One of the more painful things that happens to a pastor is someone leaving the church. Now, if someone takes time to speak with you about why, that does help (still painful, though). I confess, when someone leaves the church and just disappears without taking time to explain why–well, let’s just say that’s a mystery that I won’t have solved until heaven. How does one process this, especially as a pastor?
When I read and preached on Acts 1:12-26, I understood that even Jesus understood. After all, one of his apostles left him–Judas. Now, I’m not saying that everyone who leaves a church is a betrayer; I’m not in that lane at all. But the pain that Judas’ death caused not just Jesus but the rest of the disciples was palpable.
But do you remember in the Upper Room when Jesus and his disciples were observing the Passover? Jesus said, “One of you will betray me” (Matthew 26:21). Each of them looked at the other and said, “Lord, is it I?” This small exchange gives us such a wonderful glimpse into the heart of Jesus. Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, but he still showed such love to him that the rest of the disciples did not see any difference in his love for Judas. If I knew someone would betray me? Let’s just say I marvel at Jesus.
But I know from the New Testament that Jesus lives in me and I am in Jesus. Therefore, no matter what happens, even having people (and more so, even friends) leave the church, because of Christ each of us can still exhibit that love and care. Whereas there is a question of whether Judas repented, the case for others moving from one church to another does not change the fact that we are still siblings in Christ!
Open the door for future conversations by expressing your love for them and how you will always see them as family. And should they decide to come back and worship at your church, the door is always open. Either way, we will all be worshiping together at the throne of Jesus eventually, right?
Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY, writes so well on Saying “Goodbye” with Grace. It’s worth your time to watch this. But more than Dr. York helping us understand, we know that Jesus is enough to help us navigate through the waters of having to part with fellow believers who leave your church.
Revelation 19 tells us about the marriage supper of the Lamb, and there we will all worship together forever. No more sorrow, no more parting! An eternity of worshiping Jesus!
May this promise help you process something that can be painful!
Jesus is enough!