The Bittersweet Experience of Changing Churches

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.

16 thoughts on “The Bittersweet Experience of Changing Churches”

  1. We barely made it through the final service 19 years ago at our Louisville parish. As I wrote that sentence, faces of lovely people are flowing into my head, faces that I probably won’t see again in this lifetime, sadly.
    Matt, Emmy and Bryan were younger than yours are now when we left, but yeah, that’s where they first embraced the faith. It was so very hard to leave!
    But we did what we felt was best for our “domestic church,” our family. Though the move has not been without its disappointments, we are better off for leaving the big city behind. God is with us here in Small Town USA, and the journey continues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Mike. There were many other reasons it seemed right to leave, among them, for the good of our family as a unit and for our kids. We talked to them a great deal about the move and they were fully on board, so that helped!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It isn’t always easy but it is so important. I’m glad this wasn’t a rash decision, but well thought out and I’m sure prayed over. 💗💗💗 I am glad you all found a welcoming church, too 😊😊 it can be hard to find.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Leaving a church isn’t ever easy, but that’s wonderful that you were able to make the transition so well! The last time I changed churches, I made sure to sit, listen, and rest for a little bit before I dove into serving. This was a much better way to transition than I had done in the past.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am so sorry you have had to go through that heartbreak, Meredith! I know that was extremely hard.
    Yes, I have had to leave a church when the Lord led me to move to another church that was closer to our house back when gas got to $5 a gallon. I prayed long and hard, but God made it clear that I needed to be in church. I followed Him all the way,
    I pray for His peace to embrace you as you trust Him. Praise God for the rest He has promised to His people, and has so faithfully given to your hubby. Rest is far more valuable than we treat it. So glad your family was able to grow in Him together! God loves you, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As one who has now sat on both sides of the table, I can certainly relate to the feelings you have experienced.
    Allow me to commend you for having an ‘exit interview.’ Far, far too many people simply disappear from local churches, for many reasons. Unfortunately, if they have been hurt, that is what they take away with them, causing deep doubt about ever joining another local fellowship.
    As a pastor in cases like your family, saying your good-byes in the ‘light’ allows for closure on both sides and gives that pastor the opportunity to pray for you as you go. Well done! And I too pray that God blesses you all abundantly in your new church home so that you in return bless others for His glory.
    Pastor Chuck

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pastor Chuck, indeed, as you said, our pastor prayed for us as we said our good-byes. He and his family are amazing, dedicated people, and leaving them was the most difficult part of leaving. We respected him too much to leave without expressing our reasons to him in person – it simply wouldn’t have been right. Thank you so much for your prayers! We really love the congregation and pastor of our new church and are trying to look ahead now, with what God has for us there.

      Liked by 1 person

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