Let's pick up this conversation about alignment and finish it today. This is part six of six. Just to recap, the main idea is this. When we are aligned in various areas of our lives, we're going to be healthy, when we're misaligned, we're going to be unhealthy. Once again, think of your car. If the wheels are aligned properly, the ride is smooth and you get maximum life out of your tires. If the wheels are misaligned, the ride is rough and your tires wear out prematurely. Misalignment = pain. Alignment = full functionality. If you have not yet read the previous posts in this series, take a few minutes and scroll down and do that.
Before we get into this, let me disarm your initial argument. If you are reading this with the posture that says you don't need a church to be a follower of Christ, I want to say I agree 100% with that statement. With that said, I want to tell you that you need to be very connected to a church for two reasons. First, you need those people. How very arrogant of you to think you can progress in your relationship with Christ without others to sharpen you "as iron sharpens iron." Second, those people need you. If you're withholding yourself from the local church because you don't think you need it (which is wrong anyhow), you're also withholding the gifts God has given you from those people Do you think God gave you spiritual gifts for your own benefit? How very selfish and shortsighted.
So, l almost hesitate to write about this because I don't want you to hear what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that church shopping (or church hopping) with a consumer mindset is ok. It's not. In fact, it's a huge problem and we need much less of it. But, what we also need less of is people staying for years, and even decades, in a church that they are never going to engage with. So, what I am saying is that if you're a follower of Christ, you have a responsibility to find a church that you fit with so you can contribute in the ways God has gifted and enabled you to contribute. If you are feeling like you may need to find a church that you fit with better, here are four good reasons for you to make a move . . .
- You don't agree with the doctrine in major areas. This is fundamental. If you think your church is not practicing a Biblical expression of faith, why would you stay? But, be careful. There are essential beliefs and there are non-essential beliefs. Don't get stuck on something and call it a doctrinal difference when it's really a difference of style, which brings us to the next reason it may make sense to change churches.
- You can't respect the style. Notice I didn't say you "don't respect the style." "Can't respect the style" means you've tried and, as much as you want to fit with this church, you can't get your heart engaged with the way they do things. Not every church is for every person and that's ok.
- You can't respect the pastor or some key leaders. Same as above. This implies that you've tried. This one usually has something to do with a character issue or lack of growth on the part of the leader. However, please be careful that you've not fallen into a "holier than thou" mentality. I've been there and it's ugly.
- You believe the Holy Spirit is leading to go somewhere else. This is both legitimate and way over-used. If the Holy Spirit is really leading your elsewhere, embrace that and be up front with your pastor or church leaders. If it's really just some other reason, be honest about that too.
On the flip side, here are 3 poor reasons to make a move . . .
- You are experiencing conflict with someone at the church. Mature people don't run from conflict. They face it. Read Matthew 18:15-17 for some instructions.
- You feel like the church is not meeting your needs. Here's where the consumer mindset kicks in. You're going to have to really check your heart here. There are times when it's truly a case of #2 in the list above, but "the greeter didn't shake my hand" or "the pastor forgot my name" are petty and immature reasons to leave.
- You're the one that's been distant or uncommitted. Generally, when you feel distant from your church, you can find the cause of that distance by examining yourself. Here's the principle that's at work. What you make a priority, you will feel connected to. Have you been faithful in your attendance, giving and serving at your church? If the answer to any of those is no, you've found the root of your feelings of distance.
So, to get spiritually aligned with other followers of Christ and the right church, you need to begin by taking responsibility for your own experience at your current church. If you believe you've done that and it's still time to leave, make sure you leave with honor and respect. Don't just stop showing up. Have a conversation with your pastor or someone on the staff and explain to them your reasons. At the very least, you've shown the honor and respect you should. And who knows. You may find, through that conversation, that the impossible situation you see is not so impossible after all.
One final word of caution. Even if you're leaving your church for a good reason, don't fool yourself into thinking that just leaving is the answer. You must leave with a plan to find another church to connect with. It's just like habits. If you give up a negative habit and don't replace it with a positive one, you'll simply fill that void with another negative habit (You quit smoking and start over-eating.) There's no win in that. Neither is there a win in disconnecting with a church you no longer fit with if you don't complete the process and engage with one you do fit with. Before you know it, your Sundays will consist of sleeping in, eating brunch and going to kids baseball games. You'll feel the void and so will your family. If it's time for you to leave your current church, it's also time for you to find a new one.