A female Nigerian pastor who goes by the name Williams once said, ‘if your church does not change you then you need to change your church.’ I have also heard Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo say, ‘instead of the people to perish they change their parish.’ For so long a time we have had to debate the necessity of changing a church and I did keep quiet for some reasons but the long silence is killing some people and it is time to voice my opinion.
It is important to first note that when we were born we did not choose the churches that we attended and for a long time we sat in the pew not because we were blessed but because our parents got ‘stuck’ in some of those churches and we also had to stick. This is a time when people no longer just go to church just because it is important not to forsake the gathering of the brethren as it is the culture of some folks but we have to be in the gathering where tangible values are deposited and physical progress is made. Today we have people driving several kilometers to attend churches even when there are churches practically ‘littering’ the streets where they live. That should leave us with the important question of why would people want to leave tens of churches around them and go to some churches miles away from their house?
What happened to the churches people were in before they thought about leaving and why do pastors fight the people that are leaving their churches. I honestly understand that leaving a church could be for the right or the wrong reasons depending on the person in question. Some leave their churches for other churches because of the new facility that the other church has but some others leave their churches for another because the other seems to be delivering the values they can point to. Some leave their churches because they want to be seen as people who attend Pastor “So … So … So and So’s Church but other have discovered the connection in destiny and they understand that this other pastor has been through the paths that God wants to take them through.
At any point my opinion has always been that when you first get born again it might just be necessary to have a place where your soul is nourished but at some point it might be necessary to change church when you discover purpose and it is very obvious this other pastor can guide you through your specific path of purpose. Let’s be real here! It is not every pastor that can guide you to your destination so you have some pastors that can at best help you to be spiritually sound but you also need someone who can take you beyond being spiritually sound to being productive and purposeful. A lot of pastors can teach and preach but only a few have mastered the art of coaching such that when you sometimes need to take some decisions your pastor’s voice can resonate in your ears even if he is not there when your decision was being taken.
So why do pastors fight members who change churches? Some of the pastors are fighting for the soul of the members which means that they know the person in question is not mature enough to jump from one place to another. They would have had no problem with the person is they know that this person is spiritually sound enough to know what is good for him per season because there are spiritual seasons in every man’s life. For some others the case is not the same. They know this guy’s tithe is very heavy so he can collapse the church’s finance if he decides to leave. For some other it has to do with the key role the person has been playing in the church. They do not want a person to leave because he is a choir master or a unit leader in some key departments of the church. It has, in some places, gone as bad as pastors cursing their members which is an outright abuse of the anointing because it was given to you or any other person so that you can bless and impact the sheep.
It was recorded in the bible that some of Jesus’ disciples left but we never heard that Jesus fought or cursed them. In fact he never mentioned it again the moment they left. When pastors begin to understand that people can leave at any time then they will not make people so indispensable that their leaving unexpectedly will cause a lot of pain where it does. A church system is supposed to be an institution and at that it means that even when key pastors leave it will not shake the church! If anything happens to they key pastor the church will continue without any struggle because there is a structure in place to make sure that the focus is building lives and not enlarging congregation so that we can have a robust resume when talking about pastoring experience.
When people leave churches just as they were the ones who walked in willingly before you began to call them members it should be noted that a personal relationship with the people exiting the churches is more important. There are people who love you enough to be your friend or even listen to you as a mentor but they just do not want to be a part of the congregation and I think you should not fight people for that reason. Some of the people who have even taught about leaving could be won back into the church if only we genuinely follow them on personal grounds and they are convinced that these people are after my heart and not my money or talents which has always been useful to the church.
Instead of fighting people for leaving our church we are supposed to seat down and consider why people would want to leave our own churches for some other that might even be far away. In Nigeria I know about people who drive for about one or two hours to get to church every Sunday so the question should be what are they looking for that will make them leave all the churches around them and stay in traffic some times for as long as three or four hours just to attend a service!
Rather than fighting people who leave our churches I strongly suggest that church leaders should seat down and stop concluding that everybody who left the church has backslidden into sin. There are hundreds of people changing churches without backsliding. The truth is that they have even grown stronger in the word and have results to show in the new places their feet are now planted. Let’s re-evaluate things and sincerely answer the question of why people are leaving our congregation because it means there is something they are getting in the other places that we are not offering. When we find what it is and it is scriptural, we must provide such for our people because there are people who will not leave the church and at the same time they are not satisfied with the things they experiencing.
I should also have mentioned that some people leave churches because their values no longer align with the core values being propagated in the church and I would rather have a person leave the church because his values do not align with the values of the church than stay in the church and fight everybody. Sometimes it’s amazing how churches can tolerate the people who will not leave and still cause chaos in the church but will never celebrate those who decided to leave quietly because they do not want trouble and they still want to grow at the end of the day.
After all many of these pastors who fight people for leaving their churches preach that there is no denomination in heaven so why do you fight people to stay or come back to your denomination if you truly admit there is no denomination in heaven?