In our first post in this series (which can be found here), I shared about good and bad reasons to leave a local church. In that post, I quoted the pastor’s pastor, Bob Yandian, as saying most people leave churches offended. From my own experience and discussions with many other church leaders that is most definitely a true statement.
Now, if you are leaving a church offended you won’t leave well. If you are leaving a church offended you will leave for a petty reason – they didn’t play the song I liked, the pastor didn’t call me when I wanted him to, so and so didn’t say hello to me, I didn’t get promoted in the church, and so on and so forth. And you will leave badly and hurt the church and hurt your walk with Christ.
Next week, I will post a sort of leaving a church check list so you can leave a church in a way that honours God and honours the kingdom and reflects the character of Christ. But you will not be interested in leaving right, indeed just reading that will annoy you, if you are offended.
Leviticus 19.18 says:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord
Why does the Bible tell us not to take vengeance or hear a grudge? Because it is actually fairly easy to get offended at church, at the pastor, at the elders, at our church family.
We get offended in three ways. Firstly, we have unrealistic and ungodly expectations. Secondly, because our pastors are human; and thirdly because our pastors do things wrong.
So firstly we get offended through unrealistic and ungodly expectations. We have a mental image of what a pastor should be, painted in our minds by our past experiences, our culture, by preachers on the TV and many other things.
Some people come to our church for example from a background where the pastor wears a suit every Sunday. I don’t do that because I am reaching people to whom a suit would be a barrier to hearing me. But their unrealistic and unbiblical expectation causes offense because I am not dressed the way they see a pastor dressing. I have had people go out and buy me a suit because they felt sorry for me because I was a pastor without a suit. I have a lot of suits, God is very generous to me and clothes me better than the lillies of the field, but where in the Bible is a suit mentioned for a pastor? That’s tradition, not Bible.
We all have our traditions and our pet things and when they are challenged we can get offended. That is a dumb reason to leave a church, especially when the challenging of those traditions helps us renew our minds and transforms our life.
When our unrealistic and unbiblical expectations are challenged we can get offended but we need to see that as a growth opportunity.
We had a couple leave our church because I challenged an unrealistic and unbiblical tradition they had. They said to me they knew God had spoken to them to be in our church, they knew God had called them to be with us (and we knew it too), but they couldn’t work out why God would bring them to a church where the pastor didn’t for their expectations. They had written a list of reasons why God might have told them to come to us with about 8 or 9 reasons on, and not one of the reasons was “so I could change and grow and be transformed”. We get offended when we hold so tightly to our traditions that the idea that God could work in a different way to our traditions is not even on the piece of paper!
We also get offended because pastors and other leaders are human. I am not omnipresent and I am not all-knowing. Sometimes God reveals a problem to me, but mainly you need to tell me. When the church was growing in Acts 6, the soup kitchen it ran was only catering to Jewish widows and the Greek widows were going hungry. Not one of the twelve apostles got a dream, a vision or impression. No angel visited them. The church had to tell them. Sometimes I need to be in two places at once and someone gets offended I send a deputy! They don’t realize pastors are human. Sometimes I put my family above the church and people get upset… No, I am a father and husband first. Be human, and don’t be afraid to be human, but don’t at offended because your church is led by a human.
Jesus couldn’t do miracles when people were offended at his humanity, the fact he had a dad, and his dad had a job upset people and offended people to the point they couldn’t receive a miracle from him. I had a mother once ban her daighter from coming to our church because I am white. My humanity offended them to the point they missed out on miracles. Sadly still most people go to churches where the pastor looks like them, and that will never being healthy Christianity to London.
Finally, let’s face it pastors do sin still. I certainly do, if you don’t, let me know so I can join your prayer line! Now there will be a point where a pastor’s integrity is damaged so badly, it would be dumb to keep getting fed by him.
There are pastors in my city who have been arrested for child abuse and yet are still in the pulpit, that’s crazy. Yes there is grace but there is also wisdom!
On the other hand, don’t run off because a pastor is still working out his salvation with fear and trembling. In fact, learn from their journey. I shared last week in one of our churches one of my biggest struggles which is to believe God can actually change the United Kingdom through me. I spend a lot of time re-reading and re-listening to a sermon series by Andrew Wommack called Don’t Limit God because that is certainly something I do. It was not comfortable to share so honestly and starkly but afterwards so many people were encouraged and inspired and even challenged, I am very glad I did.
Don’t get offended, but if you do get offended, don’t leave the church offended. You might still leave later for a better reason, but don’t leave offended – not for the churches’ sake, they will be surprisingly fine without you – but for your sake and for the sake of your spirituality.