I have been given reason to ponder lately...
We have had several people make decisions to leave our community in the past month. We have also had some people decide to move to Buffalo to step intentionally into this community, and a few others who have called to say they are praying about moving here.
We also have relationship with several people who still look to us for pastoral care and friendship, but no longer want to be a part of our church community, and are now involved in another church here in the city.
In the midst of all of this, we have had some struggles financially, nothing traumatic, just a little boat rocking...
And just today we had another church in the area offer to support us financially in what we are doing.
Taken together, it all has my head spinning a little.
It all has me pondering about relationships.
So just what is a healthy way to leave a church?
What are legitimate reasons for Christians to pick up and move?
What is a healthy relationship between churches supposed to look like?
How does Christian community work with people who belong to different church communities?
How should we respond to Christians who leave their church to join ours?
When it comes to moving and leaving, I think, more than anything else, the process is the important part of the equation. The outcomes may vary from situation to situation, but there are certain fixed points in the way in which the decisions should be made:
1) Decisions should come out of community discernment not individual desire.
2) We should have the blessing of the community.
3) We should have a clear sense of the underlying motivations to our decision.
And a few cautions to think through:
1) Relational funkiness should never be a reason to leave.
2) If I am unwilling or unable to do something here and now, then it is imprudent to think I will be doing that something there and then.
3) I am the cause of most of my problems, and I will be going with me.
4) The grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence, but when it is, we are probably called to stay and water the grass on our side.
I am still thinking about relationships with other churches, but I do think there is at least one thing I am sure of:
When people show up to my church from another church, I have an obligation to their spiritual well-being to make sure they have the blessing of their former community.