It seems that people nowadays are leaving by the droves. Studies show that in America, we are seeing a great exodus amongst churches. People are leaving local churches and transferring to other churches or even leaving the body of Christ for good.
That hurts. And it should hurt. I met a pastor friend over the weekend and we talked about the idea of believers leaving the church. His response and stance came as a shock to me because he was so quick to give the impression that he couldn't care less if people were leaving the church. He just didn't care. The leader even went as far as to say that he wished everyone who was causing problems at his church would just leave that coming Sunday.
Now I don't in any way intend to put that pastor down because he's a really good friend of mine and I'm sure he does so many wonderful things in the ministry. But I just can't come to terms with that attitude. I just cannot imagine not caring when people leave my church.
Ephesians 4:2-3 urges us as leaders to live "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." If there's anything God wants us to be eager with it's the maintenance of the unity of the Spirit.
That's why when people leave our church, I make it a goal to find out why. If they leave on good terms and are simply called to a new chapter in their walk with God then that's grea t- the unity of the Spirit is maintained. When they leave with heavy hearts and become hostile to unity through the Spirit of God with our church community and with the body of Christ as a whole, that concerns me because Jesus says it should.
Church is all about making every effort to keep relationships no matter how messy, hurtful and tiring they can be at times. I'm not saying you should lose sleep, sacrifice your health and family for it, but it should be of high priority and value to us. We just can't simply say that we don't care that hurt people are leaving the church. If anything, God wants us to add hurt and searching people in His church, not drive them away because we think they don't deserve to be there - if that were the case there wouldn't be one church left standing!
I'm not saying that we should force people to stay in our church even if they're hurt. We can't do that. It's just not our call. But it should at least concern us a bit to the point that we stay humble and ready to admit that there could be some areas that we as leaders, whether vocational or volunteer, can improve on to serve better the needs of others. And at the end of the day, it's not even about what we do but about what God wants to do in His church at His time. But sadly sometimes we get in the way.
But just because leaders and people in the pews just don't care to see broken, lost, hurt, offended people leaving, we fail to realise just how much of God's reconciling and healing work we have blocked. But when we make unity a priority just as God commands us to, we will catch the trend of exoduses happening in our congregations and we will be compelled to pray about it, to reach out and to do something to keep people in so that we can all enjoy Jesus together.