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Proper Protocol For Leaving A Church

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The protocol for leaving a church

Perhaps you have been at your church for a while and feel that it is time to leave. This article deals with the "protocol" for leaving your church.

The protocol is different if you are in ministry (lay or staff). If you are just a member and are not in ministry, then it is more of a straightforward process.

Just what do I mean by "protocol"? Well, it all comes down to the Bible's definition of what the church is. You see, when you become a member of a church, you actually come under a "covering". This is in the form of a "prayer covering" and as such, you should never leave a church without several steps. I will explain these.

Firstly, the Lord has you at that church for a reason and you are covered by the folks that pray for the entire church, hence the "prayer covering". Secondly, without the "release" of the Lord, you are to stay at that church. Now here is the process:

1) If you feel that you are to leave the church, there are certain things that are to be confirmed

a) Ask the Lord in prayer

Pray constantly ans ask the Lord if you are really supposed to be leaving the church. You and everyone in your family who is going to be leaving should pray.

b) Listen for His answer

Too often, we ignore the Lord's "still small voice" thinking it is just our "flesh" talkin'

c) Throw out a fleece

In Judges 6:36-40, is the story of Gideon and his request to God. Read this to understand the protocol. The fleece is a "sign" from God that "confirms" a prayer request. You might pray like this" God if you want us to leave this church then: ____________. When you fill in the blank with what you want God to do to confirm the leading. If the fleece comes back "positive" then that is a sign God is saying "yes" to your request. If it comes back negative, then that is a possible "no". Always put a "time element" in the fleece so you will know that it is God. Many times we are so anxious to hear from God, we forget to be patient and wait for Him. If you notice, Gideon threw out the fleece twice and both times it was confirmed and it was different each time!

d) Beware of false leadings

The enemy is constantly trying to throw a wrench into the works of our lives by lying to us about our life situations. If he can get us to leave a church that is primed and ready for revival, then he will do whatever accomplishes that in the lives of the believers.

Ok, suppose that you have gotten God's confirmation that you are to leave the church. What now? Well, here is where it takes things into the physical realm.

a) Know where you are going

Make sure you have also confirmed "where" you are going, i.e: which church.

b) Visit the new church and meet the leadership.

Get to now some of the players of the new church. Talk to them at a meet and greet and ask questions. If possible meet the senior pastor and let him know that you are planning a move. Ask him if he would be willing to accept you under their covering. By The Way, if the senior pastor does not know what you are talking about - RUN THE OTHER WAY! This is a very well known protocol at most of the churches and very seldom is it ignored or not known. Once you have been invited to the church or accepted, then you can ask for release from the old church.

c) Pray for release

In prayer, ask the Lord to release you from your current church and move the covering over to the new church.

d) Let your current church know you are leaving

Write a letter to your current pastor (or talk with him in person) and let them know you sense the Lord leading you to another church. Be gracious and kind and thank them for a good ministry. Do not over complement them because by doing so begs the question "then why are you leaving?". Just be real and kind too.

e) Make your move

When you leave the church - LEAVE THE CHURCH! Don't say you are going to leave and then show up three weeks later and attend spottily. Visiting is ok, but even then, make sure you tell people you are just visiting.

Three rules apply to leaving a church. These three things are necessary to prevent insult and drama. Remember it is one God and thousands of Churches all over the globe. People react differently when people leave and we are not to steal sheep from a church. 1) Leave quickly 2) Leave quietly 3) Leave graciously

By doing this, there will be the least disturbance to the body of believers and the least "rumor mill" activity. You should not tell them "why" you are leaving the church except you felt the calling from God. That's it. Say no more about it. If they persist in pestering you with questions, excuse yourself from the conversation and leave.

If you are in ministry, the same goes with a vital exception. You should first contact the senior pastor and let them know that you feel the need to leave. If you are in a paid position then this is all the more important. Make arrangements to leave in a proper manner. You may be "platformed" and prayed for and released formally with a reception. I have seen pastors leave abruptly without any kind of word and that is wrong. Once you have notified the right people and have been released, then you may leave.

I hope this helps you to know of this important protocol.

Dr. James P. Noll Ph.D is a counselor, researcher, teacher and writer located in Orange, Ca. He specializes in Church renewal and growth. He specializes on teaching the prophetic ministry. He is the author of "Where Did the Prophets Go?" as well as a number of articles for and about the church.

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Dr. James Noll, Ph.D
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