Deal Breakers

Ever leave a fellowship of believers mad, upset, wounded and/or disillusioned? Ever had leaders of a church do something that upset you and caused you to leave? A pastor of a large church in Tulsa changed his view on hell and lost the church building because so many people left the fellowship. Hear is the story through the eyes (and cameras) of MSNBC:
To Hell and Back #1 - #2

This story hits close to home because our fellowship recently had to sell our building because many people left our church. For me it begs the questions:
  • What are your deal breakers?
  • What would cause you to 'break fellowship' with the leaders or the people of your church?
  • Would your reasons be theological, inter-personal or behavioral?

Early in my walk with the Lord I attended a church for 18 years and left hurt, wounded and 'unheard' - that last word is especially important. Being 'heard' is a very relational thing ... wanting to be involved in a fellowship where leaders know you and need you ... it is so subtle but hits to the core of the body of Christ. I am reminded of this passage:

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." (1 Corinthians 12:18-21)
Ever felt unneeded? It is a sorrowful feeling because it hits us where we live - we all want to be part of a group where people care about us and want our input. How many church leaders have subtly (or not so subtly) changed 'church' because 'God said'? In some weird way, for some, amputation has become an acceptable practice in Christianity. It seems that losing body parts doesn't make much of a difference to some churches. When people leave the church many rationalize it away blaming God with words like "God led them". It is a sad commentary on the way that we do church these days.

All that said, I do not want to leave on a negative note. For many (myself included) church is a place of life, where you genuinely love your brothers and sisters in Christ and in turn feel loved by them. We are currently selecting a new lead pastor for our fellowship and the atmosphere feels welcoming and inviting. Elders making the decision have had many conversations with the members of our body. The two men being considered for the position are people who love people and are genuinely concerned for the well being of our church. Some people may leave but I think that it will not be because they are unheard ... but I could be wrong.


  1. I left a fellowship when I found out that the board members were aware of sexual abuse within the staff--and did nothing. There were affairs, spousal abuse, and drug use in the "leadership"--a group handpicked by the pastor.

    I think that covers theological, inter-personal, and behavioral.

    This church ministered to those deemed unnacceptable by the traditional churches--bikers, ex-cons, druggies--but these people were put in positions of leadership not because of their spiritual maturity, but because they were so easily manipulated by the pastor.

  2. Wow, Patchouli. I'm sorry.

    And KB, what a time of mourning the departures from your church must be causing. I'm very sorry.

    I left 2 churches for cause. One I had only been in for a month or two when I found out the pastor was going to throw out my spiritual mom based upon lies from another church. With witnesses she denied the accusations, but he was too worried about the other pastor to care about the truth.

    The second was much harder. I had moved across the country to be there from the beginning, and was absolutely committed to its ideals. I loved everyone there, and had hated a number of them off and on. We had lived life together.

    Over the course of 10 years, the leader of the church revealed more and more of himself, until eventually it was just clear that he was no man to be leading a church. By his actions he gave lie to too many of his words. He tore our church apart twice, but I was willing to endure that. Eventually, though, he tore apart our sister church and I could watch it with objectivity. I saw that he did it with lies and big lies.

    He turned brother against brother to establish himself as sole leader. When the church there was reduced from 30 people to 8 truly loyal people, he was content. The same thing had happened to us, but with our sister church I was looking behind the curtain. I watched twenty or so people loyal to Christ manipulated into finding the door.

    Then it was time to go.

  3. Except for some core doctrinal beliefs, I don’t think any doctrinal or theological issues would cause me to leave my congregation.

    I think the deal-breakers for me would be if my wife ever became a target again. (Read'll see) I have a protectiveness that I possess regarding my wife now that I lacked in my earlier years.

    There have been some pretty rough times. We have had some ministers who were not "in it" for Christ. And we have had some ministers who were in it for Christ, but needed to mature.

    But through it all, my wife and I only considered leaving this congregation one time. It was while my wife was the target of the women's ministry leader. The leader was focusing on one area of her own life, and expected others to do the same. And for about a year she hounded those who did not share the same conviction as she had. She made them out to be rebellious. She went so far as to say that by not "repenting" my wife and others were putting themselves outside of the leader's "circle of love” (whatever that is). This made those who were genuinely trying to serve God feel like nothing they did could ever measure up to the leader's standards, let alone God's. My wife cried almost every night about it, trying to "get it" but not being able to. It totally weakened her physically and emotionally. And I wasn't mature enough to see the sin that was being committed against her. That was a tough time. I WILL NEVER LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN!!!

    But overall, we have been blessed to have been here in NH. I cannot speak from experience about leaving because I am willingly and whole-heartedly in the same congregation I was in when I was baptized 19 years ago. I don't know if I will be here until I die. But if I am, that will be ok with that.

  4. Mr. Pearson doesn’t tell everything. I can’t say anymore then that due to confidentiality. I know stuff.

    It’s too bad when you loose a church building but we must think that God is in control.

    I’ve had problems with our old women’s ministry leader myself I know how hard that is. I pray that she has healed. I will admit at times I still feel a bit bitter.

  5. Bob, I wish you could be in my small group. You're awesome with your insights.

  6. Good post, KB!
    We left one church because the pastor and his wife "reigned supreme."
    They were extremely haughty, had control of all church funds, no accountability to ANYONE, much less Jesus...and simply didn't walk the walk. He was the son of a well-known writer.
    The next one we left was a church run by another well-known fellow. He didn't respect women in leadership, (I'm getting used to that, but it infuriated my husband) and again, not walking the walk. Neither of these guys walked in any humility whatsoever.

  7. Bob...excellent post my friend. I truly enjoyed the piece. Isn't it funny how a lot of people who claim to follow Christ's true teachings are the least Christ like in their actions?

  8. Hi Bob,
    I haven't attended a church on a regular basis for five years now after being a very "active" member for twenty five years. For "me", the major deal breakers are interpersonal relationships and the need to feel heard. For some, this can be a real challenge because of unresolved past issues which come into play in one's relationships with the church. For others, it may not always be a bad thing to move on for a variety of different reasons which may include not being able to use the gifts and calling God has given. One never likes to see people move on because they feel wounded and I think churches could often do more to at least sit down and have a heart to heart talke with people who are leaving because they feel rejected, unappreciated or hurt by what others may have said or done...but...that sadly doesn't often happen...It is my opinion that most people are looking for a place where they feel accepted and have an opportunity to serve the church and the community, therefore, I think this should be the major focus of the church, rather, than doctrinal purity, or church growth....but....that's just me....I am sorry to hear that many have left your church. That must sadden you and others and I hope and pray you find the kind of leadership that will bring a sense of community and love to the people you fellowship with.....

  9. "Ever leave a fellowship of believers mad, upset, wounded and/or disillusioned? Ever had leaders of a church do something that upset you and caused you to leave?"

    I haven't, but the Episcopal Church that I love so much (and of which I have been a member my entire life) has been facing this for the past three years -- the ordination of Gene Robinson, and now the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop. The word "schism" keeps rearing its ugly head, and while things may (hopefully) not get that far, many folks are already leaving because of these decisions.

    It's a painful time for us -- and I think the Presbyterians and a few other denominations are also going through their own struggles.....

  10. If the devil wants to dance with you then you better say never, because a dance with the devil might last you forever


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