One of the most devastating experiences in the ministry is undergoing a church split. Every pastor deals with members leaving their church for various reasons, and occasionally a large number of members, perhaps half the congregation, leave the church. The emotional strain of a church split is a traumatic event and can linger for months and even years. You may never face such a situation but if you stay in the ministry long enough it is likely you will.
It is necessary to provide direction to the church even though you may be struggling with your own emotional pain. It has been said, “If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger.” It can be humbling and at the same time helpful in developing a stronger relationship with the Lord. Purging can be painful but it always results in greater fruitfulness. Every preacher tries to help every person he can and sometimes those he spends the most time helping appreciate him the least. Yet those you help the least are most appreciative of you. You must accept the bad with the good. The truth is you will not help everyone. Even Jesus’ disciples forsook Him in the end.
There are many reasons people leave a ministry and some of the reasons are not bad. Ordaining young men into the ministry as pastors or missionaries is a wonderful blessing. It is not easy to lose your best servants but it is understandable that your ultimate goal is to train and disciple converts to go out into the world. Sometimes people are moved because of a job transfer. Though painful, it is sometimes a good decision for young families, but sad when families move without really praying for God’s direction.
Others leave and sometimes cause division. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. The most difficult situations are when members leave the church unhappy and perhaps even angry with the pastor, the church, or the program. You should learn from these experiences and if you learn from them you will become a better pastor. With maturity comes greater wisdom. Here are some of my observations after half a century in the ministry. Consider the following statements:
· There are some people you will never help.
· There are some people who are troublemakers.
· There are some people who are heretics.
· There are some people who are immature and carnal.
· There are times when people leave because the church has changed direction. That is your own fault.
When a church changes their music, their standards, or their doctrine it may become necessary for a good Christian to leave a church. Most of the time people leave for fleshly reasons but when a church compromises important doctrines or practices good people will leave to find a place where they agree with the church’s direction.
Preachers must recognize that every church problem is not a result of their lack of leadership. Sometimes it is best for people to leave when they become a hindrance to the church. It is better to lose people one at a time than a large group all at once. Unstable people are attracted to a new and small church because they will get more attention but if they do not grow, they will not continue to serve the Lord and they could cause discord in the church. No one wants to lose a member, however there may be a time when it is better to lose them than for them to hider the progress of the ministry.