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Before you break up

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Your marriage is boring. You’re not getting anything out of the time you spend together. The sex is uninspiring. You’re not growing as a person. It’s time to start shopping around for a new spouse.

Most of us would agree this is a wrong conclusion.

But you’ve probably heard or thought the following without batting an eye:

“My church is boring. I’m not getting anything out of the pastor’s sermons. The worship is uninspiring. I’m not growing as a Christian. It’s time to start shopping around for a new church.”

At one time or another, most of us get the “church switch itch.” Several years ago, my husband and I withdrew from a congregation and joined a splinter group. We wanted the mother church to pursue a certain direction in ministry. We prayed. We respectfully talked to the pastors and elders. But they didn’t share our perspective, so we parted ways. Like having an affair, being part of the new group was full of passion and excitement – until the situation got toxic and painful. We left in self-defence.

Satan celebrates the demise of relationships and the destruction of church families. It’s in line with his mission to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Sometimes we do need to leave a church, but it should be a carefully made decision.

Here are a few things to do before breaking up with a church family.

Become a detective and a cheerleader

Focusing on your church’s flaws creates a negative attitude that can become a dark cloud obscuring your vision. To remind yourself what you like about your church, make a list of what’s good, and celebrate it.

Spend some time praising God for all the good things he has done in and through your congregation, both past and present. Invite him to change your heart as you worship. An attitude adjustment won’t solve all your problems, but it’s a beginning.

Clarify the issues

After you’ve recorded positive aspects of your church, detail your concerns. As you get specific, they will become issues on which you can take action, instead of wallowing in general hopelessness.

Repent and forgive

Now take each issue and ask God to convict you of any sin, wrong attitudes, or unforgiveness related to the items. Repent of the part that belongs to you, and forgive those who have hurt you. As the “logs” are cleared from our eyes (Matthew 7:3–5), we are freer to pray for God to work.

For example, you may feel the church leadership team is controlling because you made a suggestion they didn’t move ahead with. In prayer, forgive the team for not acting on your idea. Then, ask God to forgive you for generalizing and judging the pastors and elders for being controlling. In this humble attitude, you could pray that the team would be submitted to the Lord, and hear from him about direction for the church.

Keep praying

What if we invested as much energy into praying as we put into complaining, gossiping, and daydreaming about better circumstances?

Go back to your list of concerns and invite God to work in each situation. Do you feel your pastor’s sermons are boring? Pray that he or she will have rich times with the Lord out of which the congregation can be taught. Pray against distractions as sermons are prepared. And ask God to open your own heart to the teaching.

When you pray, things will change. It may not be what you had in mind. But as your heart gets in line with God’s will, you’ll be prepared to respond to him in obedience, rather than focusing on relieving your unhappiness.

Speak up

You’ve repented and have a clean heart; you’ve prayed for God to work; now you believe he’s asking you to speak up. Go to the person most directly involved who can do something about the issue. For example, if you think it’s poor stewardship for your church to use Styrofoam cups, speak with the kitchen coordinator. Express your concerns, and listen to what’s important to the other person. Don’t forget to volunteer to be part of the solution.

Grow even if you go

The way of the world is to bail out when a relationship isn’t meeting our needs. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). As you worship God for the positive things about your congregation; as you repent, forgive, and speak into situations, your mind will be clear to hear God’s will regarding staying or going.

Even if you do end up leaving your church, you will grow and change through this process. At the very least, you can go with a clear conscience knowing you’ve sought God’s guidance.

—Sandra Reimer finds community at Glencairn MB Church, Kitchener, Ont.

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