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Finish Well: How to Leave a Church the Right Way

My wife and I just finished a “good-bye” lunch with @jmharrison and his wife Brigitte. John Mark was the student pastor at Biltmore for four years before becoming our East Campus pastor last year.

The lunch was both delightful and sad; sad, because we will miss the Harrisons both personally and professionally; delightful, because not only am I confident John Mark will do great as the new senior pastor at Apex Baptist Church, but also because of the godly and wise way John Mark has handled himself the last few weeks of transition.

Many staff members, pastors and lay people cause harm to themselves, the church and the cause of Christ by the way they leave a church. 

John Mark did many things well that are worth duplicating.

Take the high road

It is never wrong to take the “high road,” and you will rarely find much traffic there.

Some situations make this easier than others, but it is always right.

If your situation was painful, you may want to lash out at those whom you feel caused you the pain. Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is right. Ephesians 4:30-31: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Don’t burn bridges

Expressing shortcomings about the church you’re leaving or her leadership doesn’t do anybody any good at that point.

All it does is divide the body of Christ and give unbelievers another reason not to ever go to church.

Not only is it ungodly, it is unwise. Based on statistics, the leader you are criticizing will probably be called about you sometime in the future when you are being looked at for another staff position. If you are the lead pastor leaving, don’t burn down in a week what God has done through you.

Be especially careful of social media.

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Bruce is the pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church, Arden, NC and a resource leader with the 6:4 Fellowship.