I completely understand the emotions that accompany a “church divorce.” When we reach an impasse with our church leadership and despite all our best efforts and attempts to reconcile or to reach a God-honoring conclusion we are unable to do so.
The reasons for disagreements that lead to leaving a church are so many that I could not begin to cover even a small part of them well, and that is not the focus of this blog posting. What I am going to focus on is the “now what?” part of the church divorce; when you have come to that line in the sand that says you cannot continue this way anymore.
Our leaders and pastors are human, they are sinners just like us- exactly like us. They are able to cut and hurt with their words in the same manner we do, but we don’t expect that from them. We struggle understanding that Christians can be as unreasonable as non-Christians.
Partly it is because of the expectations we have placed on them. We place them in their ivory towers and hold them to the strictest sense of the harshest Scripture. When they fail (us) we are crushed. When their “failing” is in the form of a sharp disagreement that brings us to the point of separating ourselves the level of hurt is nearly indescribable.
For many of us, church has become the replacement for our families. The pastor becomes a father-figure or the Wise Man we are looking for, and relationships we develop there with other members are in some cases closer to us than with our brothers and sisters who are unregenerated. Our social structure is there as many families build everything around Sunday School, Awana or Pioneer Club, Bible Study and Small Group activities. When we enter into a dispute with our church leaders the entire family suffers the loss.
“With division comes discussion” is the old saying. In other words, even Christians gossip. We are used to hearing disparaging remarks from unredeemed people in our lives, but when a fellow Christian says things that are so very hurtful, the pain can be searing. In a very real way, we lose everything we hold dear when we are “divorced” from our church.
This is why we are to do everything possible to prevent this from happening! Romans 12:18 tells us that we are to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on us. This means that we are to make every reasonable attempt to keep this “divorce” from taking place.
If you can agree, then agree. If you can agree to disagree – as long as it is not doctrine- then do so! But..but, if your pastor or elders are in some unrepentant sin that you know of, you must do everything in your power to bring this situation to light and to a God-honoring conclusion.
Sin among the leadership will be the downfall of the church.
This adds to the sorrow and grief a person feels when they are in such a situation. It is very isolating, for as much as you wish to get some help or another perspective, how can you do that without gossiping? Who can you turn to for wisdom or counsel when the ones you have turned to before are now a part of the problem? You may have to go to an outside source, another godly pastor from another church who can give you some wise counsel in this matter.
As far as your breaking heart, the only one who can heal that wound is the Lord. He completely understands all you are dealing with and every emotion in your soul. He has been hurt and betrayed and experienced the grief of poor leadership in his day.
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (NASB)