Have you ever been in a church split? How did it make you feel? How did you deal with it? Were you a leaver or one left behind? One going out or sending?
We have "lost" maybe 2/3 of our congregation in the last 6 months. Doesn't matter why, but I feel like I have to grieve a little bit.
Reactions may vary and range from gossip to prayer to the hope of a turning over a new leaf. The problem with the optimistic approach, I've found, is that it doesn't allow for processing what's happened. And what has happened? It's quite typical/normal for followers of Christ to move on and worship in a new group of like-minded believers. There can be many reasons for this and they don't even have to be super "spiritual."
But when people leave because of some sort of conflict or unfulfilled dream, it feels to me like giving up on relationships. It feels like divorce. I know some might argue with me and say that sounds harsh. And I know divorce isn't the ultimate sin, either, but I feel that premature separation removes the chance for reconciliation. Harboring discontentment and then leaving without problem-solving takes away the chance for repentance and forgiveness. As each family/individual leaves, I want to believe that they are in God's will, on the path of righteousness. I sincerely desire all whom I love to be walking with Christ. But how could a broken relationship be His will? And how could it be right for one person's decision to uproot others, regardless of whether or not they would have eventually moved on? Is it a paradox?
We walked together and became cleaved to each other, in a way. I sort of alluded to this in a birthday post. When you are in a close relationship, what happens when your common link is severed? If a couple has broken up, is it possible to remain friends? Many have said that we will remain friends, but in what context? And what's the difference between being casual friends with people in other churches and remaining friends with those who used to be in the same church?
I think partly staying behind is also hard because it is less of a choice. It IS a choice, but it is not something planned, as opposed to those who made the decision to leave together. We chose to stay, not knowing who else would stay. And now we look around and see who is left. And they might not be the ones that I would have chosen to be friends with. When you first join a church, you may be starting from scratch with friendship, but then everyone gets into their little groups. And now it's like we were all thrown together from different social groups. These are the people who should be my closest friends, but I don't feel automatically close to all of them.
I suppose it is obvious that I am in favor of staying put. But it may also be a personality thing? There have been times when I have stayed in a church situation that wasn't ideal, NOT because of complacency, but because I felt God was teaching me through it. I believe that whenever there is the tiniest kernel of hope, that it is worth it to keep trying. Even when not all seems biblically sound (and no church is ever perfect or completely free from "scandal"), I sometimes see those imperfections as challenges to seek Truth and practice discernment...even though there are times when we must separate ourselves from a church that seems to be doing the work of the Evil One.
Since it is so personal, that is why I have to keep committing everyone's future to the Lord, instead of questioning the decision itself.
Rushing to post this before my laptop battery runs out! But probably more in the future.