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Ryan

Leaving a church

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Thank you to everyone. I've been a long-time lurker here and although I know this place is not perfect, it has often been of great encouragement to me, this thread being no exception.

Well hey! Lurk no longer then. Join the fun. Keep us updated. As you can tell, some of us have been through this a few times. I don't doubt that you've thought through other things that some of us struggle with.

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As an elder at a small church, I can tell you that we usually de-baptize in effigy the folks that leave. Just saying, ya know.

On a serious note, if someone who's been involved in leadership and service in the church leaves, I am very grateful when they give us a heads up and preferably some context. Occasionally, we get the "God's calling me elsewhere" but I tend to find that a most unenlightening response. Perhaps I'm too much a pragmatist, but usually people feel God's call in concrete issues and not in ephiphanies. Knowing what those issues are can help the rest of the body, even if it doesn't help the individuals who are exiting. Sometimes, the pastor and elders can address issues, sometimes the issues are personality, and well, we do what we can.

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As an elder at a small church, I can tell you that we usually de-baptize in effigy the folks that leave. Just saying, ya know.

Wouldn't it make more sense to burn them in effigy, the flames representing the fires of hell consuming them for turnin their back on your church? ;)

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As an elder at a small church, I can tell you that we usually de-baptize in effigy the folks that leave. Just saying, ya know.

Wouldn't it make more sense to burn them in effigy, the flames representing the fires of hell consuming them for turnin their back on your church? ;)

No, we're not baptists.

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Too much bad music would be enough to make me leave a church. You know, the kind: pitchy singing, a dull melody on an acoustic guitar, punctuated by a badly played violin.

I'm pretty sure God is putting his earplugs in at these moments. I know that's how it makes me react. It actually sends a shiver down my spine. Physically offensive.

Edited by gigi

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Too much bad music would be enough to make me leave a church. You know, the kind: pitchy singing, a dull melody on an acoustic guitar, punctuated by a badly played violin.

What do you mean? That's pretty much the only kind we have.

Matt

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What do you mean? That's pretty much the only kind we have.

Hmmm, someone needs to rediscover the English Choral tradition ASAP. I'm with gigi on this point.

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I can put up with a bit of it but the Catholic mass that I recently went to was almost entirely a sung liturgy. Now that's fine if the people in question know how to sing. They didn't. I'm also personally somewhat partial to the spoken mass. It's what I grew up with and it's what feels familiar to me. I can't help the feeling that it's a bad habit of youth churches. As a 30 year old, it's a little frustrating to have to choose between a good mass attended by old people that I ain't got nowt in common with, or mingling with people that are more my peers and what feels to me to be a watered down version of the mass that I don't really connect with.

Edited by gigi

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I should clarify that my own church has almost never utilised a violin. I don't think the [joke] tags are working on the new board upgrade. It's a shame. They made all my comments 20% funnier when used.

Matt

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I should clarify that my own church has almost never utilised a violin. I don't think the [joke] tags are working on the new board upgrade. It's a shame. They made all my comments 20% funnier when used.

Well, I certainly giggled at the above though certain other board members might not take it as lightly. (Hmmmm... we really need a 'whistling innocently with hands in pocket' emoticon)

My post also originally started with 'to bring some levity to the thread'. I removed this because I figured that by doing so someone would take the bait. Thank you for obliging me.

Edited by gigi

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Ah well. I consider it high embarassment not to get a joke. Sorry. However, the opportunity to push the high, aged, and stuffy was difficult to resist in any case. That IS my own taste. gigi, I understand your reservations concerning worshipping with pensioners. At my parish, ministries are lacking volunteers and staff largely because much of the parish sees itself as retired and therefore out of town too often to be regular with their responsibilities. AAAAUUUUGGHH.

Matt, the joke icons are not the only thing gone. My prized avatar of long standing is gone and I have no idea how to get it back.

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: Matt, the joke icons are not the only thing gone.

Oh Rich, my humour has obviously lost any sense of connectedness with the real world. Sorry. That was another poorly explained joke that seemed funny in my head, but obviously failed to make it on the screen. I wasn't referring to the joke icons (I never really used them), but imagining a scenario where before the board upgrade there had been some html code that you could place around a joke to make it appear funnier to everyone who read it, but which had been lost in the upgrade. Sadly, this remains very much in the realm of fiction (as my sequence of posts here proves only too categorically).

