Leaving a Church Should Be Tougher than Leaving a Sports Team

I promised a follow-up post to my last blog on Tuesday. Okay, it was LAST Tuesday, but nevertheless…

On last Monday, I posted my thoughts on fans who get mad when things don’t go their way. These fans threaten to pull their dollars unless a coach is fired or some other demand is met. Instead of stepping up when they are needed the most, they have a temper-tantrum and turn their backs.

I would like to believe that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in church. Yes, I would LOVE to believe that. We all know that’s just not true.

One of the struggles of church and Christianity is that these institutions are run by people. Oh, we know that God is ultimately in charge, and we do our best to let that be the case. Our humanity just keeps getting in the way.

That’s okay, because Christ is more than powerful enough to overcome that on most occasions. Hopefully enough people are searching for Jesus instead of trying to get their way that the church/group can move forward and improve.

But there is still that group that wants to “take their ball and go home” when things don’t go the way that they want. This has given rise to new genre of “Christian”:  The Church Bully.

Let’s start by saying who the church bully is NOT. It’s not the person who feels led by the Holy Spirit to leave and attend another church. It is not the person who simply needs to step away from the church for a while to gain some perspective. It is not the person who still loves the church but just cannot agree with the future plans or theological direction of the church.

The “Church Bully” is the one who threatens to withhold their tithe because the rest of the church voted to change the color of the carpet. It’s the person who stops speaking to someone who disagrees with them. It’s the person that threatens to take their money and leave if the church EVER does this or that.

It’s pretty amusing that some people are more loyal to their sports teams than they are to the church. People wouldn’t abandon their school or team if the Lord dropped two stone tablets on their head listing 10 reasons why they should make that change. But some people are willing to abandon their church for just about anything…and primarily because they do not get what they want.

The problem with these “Church Bully” types is that they often get away with it. They use their money or position or status to intimidate and threaten. Unfortunately, they’ve often lost sight of what God is leading them, or their church, to do.

My first suggestion:  Don’t be that guy. Or girl (yes, bullying is gender-neutral).

My second suggestion:  Stand up to them. Call them out and hold them accountable. Try to help them see that taking the ball and going home is no good for anyone.

If the continuation of the church depends on bullies, then it doesn’t have much of a future anyway. People have to trust that God will take care of them, and doesn’t need the money of a bully to do it.

Just as I’ve seen football programs suffer because they fired a coach too quickly, I’ve witnessed churches that allowed themselves to be held hostage because they feared that a person, people, or family would leave the church. Worse yet, they feared that their money would leave with them.

You cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit if you are under the thumb of someone else, plain and simple. Allowing such bullying to continue doesn’t help the church, the bully, or you.

If you are thinking about withdrawing your support from your church because you’re not happy, I beg you to think again. Ask yourself:  What good will that really do, for you or the church?

You will encounter issues at every church you attend. You will find people that you don’t like, pastors you don’t like, music you don’t like. The carpet may be the wrong color, the temperature too hot or too cold, the pews too hard or the chairs too soft.

This isn’t Goldie Locks. It’s time for Christians to grow up and put on their “big boy/girl” pants, which means both standing up to bullies and learning not to be one.

Walking away from your church is far worse than abandoning your college football team because they are losing games or you don’t like the coach. And no matter what the rest of the world says, the stakes are far more critical for Christianity than for the NCAA.

If you have to leave, then make sure you take some advice that my father has offered many times:  Make sure that you are going to something rather than running away from something. If you aren’t doing that, then maybe you’d be better off staying put.

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