Ever Been So Mad You Felt Like Leaving Your Church?

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In the past 24 months I’ve switched my home cable provider three times.

A grocery store opened closer to our house last year, so we’ve switched to that store.

I discovered that a different credit card would help me accumulate travel points quicker, so I switched to that card a few months ago.

All of us are so accustomed to moving our business from one place to another that perhaps it’s inevitable that we sometimes bring the same thinking to our local church.

As a church elder, people will seek me out from time to time to have one of those “I’m thinking of leaving our church” conversations. I had one this week.

My response is always the same. I ask, “Are you angry at the community or the company?”

communityThe baffled look on their face prompts me to explain. “Look, the church is really the community; you know, it’s you and me. It’s all of us. It’s all the ‘one another’ stuff in the New Testament.

“The company is different. That’s my term for the staff, the budget, the facility, the utility bills, the governance structure; all the stuff the community puts in place to help us along the way.”

Then I add, “It sounds to me like you’re really mad at the company, not the community.

You see, almost always when someone is mad at “the church”, they’re really mad at the company; that organized part that makes decisions, distributes resources, and so on.

Once people see that distinction I ask, “So, if it’s the company you’re mad at, why would you want to respond by punishing the community?”

Then I take them right back to 1 Corinthians 12 and hit them with verse 18: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Let’s face it. Life in the local church can be a bumpy ride, and along the way you may indeed find yourself pretty upset at decisions, directions and policies.

However you choose to respond, remember that when you’re mad at the company, don’t take it out on the community.

Because “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

What do you do when you’re mad at “the church”? What is an appropriate way to respond when we’re angry at church decisions?

the author

Scott Cochrane

5 comments

  1. RE: What do you do when you’re mad at “the church?
    Perhaps it is true that some people leave “the church” because they are “mad”. but personally, I think that the word “mad” is a somewhat unfortunate term as used to describe someone who wants to “leave” the church. For instance, a person described as “mad” may seem mad, but in reality might be feeling alienated, be experiencing hurt, reacting to some unconscious/unnamed inner issue, etc. etc. The contemporary world we live in is incredibly complex. Stresses and issues and conflicting ideologies of every kind pull people down and apart. It is my belief that many people today are desperately seeking to escape a sense of displacement, and when they fail to feel connected in within the body of Christ, they simply deal with it by “leaving.”
    What s an appropriate way to respond when angry at church decisions? There is no easy answer for this one, However, one can seek to learn from church history, and evidence suggests its leaders were far from perfect: For example, Celibate priests in the Catholic Church had artists paint their mistress’s as the virgin Mary, which of course was a rather devious, but clever and convenient way to get away with whatever they wanted to do – which reminds me of another practice I read about – which was smuggling women (live ones) into the church in coffins. Or?how can we forget about the emotional blackmail used in churches back then?…evidence of which exists in highly emotional crucifixion scenes of the times, meant to disturb parishioners to agony for their sins, so that they would give more money to the church. ( A practice we now refer to as usury…. all this talk about the failure of pre-rennaissance church leadership, makes me think of Luther. Perhaps we can learn something about how to respond when angry at church decisions from him. Wasn’t he the guy who nailed his list of protests on the doors of the church he attended? Imagine that! defacing the church and starting a revolution! He certainly wasn’t very politically correct, was he?
    Perhaps we have evolved since then. Maybe it’s not fair to compare the church back then with the church today. Still, I get this gnawing sense in my soul that even if things are somewhat different now, they really aren’t that much different at all.

  2. Thanks Mike- It can be especially challenging to keep the two concepts distinct when you work for ‘the company’! At least that was my experience. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Linda- wow you have provided a fantastic contribution to the discussion! You raise a very good point about the complexity of issues that can contribute towards someone reaching the place where they want to ‘leave the church.’ I would agree with you that simply being ‘mad’ is only one of a number of factors to be considered.

    I would, however, stand by my assertion that a person’s dissatisfaction with their experience in a local church is usually not a valid reason to begin the exit process. (I stress ‘usually’ because I believe there can be notable exceptions). Whether a person feels ‘alienated’, angry, or in some other way disappointed with how they have been treated, very often these feelings are directed at the decision makers of the faith community (or as I somewhat crassly put it, ‘the company’). But when this results in leaving a church those who suffer are those members of the community who are left behind.

    By the way, your historical perspective on how people have dealt with unpopular church issues over the years is both facinating and impressive!

    Again, thanks for furthering the conversation.

  4. I would like to hear more about what to do when your deeply hurt by, & angry, with certain members of the local “community” (including & especially the local leader) but Not the “company”.

    Thanks….

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