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

broken-rope-breaking-up-with-your-church

image courtesy of 123rtf.com

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.

 

Your Marriage: How to Move from Pain to Peace

broken-marriage

I have mentioned Mort Fertel before. Mort is a marriage educator who has a pretty unique approach. I came across his website a few months ago and immediately signed up to receive his email updates, since that’s a great way for me to come to understand a person’s approach to helping marriages.

Today’s post is from one of Mort’s email updates. These updates contain some of the most solid marriage guidance I have ever seen, and I recommend that every person reading this who needs marriage help sign up for the updates at MarriageMax.com. Though there are no miracle cures when it comes to healing marriages, Mort consistently offers some of the most practical and excellent insights I have seen, and I commend his approach wholeheartedly to you.

Hi David,

When it comes to your emotions, there’s a big difference between being in pain and true suffering. What’s the difference? And how does this relate to your marriage? Let me illustrate with a story.

There once was a man who was sentenced to 25 years of backbreaking labor. His wrists were tied to the handle of a huge wheel that was inlaid in the wall. His job was to turn the wheel 10 hours a day.

For years, day in and day out, the prisoner would wonder what he was doing with this wheel. What was the meaning of his work? What was on the other side of this wall?

Was he grinding grain? Pulling up water? Moving some sort of conveyor belt?

For 25 years he contemplated the meaning of his work, and for 25 years he spun that wheel. It was grueling, but he survived.

When his sentence was complete he was released from prison. The first thing he did was run to the other side of the wall to see what he had been doing all this time.

What did he see?

Nothing!

There was nothing attached to the wheel. For 25 years, 10 hours a day, he was spinning a wheel for absolutely no purpose. When the man realized his true sentence, he collapsed and died.

The prisoner was able to survive 25 years of backbreaking labor, but when he realized that it was all for nothing, he couldn’t survive for another moment.

So what’s the difference between pain and suffering?

Pain has a purpose.

Suffering is true torture because it has no meaning.

Pain is bearable. Suffering for no reason is devastating.

Ask any woman about child labor. How was it? Would you do it again? Most women will answer: It was painful, but I didn’t suffer. I would do it again.

This is the key to surviving marital problems and making it through to a new love and peace with your spouse.

If you think there’s no purpose to your emotional hurt, you’ll just want out. You’ll run from your kids, your responsibility, your vows…you’ll run from it all just to get relief from an unbearable suffering.

But if you can come to understand why you’re in this situation, then you’ll succeed to make it through like a woman in child labor.

Why is this happening to you? What are you supposed to be learning from all of this? Can you see how your marital problems are really an opportunity for you and your spouse?

I remember when my wife and I were going through what seemed to be unbearable emotional pain as a result of the loss of our 3 children and our marriage problems. But now I see it all differently. Yes, we were in pain, but we didn’t suffer. And although I might script things differently if I were God, my wife and I now feel a sense of peace and happiness that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Yes, we lost a lot, but we gained each other and forged a marriage that has become a wellspring of joy in our life.

Since those painful times, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to lead thousands of people who are suffering in their marriage to a new peace and happiness with their spouse. I’ve found a way to do it even with the most difficult and unusual situations.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Mort in any way. I am not selling his products, nor do I receive commissions from people who buy his products from my referrals to his website. I have nothing to gain in commending him to you, other than believing I am directing you towards someone who really gets it and who will, from all appearances, be able to lead you along right paths. As always, your results may vary, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Why Divorce Must Be An Option, Christian or Not

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Image courtesy of JCOterhal, used under Creative Commons

The power of choice

Years ago I came to what felt like a dead-end in a job I had previously loved. As the months passed I grew more and more frustrated and would occasionally call a friend and complain to him about how miserable I was and how trapped I felt. I would go on about how I could be making more money in certain other jobs. One evening he replied, “Then you are there because you choose to be. If you know you could get another job making more money, then you have simply chosen not to do that.” This reinvigorated me. I realized he was right. I was choosing. I was not trapped, and I was not a victim.

I still hated my job, but I felt emboldened when I realized that, for specific reasons, it was better for me to stay in that job than to leave at that time in my life. Instead of seeing the job as a trap someone had laid for me, I was able to start seeing it as a choice I had made for specific reasons, and that although I didn’t like the job, it was in my best interests to stay a while longer.

Marriage is a terrible place to be trapped

I used to tell couples that divorce must never be an option. I felt couples would run to divorce too soon if they saw divorce as even a remote possibility. I don’t give this counsel anymore. Though it’s still a good idea not to use the D word flippantly, I now believe that in order for a marriage to be healthy, divorce actually must be an option.

After all, the likelihood that you will face times of major frustration and discouragement in your marriage is extremely high. If you don’t consider divorce an option and choose to stay in the marriage, what will your attitude be? I assure you that you will feel as trapped in your marriage as I felt in my job. Maybe more. It stinks to feel trapped in a job, but you get to leave a job and go home. However, marriage is 24/7. Marriage is not something you want to feel trapped in.

On your wedding day, you made a promise to your spouse. Of course promises should be kept, but that does not mean you are trapped. You could leave if you really wanted to. Of course it would be inconvenient in many ways, but you could do it if you wanted to. Remember that you are married because you choose to be. Probably no one made you get married, and no one is making you stay married. You are where you are either because a) is it what you have chosen and what you really want for reasons only you can know; b) you are afraid of change, and divorce always means change. Of course, so does becoming the person you need to be to fix your marriage, which is why people will sometimes stay in bad marriages for decades. They are trapped not by their marriage vow, and almost certainly not by their honor (as such people will often believe), but by their fear.

Embrace that it’s your choice to divorce OR to stay married

Embracing your option to divorce helps you see that marriage is always a choice, and that choice is yours. Only when you fully realize this will you have an opportunity to feel like you are married not because you have to be but because you want to be. When you realize you are married because you want to be, you might get around to finding out why you want to be. When you discover that, you’re really onto something.

Marriage Hope: 10 Things You Can Do TODAY If You Are in a Bad Marriage

angry couple on benchImage courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Flickr under Creative Commons License

While reading yesterday’s post you may have realized you are in a conflicted or devitalized type of marriage. The bad news about this is that these marriages end in divorce considerably more often than the other types. The good news, though, is that there may be much you can do to improve the relationship. Today I will suggest ten things you can do starting now.

TAKE STOCK OF THE MARRIAGE

1. Rate your marriage from 1-10 based on how valuable it is to you. Most marriages can be saved if both partners are willing, even marriages that partners rank a 1 or 2. Sometimes people  just tough it out because of what the Bible says. Of course it is good to care about honoring God, but if you are in a conflicted marriage, the way you are treating each other does not honor God. The question then is whether the marriage can become a God-honoring environment, or whether it needs to be dissolved.  

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Marriage Danger Signs

I was on NBC 25 News this morning doing a segment about signs that you may be dangerously close to divorce. My remarks were based substantially on the work of Dr. John Gottman, who has probably done more research on marriage than any other person in the country. I highly recommend his books.