No church is perfect. No church will ever be perfect. That’s because the church is a collection of sinful human beings. When we forget that fact, we will always, always be disappointed in what happens in our churches.
Leaving a church is a serious decision. It’s a decision that should be made only after much prayer and reflection. There are valid reasons, of course, for someone to leave a church. If the church, for example, ceases to be faithful in preaching and teaching God’s Word, then Christians should find a church that is. Unfortunately, though, most of the time we leave churches not because of a vitally important issue like biblical faithfulness; we instead leave churches because something – or someone – has not met our expectations.
We leave because we get disappointed.
And that’s never been more apparent than right now, and I fear it will become increasingly apparent as the pandemic wanes on. That’s because many people have grown accustomed to not going to fellowship and worship in the church. Instead, we have gotten used to sitting at home and having preaching over breakfast and coffee. And if we don’t like the particular text or topic of the morning, then we can easily switch to another stream. As we do, we have the opportunity to compare what is happening in our local congregation with other congregations, and in that comparison we find ourselves potentially disappointed all over again.
So we leave. Because we get disappointed.
At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, I’d offer you three basic reasons that might drive that disappointment:
We forget our pastor is human.
Eugene Peterson, in reflecting on the current state of the church, wrote this: “In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community.”
We get disappointed when we forget that our pastor, like all of us, is a human being. He’s a human being that gets happy and sad. He gets angry and tired. He gets enthusiastic and energetic. And in all that humanness, he is also a sinner. He is not perfect by any stretch, and so it is unfair for us to have either the explicit or implicit expectation that he is. We would do well to remember that these last several months, for many if not most pastors, are the most difficult and challenging they have ever faced. They have had to lead and make decisions in “no win” situation after “no win” situation. Their decisions have not been perfect because they are human beings. And when we forget that, we will inevitably be disappointed in our churches.