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Mark Dever on Leaving a Local Church

This excerpt or “quick tips” is from Mark Dever’s little book, What is a Healthy Church? I don’t know who reads the Messenger (pastors or lay people), but I thought this might be helpful for both pastors and lay people.

For pastors it could serve as a reference to help ask helpful questions to a person who is considerate enough to let their pastor know they are leaving. If we are going to pastor people to honor Christ, we should pastor and love them right up until they moment they leave. These tips might help us help the person that is leaving and potentially help the next pastor who will have the privilege of shepherding their soul. For a lay person this could be edifying because it helps them think about why they are really leaving. Also, it points out that there is a right way to leave a local church if they must leave.

Dever advises on p. 57:

Before Your Decide to Leave

  1. Pray.
  2. Let your current pastor know about your thinking  before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.
  3. Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?
  4. Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.
  5. Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life-places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matt. 7:3-5).
  6. Be humble. Recognize that you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).

If You Go

  1. Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church.
  2. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).
  3. Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.
  4. If there has been hurt, then forgive-even as you have been forgiven.
Brent Prentice

Author: Brent Prentice

View more articles by Brent Prentice.

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  • Good reading for every church member. I would also add what I heard TW Hunt say when he warned us not to make major decisions (like the decision to leave a church) while in the middle of our own emotional swings.

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