The Pastor and the Departing Member

05 Mar

This is an interesting article

We agree with some of the points and we disagree with some of the points. Having been a pastor and having been asked to be one again we will offer what we believe God wants us to say on this issue.

#1. Mark Altrogge, a non-vocational pastor who has served Saving Grace Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania, for three decades, shared in a post on The Blazing Center Tuesday that one of his worst failures years ago was when he tried to convince a construction worker to take a job at McDonald’s and stay at his church, rather than move his family to Houston where there were better job opportunities.

We all make mistakes but that goes without saying. One of the keys to being a successful minister is remembering one thing. God does not mark success by the number of people in the pew or how many members a church has. God got David in trouble for conducting a census but he rewarded Peter, Paul and the other disciples for their obedience.

When people obey God correctly, they are a successful minister, missionary or church leader. There is a story we hope you will allow us to tell. One day, we were getting ready to go to work. This was years ago in Korea. Outside of the bathroom window a family of birds made their nest. As we walked down the steps to go to the car, we found one of the baby birds lying on the cement walkway.

One of our weaknesses is that we are not veterinarians, we know little about how to care for baby birds and there was no one around to help. We did what we could. Gave it a little water, a little shade as the sun was rising and went on our way. We hoped that the parents would rescue their offspring. When we returned home that night , the little baby bird was dead. As we looked at the little body God gave us the thought- you cannot save everyone.

That lesson helped our ministry and teaching but it can be applied here to the issue of losing a church member. You cannot keep everyone in your church because God may need them somewhere else.

#2. On top of his list was asking to meet with and listen to people who say they are leaving because they have been offended.

The word offended is a vulnerable word. It is vulnerable in that it can be abused and misused. We know this because we experienced it while attending our undergraduate school many years ago. During that debacle, it  got to the point where no one could make a move because ‘they were offended’ by what you did. The term ‘offended’ then was used by some students to manipulate and control their fellow students.

A classmate finally did a word study on the term and his conclusion was that the term, as used in the Bible, meant that if a person was offended, they were brought to the point of losing their faith. It was not meant to be used to say that you did not like what other people were doing and those offending students were supposed to alter their behavior.

If someone is leaving because they were ‘offended’ make sure they are at the point of losing their faith and not using the term to force their views on everyone else.You cannot please everyone in the church. There will always be someone who will not agree with whatever is being done in the church. The key here is that the only person in the church who needs to be pleased is God. BUT you need to make sure you are walking with God and actually doing what he wants.

#3. Altrogge said pastors need to “listen, really listen.”

Yes they should listen but they also must properly investigate. The pastor should not take anyone’s word for the issue.  Of course we are not talking the members leaving. They are free to leave the church any time they want. Church members are not prisoners. What needs to be investigated are any issues they bring up as reasons for their departure (other than employment etc.)

#4. he said they should “ask what you could have done differently.”

This is a depends problem and we do not totally agree with it. If the pastor is correctly obeying God, then this question should not be asked. If he isn’t doing what God wants, then the HS should be talking to him about the problem. The church is not run by the sheep. Sometimes God will use them to bring up non-biblical issues but for the most part, these issues are subjective and of a personal influence.

#5. he suggested that church leaders “reach out to those who leave your church

This depends on the reason why the people are leaving the church. If it is for legitimate, non-spiritual reasons, a simple conversation will handle it all. The pastor who made the list does bring up a very good point. Church leaders should be grateful for the contributions made by their congregation.

One person recently shared with me, ‘Yeah, nobody called me. Nobody reached out to me. Nobody thanked me for 30 years of participation, serving in children’s ministry, etc. I wasn’t looking for that, but it was just like … I was gone.’

#6. Another vital point is to affirm people’s new church, he said.

We do not like the term affirm here. We would use the term encourage them as they go to a new church home. If you know the church is true, good and so on, give them encouragement and some helpful hints

#7. he said pastors need to tell people that they love them and are always welcome back.

You can always leave the door open telling the member that they are always welcome if they decide to come back.The church is not in the business of shunning people simply because they decided to go to another Christian church. There is only one Christian church and travel between them should be free, welcomed, and not a problem. For most changes, it is not a reflection on the job the pastor is doing. Sometimes God wants to move people for his own purpose.

A pastor should not take it personally when God does move one of the church members. Pastors should not get in the way of God’s plans and hinder them.

#8. Altrogge advises pastors that the goal is reconciliation.

All we are going to say here is that this is a depends situation. If the pastor has sinned, then yes this should take place.

Some Final Thoughts

One thing about dealing with the departure is for pastors, missionaries and church leaders to remember another key point. The church member does not belong to the Pastor. They belong to God and God gets to do with the church member as he sees fit. The Pastor is merely the steward of his section of God’s people. He takes his orders from God and ministers to them as he is directed.

The Pastor has to be like a parent at times. When it is time for the church member to move on,they need to let go  and let God take care of them. of course, this does not mean that the Pastor cannot investigate the reason for the departure, offer spiritual counsel or encouragement and so on. It means he recognizes that God is who the church member serves and not him.He is only granted temporary authority over God’s people.

The pastor should be doing all he can to make sure that when the church members leave, they leave spiritually stronger than when they came in.



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Posted by on March 5, 2018 in academics, Bible, church, comparative religions, faith, leadership, theology


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