mean that we're going to secretly try and get members from Church #1 to come to our new church? NO. Sadly, that happens all too often in churches and it shouldn't. But not with us. This isn't about trying to take our friends where we're going. It's about reaching out to the West end of the county and seeing lives changed for Christ. Seeing broken hearts mended, wounds healed, marriages restored, crime rate dropped because people are coming to know Jesus! It's not about manipulating already-Christ-followers into coming to a different church. That's shallow and ridiculous and if you know Tim and I we are not shallow. Sometimes we're ridiculous--in a good way, though! :) 

Does it mean we are over-the-moon excited to be where we are and making new friendships, ministering with new people and sitting under new leadership? YES!!! We are thrilled to be a part of Life Fellowship WEST (I only mention the name because many of you either already know or are going to ask anyway, and we're proud to be there). We are committed and on board with their vision! We have no clue where God will place us as far as ministry. We didn't walk into the church saying, "Well, we are gifted in XXX areas so we need to do XXX and XXX." No. I may never teach another F.O.R.W.A.R.D. class again (until it's published and I have to have DVDs recorded, gulp!) But maybe I will. Or  maybe I'll work the cafe and put a little cup of chocolaty goodness into the hands of an eager child who needs to hear and know that Jesus loves him/her. That's the thing about God's plan. You don't have every detail when you want it. You have to take steps of faith.  Will I miss ministering with those of you who I've been in the trenches with? YES! Am I anticipating getting in the trenches with new friends? YES!  
This is the first Trunk or Treat event we ever did. I had a blast working
with my BFF Melanie to organize one of the largest outreaches we've ever done! Good times.


This is a good thing for our family. Part of God's purpose and plan. So we celebrate it. We love you, Church #1 and hope you'll celebrate it with us as many already have. 

It's time for us to move forward. And this is the next step. 

We're excited about a new START at a  new place. God is doing a new thing Waves at Amanda as I see you, girl! 



"My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." 1 Cor. 16:24 NKJV




photocredit/freedigitalphotos(dot)net

16 comments:

  1. Love u and your family! Excited as u start this new journey. :)

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    1. Thank you, Gayle! We love ya'll too! :)

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  2. I love the truth in this post! We've moved so many times, and sometimes there is awkwardness when we bump into old church friends, but there needn't be. I love all our old churches!!

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    1. Thank you, Jill. I imagine moving often does make it difficult and even awkward at times. :)

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  3. Definitely bitter sweet, I love your girl and family! Excited for your new adventure! I'm reminded of the verse in Isaiah you will hear a voice behind you saying go left or turn right, thank you for this beautiful post for following the leading of the Holy Spirit for being brave. May grace, favor, follow you. I'm thankful for the almost three years we had with your family. Can't wait to see what God has for you, thanks for encouraging me to pursue my dreams. Love you and your family!!

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    1. Thank you, Laura. That has been a verse I've prayed often over the last few years. One of my favorites. :)

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  4. Oh, girl. I can relate. We changed churches a few years ago, and I was not prepared for the tough transition. Sounds like you're going into this with an amazing attitude. Praying for you guys.

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    1. Transitions can be tough. I've heard nightmare stories from friends and even family members. God has really covered us in a way that made our exit grace-filled and easier than I expected. Thank you for the prayers. Hugs!

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing, I really really needed this!! The last year I've felt Him telling me that I needed to leave the church I'm a member of, and I think it's been during this time of sickness that He's made that even more evident. I don't understand some of the reasons, but I know that He's got a plan and purpose! I'll be praying for your family too!! Hugs!!

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    1. Thank you for your prayers. And I'm praying right now that God gives you wisdom and a clear vision of what the next step is for you. Hugs right back!!!

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  6. Jessica I was EXACTLY in the same position last year with our old church. We didn't leave on bad terms at all and I still go to some of their Women's Ministry events because they are still my sisters in Christ. But I had been praying for myself and my family, all the while he was leading us to another church. Not the answer I wanted to my prayers! LOL But now I see, God always knows best.
    Yes, some people in our old church were hurt and even the pastor expressed disappointment but we are all only human. I am totally grateful for the many years of spiritual growth my old church gave me but it was time to move on.
    I'm happy for you and your family.

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    1. A wise woman told me just a couple of weeks ago when I was sharing my concerns and fears about our exit, "At the end of the day, Jess, who are you trying to please? God or man?" That really gave me some peace. Not everyone understands. Some take it as an insult or even betrayal, but when it's God, it's God and all you can do is be obedient. I'm glad to hear you've moved on and are at peace and can still enjoy events with women from your other church. :)

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  7. Beautiful post!! Love reading your heart. Prayers for your journey, my friend!

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    1. Thank you, Michelle! I appreciate your prayers so much. Hugs! xoxo

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  8. Love the honestly in this post, Jess. We must follow where God leads us. God is working in you. There is so much He has waiting for you. *hugs*

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  9. Sometimes, God just moves you. Period. Blessings on your new beginnings!

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