Well, that title says it all. You can fill in any words you want for the characters that will no doubt appear anytime you have to make this decision. Wait. Isn’t this a church planting blog? Well yes, and some of you will leave churches to plant or leave plants to do it all over again. Been there, done that. Rarely happy. Just saying. And not just in my experience.
How you leave will determine everything about how the previous church fares and about how well you will be received in the future. I have now left 2 churches and am starting a 3rd. All 5 churches/campuses are still going well…not a testament to myself or this blog post, but by the grace of God because I have certainly messed this up and the boards and people I have worked with have done their best as well to mess it up [all in the “best interests of the church”] no doubt. As if you never had those intentions right from the start:)
I have done it the wrong way:
Announced to my leaders, leadership team, board, etc. what God is calling me to do, and what God has ordained that I do with the church. [Not a good idea by the way]. It wasn’t the prettiest.
I have done it the more right way:
Listened carefully to my leaders, my team, board, etc. Took my time and followed each step. [A much better idea]. It still wasn’t the prettiest. Welcome to life.
People will look to vilify you for leaving. It makes them feel better about the decision. Pastors will also vilify their churches at times. It makes them feel better too.
Everyone wants to make an excuse, and very few can truly hammer it out in love, truth and harmony. I say all of this to prepare you and prayerfully hope that with the power of God, you can make a better transition than I have. Mine have been so bad at times, I have wanted to just quit ministry with the way myself and my family has been treated and left in the dark and all alone. I have also learned greatly how to not handle certain things and to own up to my mistakes as well. I have certainly messed some things up big time in the process. It is a 2-way street. Those that do not see that it is a 2 way street will never lead anything great and have very low self-awareness.
Here are the 3 emotions that your team, your family, your church, your board, and you will face:
Some of the people will be MAD.
Some will be SAD.
Some will be GLAD.
Some will cycle through all 3 phases.
Yes, it is that simple. So don’t think that people will line the streets of town chanting your name and waving palm branches about your next high and holy calling. People are always there to love you, serve you, and move you IN. Very few are there to love you, serve you or help you move OUT as you go. Just prepare yourself. It will probably happen and I don’t want you to think you are the only one.
And if it is any different from the above…thank God from the bottom of your heart. Transitions are NEVER easy for ANYONE involved.
Keep your heart pure, Keep your heart humble. And keep your eyes focused on the calling that God has for you. Not many will understand it. That’s OK. Do what you can to love on those who might not be very lovely to you. Give them time to process and grieve, Give them time to one day understand that God did have a bigger plan and that their church and your new calling were always in HIS hands. And that is the best place it could ever be in. You will both look back and in love, re-kindle the friendships and the love that God once birthed in all involved. It takes time and healing to make that happen.
I thank GOD that all 5 churches/campuses are still going strong! Some people still don’t like me. I am not on some people’s Christmas card list anymore. Some staff will still not talk to me. Some friends have un-friended me. You know the story. But through it all, as you fix your eyes on the prize, fight the faith and finish the race…that is all that should consume us [which is easy to say, but hard to do].
Be patient. Listen. Love. Hold your wife and family close. And then shut your mouth and be like Jesus as you answer the call to where He would have you to go. DO NOT GIVE IN AND TAKE ANYONE OR ANY MINISTRY DOWN AS YOU GO! Leave that in the Lord’s hands. It is HIS church after all.