Staring at my reflection in the mirror with tears streaming down my face, never in my life did I think I would come to this place: “You need to leave this Church,” my heart resounded from the Spirit within. “I am calling you to bigger and better things,” His voice comforted me. So tooth and nail, as months turned into the first of this year, I faithfully decided that a change had to be made.
Growing up in a Methodist Church since before I was born, that was all I ever knew. Reciting “Our Father,” after communion, singing the same hymns, leading the Praise Team with the same worship disks as when I joined the team at twelve-years-old, something unsettling began to rattle. I got tired of the repetition, and of my inability to worship aesthetically. And though no Church is perfect, and I’ll never say anything wrong about my old Church, I just knew it was no longer for me.
In college, I helped lead at my University’s Church after I was done at my traditional Church. Finishing one service and driving thirty minutes to the next, I was exhausted after a year and a half of this endeavor. At one point, I was involved with three Churches, now including my boyfriend’s. Yet, although I had plenty on my spiritual resume, I had little spiritual nourishment in my heart. And despite the longings I desired to pour, and pour, and pour into others, it was only a matter of time before my cup would grow empty without allowing anyone else to fill me back up.
In January 2020, I reached my breaking point. And as 100% led by the Spirit, I switched to my new Church full-time, leaving the others behind. Within one week of being there, I was asked to participate in the Worship Team, help with youth events, was led to a mentor, and invested in spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and relationally like never before. Now into April, I can proudly declare that I am so much happier where God has guided me, and the exponential amount of spiritual growth that is resounding, warms my heart week after week. Never in my life did I think I would be attending a Church of God (no, I’m not Pentecostal), but when the atmosphere of the room is changed because of the positivity and fire for God, that is an environment I want to be a part.
Though I have 20/20 hindsight now, I realize that many of you may be dealing with a similar situation. That aching in your soul, prompting you to reach beyond your horizons and make a change because you were made for more has a voice, and His name is the Holy Spirit. Thus, here are five foolproof ways to leave the Church and do so well. Not everyone is called to make this change, but when you are, it is crucial to do so with the love, grace, and purpose of Christ.
1) Talk to a spiritual mentor, Pastor, or friend.
Before I made the decision to switch, I wanted someone to validate the reasons I was feeling about changing. So, I had my boyfriend visit my Church, talked with trusted men and women of Christ that I admire, and of course, prayed to God a lot. Never wanting to be a “Church-Hopper,” it’s always a good idea to reaffirm the reasons behind your final decision.
2) Understand that no Church will be perfect.
Before you switch to a new Church, you need to understand that no Church will be your Match Made in Heaven. Every Church has some drama, things that need improvement, or scenarios that will bother you. However, what helped, was making a list of the differences between the Churches and what each had to offer. Ultimately, this solidified my decision to switch. When the benefits of the new highly outweighed the benefits of the old, I knew it was time to take a stand. Making a pro and con list can help you to organize your thoughts and come to a firm conclusion based on factual evidence.
3) Make sure your heart is in the right place.
When I first felt the prompting to leave my old Church, I prayed for confirmation from the Lord. I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t an “Amber leading decision,” but a “Holy Spirit and Lord leading decision.” Thus, I recommend wrestling with these thoughts to examine your heart and motives.
I continually prayed, “Create a clean heart within me” (Psalm 51, ESV) and asked God to reveal to my heart the “why” behind this longing. Once I gained this clarity, I made a simple list to evaluate the reasons. For me, these were clear cut measurable goals.
First, I needed to be in an environment where my spiritual growth was not only challenged through the messages and preaching but that I was surrounded by a group of people more my age whom I could form relational bonds. Second, I needed to be in the presence of those that expressed their love for God charismatically. Third, I longed to develop more spiritually through knowledge and more profound study, and pour into work in a Church that exemplifies aesthetic qualities. And fourth, I wanted to make sure I aligned with their core values (Theology). After talking with the Pastor, researching their beliefs, and seeing that I agreed with the core ideas, I felt better about coming to a resolution.
Again, though no Church is perfect, and I don’t believe one will find a flaw-free Church or one that they agree 100% with everything on, I was hopeful in my experience with the new realm. My new Church is very accepting and open to changes as our world continues to need adaption, yet they remain faithful to the founding Word of God each of our lives are built upon—something of which I deeply admire.
4) Accept that things might be weird, but they will pass
Of all the challenges making a decision includes, awkwardness is something I am still not a fan of. Telling your family that you are leaving your home Church is difficult. Some will be accepting and loving; others will be hurtful and lash out. However, remember to stay calm and know that this too shall pass. If you’re making a change to serve the Lord better, He will always reward those who are faithful (1 Samuel 26:23, ESV).
5) Choose to leave well
The week I left my old Church, I felt unsettled. I wanted to give a reason for my leaving, but I didn’t want to sever relationships in the process. Because office hours for the Church were unavailable, I chose to write my Pastor, the Praise Team, and family members a farewell letter of explanation. In this letter, I pointed out the good, but I also wanted to give clear reasons for why I was choosing to move onward. Having a spiritual mentor and friend read over the letter helped me to clarify vague spots and edit it for professionalism. Although I would recommend hand-delivering a message like this, sending by mail is the next best personal option.
A few weeks went by as I settled into my new surroundings. I questioned if I made the right choice, and often felt awkward trying to explain myself. However, God was faithful in this transition. Not only did my old Pastor reach out to me with kindness and acceptance, but he read my letter to the Church and said nothing but good things about my decision. Similarly, my new Pastor welcomed me to the entire Church, met with me one-on-one, and began to pour into me more than any other person I’ve ever known. I am supported by this Church in fundraising for a mission trip and writing conference (both of which are almost entirely funding from the generous support and giving of this new family), and they have given me ample opportunities to use God-given gifts to further His Kingdom.
Leaving a Church can be terrifying, uncomfortable, and cumbersome. But, if it is from the Lord, it will always be rewarded in the labor and fruits of His love.