They Will Know Us By Our Campaign Slogans???

Warning…this post has political undertones. It will likely offend some. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to vote (or whether or not to vote). I’m just encouraging us to be discerning, as we are “sheep among wolves” and called to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” So, please remember, sometimes wolves wear “church clothes.”

In my local area, many political candidates are running on a “God, Life, Freedom, & Guns” platform. Many are going out of their way to communicate that they are professing Christians…and that is why they are for “God, Life, Freedom, & Guns.”

One candidate has placed a verse on campaign signs. If one takes the time to look up the verse, it’s about the righteous and wicked. In other words, “a vote for me is a vote for the righteous. A vote for my opponent (who is running on a very similar platform) is a vote for the wicked.”

If one takes the time to look at the platforms and agendas of these candidates, it’s difficult to find where the “God/Christian” part comes in. I’m sure they are all wonderful folks, faithful members of their local congregations, and truly believe they are “doing the Lord’s work.”

However, I see very little of Jesus within these faith-professing campaigns.

It almost seems like they are using their “faith in Christ” as a way to manipulate voters.

Running on platforms that instill fear, are based on unproven conspiracies, and diminish the value of the vulnerable and marginalized does not seem in line with the God I’ve encountered in Scripture.

Personal freedom over humble, loving service doesn’t sound very Christ-like.

Gaining easier access to firearms (when Jesus told his followers to “put away” their weapons…and the prophets tell of a day when weapons will be beaten into plowshares) doesn’t sound like the Jesus I’ve spent the majority of my life following and studying.

Pro-life agendas that support capital punishment while also calling for reducing access to affordable healthcare, quality education, food and housing assistance programs doesn’t really reflect the heart of the Gospel or seem all that interested in promoting the wellbeing of all lives (see Matthew 25:31-46 if you want a refresher on the far-reaching Gospel call of what it really means to be pro-life). Seriously, it’s time that we start saying “pro-birth” rather than “pro-life.”

“Freedom” platforms that ban books, place educators on notice, ignore the realities of history and privilege, fuel racism and try to negate the very existence of our LGBTQIA neighbors seems to miss the whole “love God, love neighbor, love enemies” teaching of Jesus.

So, before we jump on the bandwagon of a candidate because they profess faith in Jesus, make sure you look at the fruit (or at least the fruit they propose) they produce.

Now, some quotes from Shane Claiborne’s book “Jesus for President,” to show there’s at least one other crazy radical Christian out there…

“Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful…

The greatest sin of political imagination: Thinking there is no other way except the filthy rotten system we have today…

We vote every day for companies, for people, and we put money toward ‘campaigns.’ We need to think of the faces behind the scenes. Who are the masters and Caesars that we pledge allegiance to by the way we live and through the things we put our trust in? We vote every day with our feet, our hands, our lips, and our wallets. We are the vote for the poor. We are to vote for the peacemakers. We are to vote for the marginalized, the oppressed, the most vulnerable of our society. These are the ones Jesus voted for, those whom every empire had left behind, those whom no millionaire politician will represent…

The danger is that we can begin to read the Bible through the eyes of America rather than read America through the eyes of the Bible. We just want Jesus to be a good American…

The church is a people called out of the world to embody a social alternative that the world cannot know on its own terms. We are not simply asking the government to be what God has commissioned the church to be. After all, even the best government can’t legislate love. We can build hundreds of units of affordable housing (a good thing by the way) and people still might not have homes. We can provide universal health care and keep folks breathing longer (another nice move), but people can be breathing and still not truly be alive. We can create laws to enforce good behavior, but no law has ever changed a human heart or reconciled a broken relationship. The church is not simply suggesting political alternatives. The church is embodying one. The idea that the church is to be the body of Christ is not just something to read about in theology books and leave for the scholars to pontificate about. We are literally to be the body of Jesus in the world. Christians are to be little Christs—people who put flesh on Jesus in the world today..”

Updated: The Do’s and Don’ts of Leaving a Church

I first posted this blog in 2014. I found myself thinking of this blog and the Relevant Magazine article after hearing a story from a colleague about someone not leaving well. I’ve added some updates (in italics) to the original post.

Recently, Relevant Magazine published an article on their website about bad reasons to leave your church. After the article hit their website, response blogs popped up giving good reasons to leave your church.

Reading these various articles caused me to start thinking about some of the do’s and don’ts of leaving a church. I’d love for some of my friends in ministry to share some of their do’s and don’t of leaving a church as well. We can learn from these experiences together.

There are times in which it becomes necessary to leave a church. Some do it with grace. Some, well, they don’t…

First and foremost, let me be upfront and say that often times the church gives people plenty of reason to leave. And, we don’t always do the best of following up with people before or after they leave. So, we definitely need to own up to our role. However, this blog is simply trying to provide some suggestions on things to do and to avoid when leaving a church.

