Leaving a Church

Here’s another great quote from Zack Eswine’s book Sensing Jesus (pg. 70):

Just look at how often people leave a church not because of doctrinal concern but because they don’t like the music, or the Bible study, or the nursery, or the boredom that loving an ordinary neighbor in a place requires. Or they feel offended by a relationship and speak of forgiveness but do not act on it in order to move forward to the other side with each other.

One dear couple pulled their children out of our children’s program until we ‘got right’ the process for teaching kids that they expected. When I suggested that we could learn from them, they could learn from us, and we could walk through it together and come out on the other side with a stronger ministry to our children, the idea was a foreign category. They soon left our church. Staying put was not an option if preferences weren’t met and if they were expected to contribute to the remedy.

Our spiritual inability to remain with a people in a place as a family through thick and thin when not everything is how we prefer it or want it becomes apparent. We do not believe we need to stay in a place in which our feelings and needs are incompletely met. After we’ve left church after church, or job after job, or relationship after relationship, we still haven’t yet learned to ask if some spiritual skill might be lacking in us, that maybe all of these churches, jobs, and people acting imperfectly aren’t alone in their need of help. We too might need some.

Benedict called this spiritual skill ‘stability,’ the spiritual skill for ‘staying put to get somewhere.’ Whatever one thinks about all things ‘monkish,’ one cannot easily deny the reality that few of us know what it is to steadily love one another through the ups and downs of our ordinary moods, circumstances, and changes.


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