I don’t usually read or watch the news, but every once in a while, something grabs my attention. An online article by Chris Sonksen was one such article today. It was both challenging and encouraging at the same time. Like most people, I have observed people coming, going, returning to my church, depending on reasons sometimes openly and loudly announced, sometimes just quietly and gradually withdrawing. Some simply disappear, others leave in a flurry of discord and disharmony. It has puzzled me since I was drawn back to church in my forties.
I was raised in the Roman Catholic church – in the time when if you lived in the parish you stayed in that church, period – and attended willingly until I returned home after college, and began attending the parish church in which I had grown up. I know the exact reason I left – a priest who interrupted another priest’s mass in order to collect more money. To interrupt what was supposed to be a celebration of God to collect money for air-conditioning didn’t seem correct. That’s the last time I attended a Sunday service, until , as I mentioned , my mid-forties.
When I started attending church again, it began when a friend invited me to her church. Turns out it wasn’t a Catholic church, but a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, pentacostal church. As I renewed my relationship with Jesus, I felt at home and settled. That is, until I met and married my late husband! He was not comfortable with the worship style at my church, and felt more at home in his. After a great deal of drama and tears (all mine, I’m afraid!), we ended up at his church – a Bible-believing Baptist church. Hindsight shows me that God was the one who orchestrated those circumstances and changes. He had a plan for me, both in ministry and daily living.
But this was a church in transistion. The minister who had pastored the church fo over 25 years had retired, the interim pastor would have made a good pentacostal pastor, and the newly-hired pastor was trying to fit in. People hated the change, left in droves, and left chaos in their wake. So much so that the state association sent in a regional pastor to address the congregational issues and an interim pastor whose special calling was developing healiung and reconciliation.
But again, people “didn’t like him” and left. Again. Three long years later and a new pastor is called. But “I don’t like…” raises its ugly head again. What don’t they like? The worship music, or the new service times, or the new worship team, or the youth leader, or, or,or! You get the picture. Personal preference, not Christ, is becoming their doctrine. What I like is mor important than what Jesus teaches.
I could easily have decided to leave after my husband passed. It was hard and painful to be in church every Sunday, and seeing the place where his casket had sat, to hear the songs he loved to hear and sing, to see the people who loved him as they missed his presence. BUT GOD NEVER SAID “Leave. Go somewhere else.” He never gave me permission to seek a new church home. Someday He may, but until that time, any reason I might come up with for leaving would be all about me, and not about Christ and what He wants from my life.
So I challenge you. If you are thinking about leaving the church where God has you, ask yourself, “Who am I trying to please with this decision? Myself or God?” “What is motivating my desire to leave – my preference and feelings, or the Word of God?” If the answer to either question involves the word “I'” then get into some serious prayer and seek out what God wants and not what you want.