Anyone else miss Dan Buck?

Matt

Edited by MattPage

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Ah well. I consider it high embarassment not to get a joke. Sorry. However, the opportunity to push the high, aged, and stuffy was difficult to resist in any case. That IS my own taste.

Oh it was semi-serious. I suppose my problem is I'm new to this malarky and I'm trying to find a community that is a good fit but it's hard attending a mass where I'm gritting my teeth for the majority of it. I am completely with you on the English choral tradition but then my brother always told me I was going to grow up to be a spinster librarian - old before my time - so I suppose we're matched on the stuffy front!

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As for your avatar, I wonder if Googling for some stills from "Alfie" (or whatever movie it came from?) might do the trick? You could even use a handy dandy online resizer/icon creator site to make sure it works. (I'm not kidding; there really are such things!)

That aint Alfie. He's Austin's Dad.

Edited to add: I like English choral music, too, though I'm not sure if I could handle it on a regular basis. You know, we Lutherans have Bach in our DNA, and that affects our hearing. wink.gif

Actually, we don't either. While Ralph Vaughn Williams is my favorite choral composer these days, our choir sings a variety and the organists know Bach through and through. Ironically, Byrd's career is almost as overwhelming as Bach's within his world. Most major feastdays have a Byrd Mass for the occasion...

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I'm sorry to come in a week late on this discussion. This new interface to the board is confusing to me.

Ryan, I've been thru the scenario you described on at least two occasions over the past 15 years. I hope you find some sense of peace with your decisions. My opinion is, there's no virtue in attending meetings where you have no viable, engaging relationships with the people around you and where you dont identify with the message being communicated. However, I think it's vital (as noted by someone else earlier) to tell the elders clearly why you will not be attending, if that's what you choose to do. I find the "God leading elsewhere" alibi, flabby nonsense and so do most Pastors. Be kind, but be blunt. If your bluntness is not accompanied by lots of doctrinal godspeak, you might be perceived as unspiritual, consumer-driven church-hopper. My own reasons for leaving our Beloved Mothership a few years ago were pretty simple and I did my darndest to communicate what those reasons were so as not to be accused of absenteeism or apostasy. (childcare was lacking, my wife and i frequently taught our own kids in children's church, I didn't identify with their brand of evangelicalism any longer and... uh...i was bored out of my ever-living mind)For communicating those reasons, I was judged quite harshly. I would've fared much better had i just emphasized the "Lord's new direction for me" stuff.

For evangelicals who have spent years being guilted into staying in a church no matter how miserable they feel-- and that was me-- i say, take a break. Take two months off. Or longer. Spend Sundays being active outdoors, have time with your spouse/family, relaxing and having fun. Despite the superstitions that prevail about "forsaking the assembly of the brethren", i found Sunday mornings to be a great source of joy and contentment-- sans meetings. I didn't "fall away". I didn't grow spiritually stagnant, the forces of darkness didnt pounce on me, I didn't drift from Christ. I enjoyed life. My family was happier on Sundays. I had more money at the end of the month. Go back when you feel happy to participate again.

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...For communicating those reasons, I was judged quite harshly. I would've fared much better had i just emphasized the "Lord's new direction for me" stuff.

For evangelicals who have spent years being guilted into staying in a church no matter how miserable they feel-- and that was me-- i say, take a break. Take two months off. Or longer. Spend Sundays being active outdoors, have time with your spouse/family, relaxing and having fun. Despite the superstitions that prevail about "forsaking the assembly of the brethren", i found Sunday mornings to be a great source of joy and contentment-- sans meetings. I didn't "fall away". I didn't grow spiritually stagnant, the forces of darkness didnt pounce on me, I didn't drift from Christ. I enjoyed life. My family was happier on Sundays. I had more money at the end of the month. Go back when you feel happy to participate again.