Trust me, I get it! There have been times when people have made comments before, after, even during services that have made me want to walk out the door. And, I get paid to be there! There have been times when people have treated my family poorly and I’ve been ready to resign on the spot. There are days when leaving the church behind sounds like a great idea.

So, if you are going to church and you’re miserable, it’s probably time to move on. If you are going to church and you’re not making connections, it may be time to look around. If you are going to church and have been the victim of any type of abuse, run like hell.

However, we all know that there are good, bad, and ugly reasons to leave a church. And, there are good, bad, and ugly ways to leave a church.

If you are leaving your church, do:

  1. Prayerfully consider your decision. Often times, we make decisions in a rash manner. Therefore, I suggest praying about the decision. This helps you avoid rushing into a decision and gives time to consider if you are jumping the gun, being petty or if it is the right decision.
  2. Talk to a pastor or ministry leader about your decision to leave, especially if you have not fully made up your mind. Honestly discuss your concerns/reasons for leaving. At some point, you really enjoyed this church. So, it is appropriate to share why you are leaving. It may be that your sharing could help the church improve in the areas of your concern. Also, in discussing your reasons for leaving, you might find the response of the pastor or ministry leader will confirm your reasons for leaving. Then, you won’t have to later ask, “should I have left?” I’ve always appreciated folks calling, sending an email, or talking face-to-face to say, “Hey, we’re checking out some other churches and here are the reasons why.” I generally respond with, “Well, that stinks for us because you are awesome. But, I understand and I hope you find a place where you can connect and feel good about.” This is one that is really hard for clergy and staff. When people leave, but don’t let you know and don’t respond when you attempt to reach out, you are left wondering…you can’t learn/grow from the experience…and, to be honest, animosity increases. Yes, it’s hard, but write a letter, email, leave a voicemail when you know the staff will be out of the office. What’s even more unsettling is when people talk…to everyone but the pastor…and share different reasons with each person they talk to (see point 6 under “don’ts” on being petty).
  3. Maintain healthy relationships with friends you made at the church. Just because you’ve left and are now attending a different church does not mean you need to get a new group of friends.
  4. Keep a positive attitude. You never know when you might want to return. After checking out other churches, you may find that your old church wasn’t so bad. If you haven’t burned any bridges, it might make it easier to return. This is an important one for clergy to remember too. Would we be embarrassed to return to a previous congregation?
  5. Get connected to a new church and do your best to get plugged in. I know several folks who have left churches…sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for petty reasons. Either way, they never took the step to get plugged into a new church. Therefore, avoiding church became easier than finding a new community to engage with.
  6. Understand that the church is made up of humans. Pastors are human. Church folks are human. We make mistakes. We drop the ball. We fail to get it right more than we actually get it right. Realize that we really are trying our best.

If you are leaving your church, don’t:

  1. Trash the church publicly. Outside of cases of abuse, it’s best to take the high road. However, if abuse has happened, get on your soapbox until someone pays attention. While you may be upset with the church, there are many people who continue to love and be committed to the church. When you slander the church, no one wins. Making personal attacks about a pastor or ministry leader is tempting, but not helpful. Tossing the entire church and its ministries under the bus because of a theological difference or preference of worship style or missional focus is not helpful.
  2. Actively recruit friends from your old church to attend your new church. It’s awesome that your new church is perfect. However, it’s unethical to try to lure folks away from one church to another. Stealing sheep isn’t a way to expand the Kingdom. Focus on reaching the unreached.
  3. Blame everyone else. Outside of cases of abuse, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. It’s not necessarily the fault of the pastor, the youth guy or the people. It’s okay to say, “well, it just isn’t for me.”
  4. Mask the real reason for leaving a church behind something else. Be open and honest. If there is a theological difference, don’t tell people you left because you prefer contemporary worship. If there is an issue of abuse, don’t tell people it just wasn’t a good fit. I think you get the idea. Again, this will help the church address any issues, if necessary. Remember, sometimes it’s just not a good fit.
  5. Focus so much on the negatives that you forget all of the positive things that you experienced at the church. At some point, you loved this church or you wouldn’t have decided to come. Hold onto the positive experiences and don’t let the negatives control you.
  6. Leave over a petty issue. In some ways, this ties into number four (masking the real reason). If you are leaving your church because the pastor doesn’t wear a robe/suit/tie/skinny jeans/cool shoes, you might be leaving for a petty reason. If you are leaving because the pastor didn’t attend Duke/Asbury/Harvard or took an alternative route into ministry, you might be leaving for a petty reason. If you are leaving because the choir sat on the other side of the sanctuary, you might be leaving for a petty reason. If you are leaving because some of the students wear ripped jeans, you might be leaving for a petty reason. If you are going to leave a church, make sure the reason isn’t petty. I’ve had some experiences when people offer up all kinds of reasons to why they are leaving…only to find out that the real reason is they didn’t like to color of the new carpet.

I’m sure I’ve missed some do’s and don’ts. Seriously, share some of your do’s and don’ts for leaving the church.