When people leave a church, it can be hard for the ones who remain. In a recent post in The Gospel Coalition, Dave Harvey offers helpful insights for people grieving over church departures.
People may leave for understandable reasons. Even so, we can lose perspective. When good friends depart, our personal support network may be disrupted. The loss of a key leader, active worker, or generous giver may seem to threaten the viability of the church.
For these people, we must not confuse leaving our church with leaving the kingdom. Despite the turbulence in our feelings, we can take a kingdom perspective, praying as always: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Some defections are messy. People can do great harm by unholy speech and behavior (2 Timothy 4:14). In these instances, the urge to accuse defectors (and defend ourselves) is powerful.
We have been forewarned: to follow Jesus is to suffer (Matthew 16:24; 2 Timothy 3:12-13). When we are slandered, we have a prescribed response: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28; also see 1 Peter 2:23).
At times love must be tough. When the bad behavior of defectors endangers the church, a clear and simple explanation may be needed to draw out the infection (2 Timothy 4:15).
When peace eludes us amid departures, we stand on the promises of God: by his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus forgives our sin; by his presence within, the Holy Spirit counsels and transforms us; by his servants, God grows the church, whether by many or by few (Romans 5:1; John 14:16; 1 Samual 14:6).
Dave Harvey is president of Sojourn Network and teaching pastor at Summit Church in Fort Myers (Fl.). You can read the full article online.