Greg,

Thanks for your thoughts; I do have a feeling that there will really not be any reason good enough for our elders. We've brought up some of our concerns in the past and it seems like they are mostly dismissed as just simply small differences in how best to do things or that we aren't having enough faith or vision.

The best Sunday we've had as a family in a while was going to see a baseball game with my brother and his wife. We skipped church.

Ryan

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Tim Keller's recent blog post on Willow Creek and John Frame's 'tri-perspectivalism' helped me a bit with understanding why my church is where it is today.

http://rcpc.com/blog/view.jsp?Blog_param=44

Note especially this:

The Reformed churches have a 'prophetic' emphasis on preaching, teaching, and doctrine. The danger there is that we can have a na

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For Catholics to not attend Sunday mass is a mortal sin. I know this doesn't apply to non-Catholics but I'm just saying...

Since I converted to Catholicism I have taken this seriously and have only missed mass a couple of times. One, recently, when I was on vacation and we were trying to get a bunch of people to mass and we just didn't get everybody up and at em in time. I didn't think this was a very good reason to miss mass so I included this in my next confession.

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Thanks for your thoughts; I do have a feeling that there will really not be any reason good enough for our elders. We've brought up some of our concerns in the past and it seems like they are mostly dismissed as just simply small differences in how best to do things or that we aren't having enough faith or vision.

The best Sunday we've had as a family in a while was going to see a baseball game with my brother and his wife. We skipped church.

Ryan

Ryan, of course, if there's a real difference of opinion on vision and pragmatics, and without any other connecting factors, which in your case seem to be absent, then a graceful exit can be a win-win situation. Look, sometimes the Spirit uses these exits to do a new work in you and in your former church. Sometimes you may be a reed blowing in the wind. Sometimes He may want you in a different place, and uses serious differences of opinions, empty and dry fellowship, etc, to get you there.

I'm having dinner with a former member (who at one point was a candidate for our elder board prior to withdrawing his name, and then six months later announcing his exit from the church). I am not surprised he's left, don't feel bad about him personally, and want to get together with him to understand his concerns prompting his exit (though, I now suspect they have more to do with his own personal issues than areas that weren't being addressed by the church), and to extend our blessing on his new direction. Sometimes, we have people leaving for reasons that we can impact--they don't feel child care is adequate--well, that's something we as elders can take to heart and seek to have changes made.

The trick is, trying to catch issues earlier, or identifying issues we can tackle, and ones that we're going to have to live with for the forseeable future. Having engagement with the congregation is critical to continual community growth. Transparency is important too, sharing a common vision. Most people are okay with differences in direction if they're kept abreast of the direction on a regular basis.

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The best Sunday we've had as a family in a while was going to see a baseball game with my brother and his wife. We skipped church.
:lol:

That's really great, Ryan. I see one of my old church sisters on a regular basis. She asks me all the time-- with this look of deep, deep concern-- "how ARE you? I mean REALLY???" I smile and tell her the same thing every time... "Sister, I'm doing awesome-- sunday is my favorite day of the week!" You can practically see the sparks flying out of her ears as she struggles to comprehend.

We're just both on different planets now. She thinks it's impossible to follow Christ and not attend church and tithe. She is absolutely convinced people "need" to sit in chairs and clap to songs and hear sermons every Sunday. I think some people do need this, but most don't. She thinks if we don't attend regularly, we will somehow grow weak and wither away spiritually. I think she's superstitious. Selah.

Most Sundays during this past summer we were at the beach by 9:30am playing with the kids in the waves, snacking on fruit, digging holes and throwing sand at each other. These are/were 100% guilt-free excursions. I cant tell you how many times i sat there on the sand, looking out at the expansive ocean, seeing my children frolic in the surf and thought "God truly IS great." One Sunday, early in the summer, we had a lot of wind and actually had 4'waves on South Beach, which is mighty rare. I body surfed with my kids for close to three hours straight. It was one of the best family experiences we've had all year. Those experiences bring a resounding sense of peace and contentment that I NEVER experienced couped up in a room, singing choruses and listening to sermons.

