When People Leave
WHEN PEOPLE LEAVE
People leave their churches for various reasons. No matter what the reason might be, there should be much prayer and fasting invested before leaving the church God has placed you in. Receiving Godly counsel regarding the will of God, His call and purpose for our lives should be paramount to any decisions we make. Especially for those involved in ministry.
The call to discipleship is one that demands trust, obedience, loyalty, accountability, faithfulness, and honesty. Without these elements discipleship could not take place.
Throughout the years, we at New Harvest Norwalk have helped men and women reach their God given destinies. Unfortunately, there have been those men over the years who have taken advantage of what had been entrusted to them. Trust is foundational in maintaining relationships, especially when ministry is involved.
In his epistle to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:1-3, “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”
There is a spirit of self-promotion and self-interest that Satan uses to corrupt trust faithfulness and integrity.
We read about King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. He allowed himself to become manipulated by self-interest and pride by not following Samuel’s directions. Yes, he was anointed for a time as King, but by disregarding his accountability to Samuel and because of his disobedience, he eventually invalidated his authority and destiny. We know the outcome.
As the Senior Pastor of New Harvest Norwalk, I take seriously the Apostle Paul’s exhortation in Acts 20:28-31, “Pay attention to yourselves and to the entire flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops to be shepherds for God’s church which he acquired with his own blood. I know that fierce wolves will come to you after I leave, and they won’t spare the flock. Some of your own men will come forward and say things that distort the truth. They will do this to lure disciples into following them. So be alert!”
So, it is with the Apostle Paul’s words in mind, I find it prudent to share my thoughts regarding “When People Leave” and talk about some of my experiences in order to bring clarity and alertness to the people of God as is my responsibility.
In 1983 Nancy and I planted the New Harvest Manchester Church, U.K. After five years, there were four New Harvest churches planted aside from Manchester.
Nancy and I returned to the Norwalk Church in 1988 to assume the Senior pastors position and Leadership of NHCF. Leadership changes needed to take place in the Manchester Church, which upset a few of the English pastors. What did they do?
Without even a “goodbye” or a, “thank you for investing in our marriages and entrusting us with ministry”, they just walked away without concern for the people who cared for them or the ministry. They said it was God who told them to leave, but jealousy over a position was really at the heart of the issue.
Elements were operating in their lives that the Apostle Paul warns young Timothy about in 2 Timothy 3:2-5, “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these”. These men had a form of Godliness, but denied and abandoned everything they learned about discipleship and serving due to a Spirit of Jealousy. Sadly, the churches they pastored no longer exist today.
I share this experience with you because as they say, “History has a way of repeating itself”. And so, it has. A few weeks ago, I was told that a couple whom we had invested in and trusted for over 19 years decided to leave our church without prior notice. We entrusted them with Pastoral ministry for over 11 years in Norwalk.
They left to start a church plant without even asking for counsel or advise. This immediately gave me pause and concern because they weren't casual church attenders, but ministry people. In their recent “Facebook” posts they are giving the impression that New Harvest Christian Fellowship, its pastors and leaders are supportive of their actions. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I felt blind-sided by their decision. Just 2 months prior to their departure they asked to speak with me about their destiny. They had stopped serving in the church for close to a year due to personal issues.
They asked me if there was an opportunity for them to plant a church in the future, or should they just “quietly slip away and leave”. (In my 42 plus years of salvation and ministry, when people leave their church under less than favorable circumstances, it isn’t very quiet or unnoticed!)
I told them “yes”, there is always an opportunity for couples in this ministry to plant churches as long as they qualify. They asked what they should do in order to prepare. I suggested they find a place in the church where they could serve the people who would be investing in them and entrusting them with a church plant.
They told me they would get back to me in a week as to where they would serve. That never happened. Unfortunately, the next thing I heard is that they’ve left the church. Once again, not even a “goodbye” or a “thank you for entrusting us with ministry all these years”, they just walked out without concern for people or the ministry. Yet they are now asking the people they walked out on for prayer.
As always, they said, “it’s God who spoke to them.” If it’s God, why the deception of asking “what should we do to prepare” and “where should we serve without following up?” If it’s God, why walk away without a word to their pastor of 19 years? The reality is that their departure had been planned and employment sought in their new city many months prior to our initial meeting. Once again, it was Jealousy that prompted their decision.
“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these”.
A Pastor of a Mega Church asked me a question several years ago. He asked, “Doesn’t it bother you or hurt you when pastors leave after you’ve invested time and resources in them and their ministries?” My answer was “yes, but that’s what God has called this ministry to do. Our call is to invest and disciple men and pray that they maintain the elements of integrity that brings success.”
Does it hurt? Yes, but what hurts most is when sincere people are manipulated with enticing words under the guise of sincerity.