Usually, the correct answer is almost always, “stay.” Being in a place or space in life wherein you have felt the desire to run is a common experience. In fact, it is so common that you can find it even in the life of a few Bible characters, i.e. Psalm 55:6-8 and Matthew 26:39. Sometimes I can hear Jenny in the background of my mind saying, “Run, Forrest! Run!”
Here are a few truths for consideration:
• Your church is not just a place wherein you believe, it is a family wherein you have found belonging! (You ought to hang around for that!)
• In every facet of life, there are “people accidents.” Yes, a few occur on purpose, but most are true accidents and these simply require a willingness to work things out.
• Every family has moments of tension; realize that longing for the ideal while criticizing the real is evidence of immaturity; settling for the real without striving for the ideal is complacency; maturity is living with the tension.
You stay because daily you are being crucified, so that it is no longer you who are living but Christ who is living in you; and the life that you are now living in the flesh; you are living by faith in the Son of God. (Galatians 2:19-21)
You stay because confusion is overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony (Revelations 21:11).
— E. Steven Richardson, pastor, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston
It’s like a divorce
You can see comparative ecclesiology just driving down the road. That is, denominations vary widely on church government and organization.
The congregationalist branch of God’s church has a long history of splitting over serious questions, while the catholic branch claims there’s no such thing as splitting a parish. So a country road might be dotted with lots of tiny versions of one church, but only one of another.
No matter your tradition, folks are going to get upset. They’re going to disagree on matters of doctrine. On matters of worship. On what to wear or how many candles to light or what food to serve. The more trivial the issues, often the greater the discord, because they reflect deeper, more serious problems.
I was taught that when people ask for transfer to our parish, I should inquire why they’re leaving their spiritual home. If they’re upset, I’m to encourage them to go home and try to work things out in love.
It’s the same thing with cases of possible divorce – which is what’s happening when we leave a church.
Sometimes, because of sin and human failing, we have divorces. But they should come only after much prayer and every attempt at reconciliation.
Jesus told us to reconcile with one another before coming to the altar, not to change altars rather than reconciling.
— Rev. Michael G. Rich, rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville