I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. – Psalm 32:8
This week, my husband and sat across from our pastor, a man whom we respect and admire, and let him know we would be attending a different church, one closer to home.
We’ve attended that church, an old, steepled white building in the middle of the Illinois prairie, for ten years. It’s the church in which my children grew up and learned to serve others. It’s where we sang the ancient hymns, Sunday after Sunday, and celebrated a decade of Christmases and Easters. It’s where I taught many little ones in junior church and vacation Bible school, and saw them learn to love Jesus. And how I loved them!
For a time, this church was, as they say, “our church home.”
But as time went on, our lives changed, and the church changed as well – as churches naturally will. What remained constant was the long drive from our home to our church, on back roads, in all sorts of weather. As a fireman who experiences many late or sleepless nights, my husband grew weary of the many miles we drove every Sunday.
He longed for rest. He hoped for the kind of Sabbath we believe the Lord wants for us all.
Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. – Jeremiah 6:16a
When we were forced to stay home from church this spring, we all realized how much we craved rest as well – physically and emotionally. We found ourselves spending long, quiet Sundays reading the Bible, praying, and discussing the course of our lives. The Holy Spirit seemed to be nudging us to think outside the box of our current church and ministries.
And so, after several months, we visited another little church, just a few miles from home.
We were warmly welcomed in a way that is rare, even in Christian organizations, and I felt an immediate connection to the people there. After attending for a number of weeks and praying for wisdom in the matter, we knew it was time to bid our former church goodbye.
Our final meeting with our pastor was bittersweet. He was kind and understanding, but sad, just as we were, at our leaving. But we take comfort in the fact that months of prayer have led us to a new church, and a new chapter in our lives.
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
Have you ever left a church? What was your experience like? I welcome your insights.