Loud exits are meant to make a point. Whether an angry teenager slamming a bedroom door, an unsatisfied customer leaving a restaurant, or a frustrated patient ending a phone call, when someone leaves loudly there is an attempt to scream, “I’m not happy and I want people to know it.”
I must confess, to my embarrassment as a follower of Jesus, I have left some places loudly. There have been times when I have been frustrated and wanted, again to my shame, to make a point as I was walking out the door. Then, to my even greater embarrassment, I have been chastised by the Holy Spirit to the point of having to go back to those same places and apologize for my childish behavior.
Today in our on-edge, politically charged, hyper-anxious atmosphere there are some church members who are leaving churches loudly. They are few in number but great in volume. In fact, the number is so small that it is hardly worth mentioning apart from the pain their actions inflict on the shepherds who love them and the flocks they are abandoning.
The reason for their boisterous behavior is not because of a doctrinal issue, or lack of evangelistic effort from their church, or waning commitment to missions or disciple-making, or even a lack of integrity on the part of leadership. Any of these could be reasons for a conversation with church leaders that, if left unaddressed, could constitute a need for an eventual departure from one’s church.
The folks who are leaving in our current COVID environment are leaving because of masks. You heard me right. They are leaving because of face masks. They are leaving, more specifically, over guidelines, encouragement, practices, or requirements from their church family related to the wearing of face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Are they for or against the wearing of these masks, you may ask? The answer is yes: some are for the wearing of masks and others are opposed to them. But their position is so firm that they cannot accommodate the view of those who see it differently from themselves. This is unfortunate given that we follow a crucified Savior who laid aside divine prerogatives in order to serve humanity through His death, burial and resurrection (Philippians 2:5-11) and we are told to become like Him in our attitude toward others (Philippians 2:1-4).
What should pastors and church leaders do when members leave loudly?
May the Lord give us such a sweet and solid unity, even in an on-edge culture, that the world will believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.
TODD GRAY is executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.