How to break up with your church, prt. 1 (of 5)


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A fellow pastor wrote to me recently and asked me to write a post about how to leave your church. I instantly wondered why I had never thought of doing that before as I, and every other pastor, have been burned by people who leave in hurtful ways.

Have you ever decided it was time to cut ties with a church you were attending? It can be a really tough decision. You might wrestle with it for weeks or months before finally taking the leap. I have broken up with a church (as attendee) before, and probably didn’t handle it well. As a pastor, I have observed different ways people break up with their churches. I have been deeply hurt by people I thought loved and cared for me as they left my church. Other times I have bidden a sad farewell to a family, but felt respected and loved by them as they transitioned to another church.

Just as there are right and wrong ways to break up with people you are dating, there are right and wrong, mature and and immature ways to leave your church, if you decide it is time to take that step. How does a person do this lovingly? What are wrong/unloving ways to do this? In this post I will help you see both.

1. Before you break up with your church, understand that it is a relationship, people are going to be hurt, and follow the same rules you should follow when ending any other relationship

  • Be gentle.
  • Be brief.
  • Be clear.
  • Be gentle.


Letter to my church family

What follows is an update I just posted on my church’s Facebook page, to my church family. I was thinking of them when I wrote it, but I know this blog is read by many dear friends who care deeply for me and my family, so if you’re one of those people, this is for you as well.

Hello church family. I am in my room at Beaumont, a beautiful private room with a wonderful view. I will be receiving IV steroids over five days. Apparently there is some chance that I will be allowed to take the last couple of days at home, but this is uncertain. I will meet with my MS doctor and this floor’s attending physician in the morning.

As many of you know, this flareup actually began in October. I have had very few healthy days since then, and it seems to have culminated in this — the worst exacerbation I have experienced in my 22 years with the disease. I am so looking forward to lots of rest, peace, prayer, meditation, reading, and solitude during my time here. There is even a Starbucks in the food court, so Christy has assured me that fine coffee will play a part in my healing. It has been so long since I have been a whole person. I hope to do much healing in this mandatory down-time so I can return to you whole (or at least partially whole!), and lead us with an energy and enthusiasm that I have mostly lacked all these long months.

When I think of you I am flooded with a sense of my great and good fortune.

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On being right


I think maybe the Catholics are right. I went to a Catholic funeral this morning. Every time I go to a Catholic funeral, I wish I were Catholic. Seriously. Catholics know what to do with death. They’ve been doing it much the same way for hundreds of years. If your loved one dies as a Catholic, you know what to expect at the funeral. If your loved one dies as a Protestant, good luck with that. Unless that person has a skilled pastor already, the funeral is going to be a crap shoot. Just sayin’.

I love the Catholic liturgy — the songs, the things the whole group speaks together, the cantor, the incense, even the boundaries around communion. It seems to wrap me up in a comforting blanket, and I feel safe. As pastor of a fairly progressive evangelical church, mass always gets me to thinking — about all the strong opinions I and others hold about what is the right way and wrong way to do church, including Catholics. Maybe they’re right.

Or maybe nobody is right. I always come away with only one conclusion that makes any sense. This is all ridiculous, really, isn’t it? I mean who the hell really knows what is the best way to have church, do church, or be church? Does anyone really believe there is only one good way? This in turn gets me to thinking about the things I post here on this blog. I have my opinions. You have yours. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. But who really knows? The heat we bring to our arguments sometimes seems so out of proportion to how ultimately unknowable the big answers are.

Maybe you are right. Maybe I am right. I’m convinced that it’s probably the other way around, that very, very few people are apprehending reality as it is. In other words, I am fairly confident most of us are really quite mistaken about God and reality (including these very thoughts, of course). The only response to this is basic humility. I’m just writing what occurs to me, throwing it out there and seeing what impact it has. I don’t pretend to know all the answers. What I can tell you is that as long as I have this blog, I will keep posting my questions, keep engaging people, keep thinking and asking others to think as well. That’s all we have. We may not know most of the answers, but we can engage one another around the questions.

Question: Are you confident your church, your tradition is “right”? How do you know this?

Image courtesy of ambernectar13, licensed under Creative Commons

Reasons Why Churches Often Don’t Work Together #1: Introversion Among Church Leaders


Image courtesy of Tim Ellis, licensed under Creative Commons

To begin with, it is true that some churches do work together. When this happens it is excellent. In this series, I want to address misunderstandings people commonly have about this. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it may sometimes not even be desirable. In this post, I’ll tell you why. Today we’ll take on the first reason that occurred to me.

Reason #1: Introversion among church leaders.

Can introverts be in church leadership?

Absolutely. The reality is that introverts are in church leadership—I’ve seen studies that estimate anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of Protestant pastors are introverted, with an even higher percentage among Catholic priests.  Interestingly, it seems that the larger churches are, the higher is the percentage of introverts leading them. A recent survey reports that 45% of megachurches are led by introverted pastors. Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, and Mark Driscoll, among many others, are self-confessed introverts.


Are introverts the “problem” when it comes to churches not working together? Most introverted pastors would say it’s not that they are the “problem,” it’s that they do not agree with how extroverted pastors frame the issue of working together. Extroverts often cannot wait to get together with new people and “network,” exchanging names, phone numbers, and ideas. Introverts tend to be uncomfortable in these situations and do not know how to be authentic. When they are authentic (which often means quiet and withdrawn) they are often seen by extroverts as arrogant or rude.

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