Members leaving loudly


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?

  1. Pray for them: Know that these unhappy church members are likely hurt over something going on in their own life. The adage remains relevant that says, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Keep in mind that people often act out of their own pain with little regard for how their actions impact others.

  2. Resist the temptation to malign them: While you may want to get even with them on social media, or call them out publicly, you will only regret that decision later and damage your witness for Christ in the meantime.

  3. Care for the flock: Remember that most of the congregation did not leave. They have accepted the guidelines put in place by the leadership of the church even if they disagreed with them on some point. Do not let the disgruntled former member color your perception of local church ministry or the rest of the congregation.

  4. Grieve and allow others to grieve over their departure: Pastors love people and want to see the church grow in attendance not decrease. Take time to talk to God about your grief over these departing members and invite the Holy Spirit to minister to your sense of loss.

  5. Trust God and leave room for repentance: As you give the situation time it is likely that God will work on the heart of a disgruntled former church member who left loudly. You may even receive a phone call or text from them saying, “I need to talk. I didn’t leave our church in a Christ like way and I need to apologize.”

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.


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