Edited by Greg P

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We're just both on different planets now. She thinks it's impossible to follow Christ and not attend church and tithe. She is absolutely convinced people "need" to sit in chairs and clap to songs and hear sermons every Sunday. I think some people do need this, but most don't. She thinks if we don't attend regularly, we will somehow grow weak and wither away spiritually. I think she's superstitious. Selah.

I know this type of person. A similar group of folks desperately tried to keep me at my old church (my wife was looooonnggg gone by this point, but I'm the "spiritual one") after the institution of praise teams became the last straw. Quarreling over "little" things was not right (one person in particular had the right to make that argument as a member of a praise team who really had no taste for higher music and only appreciated old fashioned crusade hymns and, well, praise and worship songs. She'd stuck it out in the music program through years of classical music and high choral tradition). Yet to me the abdication of something like a high worship style was a compromise too far and a notion of worship in the presence of the Lord unacceptable to me.

My solution was a sacramental tradition that devalued "homilies", as the sermons I'd tolerated were one of the chief reasons for my spiritual annui at the time (ongoing for a decade or so). It worked. I think Greg is crazy not to explore his spiritual roots (Orthodoxy). Sooner or later he'll see the beach as wonderful, but not the same as what the rest of us are doing. However, drying out from a previously distressing/distracting worship or fellowship situation is always wise. And to be honest, Greg has been at the beach, what? only two years? My "beach" as a political junkie were the Sunday morning news shows like This Week (then with the wonderful David Brinkley) and C-SPAN. It lasted about four or five years.

Jumping from the frypan into into the fire is barely not quite as bad as staying where you are if the situation is intolerable. One should be careful about the next church step. Extremely careful.

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Rich-- it's been over two years for me. We went to services briefly, at a local Calvary Chapel, in the summer of '08 and it was torture. Malia and I both sorta agreed that traditional evangelical church services had become discouraging, burdensome and draining. I think I took in four whole services and I still moan like i was there for a year.

But, as i just said to someone on the board this afternoon in a PM, i dont approach this subject in a cavalier fashion. I may be very, very wrong and it's a subject I think about seriously from time to time. However, unlike some of my brethren, I'm not afraid of being very, very wrong.

I mentioned the beach not because it's some universal ideal-- many people hate the beach. I happen to love the ocean. Always have. So do my wife and kids. The point is that I have time now on Sunday mornings to do things together as a family. Saturday night is date night, Sunday AM is family time. I cook breakfast for everyone, we go to the beach, or have friends and family over. I love it. It is a breath of fresh air after DECADES of strict, striiiiiict church attendance. I sometimes resent that because of my sunday choices, I am now segregated to a lower caste of christendom. I think it's ludicrous.

I appreciate your comments about Orthodoxy, Rich. And it is possible that i will come back to that tradition fully at some point. In some small ways-- at least theologically-- I already have. But the options for Orthodox congregations in our city are rife with major issues that i feel unwilling to contend with. But after 25 years in evangelicalism (Aug. 1984)i'm really opposed to this notion of being a part of a congregation for the purpose of being a "light", i.e. helping be the catalyst for change. That's exhausting and rather futile, in my own experience. To use the marriage metaphor again, it's a bit like marrying someone with the intent that you're going to help "change" them. You should marry because you love the person as they are, shortcomings, irritating qualities and all. In fact, as most married people know, your spouse is not likely to ever really change-- at least not in the ways you have in mind. I think this is true of church membership/participation too. If you can't see yourself enjoying the people, the services, the style AS IS for the foreseeable long term, don't join.

To do otherwise is to literally pray and wish your life away. And life is way too short.

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To use the marriage metaphor again, it's a bit like marrying someone with the intent that you're going to help "change" them. You should marry because you love the person as they are, shortcomings, irritating qualities and all. In fact, as most married people know, your spouse is not likely to ever really change-- at least not in the ways you have in mind. I think this is true of church membership/participation too. If you can't see yourself enjoying the people, the services, the style AS IS for the foreseeable long term, don't join.
This is good stuff. I'm going to baptized soon, a couple weeks at most. I've been attending my church for as long as I've been a Christian. You could say we've been going steady for years. So, yes, marriage is a natural way to think of it; and it comforts me to read the above and find that it applies for my congregation.

But do you marry expecting your spouse to change you?

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