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Leaving Church – When Is It “OK”?

First, for the leaders:

No matter how healthy your church is, no matter how much it is growing, people will leave. It’s as simple as that. And many of those departures do not reflect poorly on the church.

For example:

If you start a capital campaign to raise money, no matter the cause, I can guarantee you people will leave;

… but churches need capital campaigns.

If you consistently orient the church toward outreach, to the point of calling for sacrifice among the core, people will leave;

… but churches need to stay outwardly focused.

If you add a new service, start a new site, build a new wing—creating a new sense of church size or identity—people will leave;

… but churches need to expand to accommodate new growth.

If you update the music, tweak the middle-school program or cancel a dwindling ministry, people will leave;

… but churches need to continually revise and adapt, prune and rethink.

And when these people leave, they will often throw darts at the church or its leadership.

They won’t say, “I don’t like capital campaigns.” They will say, “You’re too into money.”

They won’t say, “You care too much about lost people.” They will say, “I need to go where I’m fed.”

They won’t say, “I don’t like that kind of music!” They will say, “The music is too loud.”

They won’t say, “I don’t know everybody anymore.” Well, actually, they will.

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.