I vaguely remember the high school dating scene with multiple cases of “going steady” and break-ups. Some of these on-again, off-again relationships were hard to keep up with since they were on-again today and off-again tomorrow! Sometimes the break-up would be a note passed in class, or a tense telephone call. Break-ups were always hard to do, as Neil Sedaka used to sing.
I heard on the news lately about a new break-up service for those too timid to do it themselves. For a fee the service will send a text or e-mail such as “U R dumped,” and for a larger fee, will send someone to deliver the news personally. The service is advertised for “cowards” who don’t want to face the wrath of their beloved themselves!
I’ve thought lately that we need an ecclesiastical break-up service in the church.
A high school friend who pastors in the area told me of a family who sent him an e-mail announcing they wouldn’t be back. My friend said it was especially hurtful since the lady of the house had been on the search committee who brought him to his present preaching station. He thought they were close enough to talk about the family’s desire to leave, but apparently not so.
The coming and going of church members isn’t new, but it seems to have accelerated. Parents have always been in search of the best programs for the kids and have been willing to change churches. The last barrier we’ve seen come down is denominational. Research shows seekers want the programming and don’t seem to care if the provider is labeled Methodist, Baptist or Presbyterian.
I’ve always thought it wise to talk with one’s pastor if a family is pondering whether to leave their church. If there’s an issue involved, the pastor might be unaware and can take steps to remedy the problem whether it be a personal issue or one involving other church members. If there’s no issue involved other than the appeal of programs, or to go to the church where family or friends attend or not, as in the case of divorce, I still believe talking with the pastor is wise. Though disappointed, he will give his blessing, and some measure of relationship will continue.
I’ve known a few unscrupulous pastors who delight in stealing the “sheep” from other churches. This is regrettable since churches are partners, not competitors, and we’re all working for the same kingdom cause. As one of my boyhood pastors used to say, “There’s too much devil to fight for us to fight each other.”
Breaking up with one’s church should always be done with thoughtfulness and never with malice.