The first church I was a part of was connected to the camp where my family’s spiritual heritage began. It was at that camp, over the course of 4 years, that my mom, my sister, my brother, and I heard the gospel and started into our individual relationships with God. It was at that church that I joined a youth group, joined a music team, and was part of a small group, all for the first time. I left that church when I moved away for school, but still have close ties there.
School seemed like a legit reason to leave a church.
In Ottawa I planted myself at an incredible church. It had great music, teaching, a young adults ministry – I loved it. I learned and grew so much, and made some critical connections and relationships that I still enjoy today. But the church was huge, so I was as connected to the church as a young adult could be.
Then friends of mine from that church ended up taking on the leadership of a smaller church in the same city, and they asked if I would join them to help develop a young adult ministry and serve on the music team. I saw that I could help, and I liked the idea of going with them on mission.
That I saw as a legit reason to leave a good church.
Then I moved to Guelph for work, saying bye to another incredibly supportive church family that helped me discern calling, and supported me as I stepped into full time ministry for the foreseeable future.
Another legit reason.
In my first few months in the city, I was working on campus and met a lovely man named Henry. Henry was in his 80’s, handing out Bibles on campus. I was helping with some giveaways and was being really loud and obnoxious. Henry came over, put his arm around me, and asked if I had a church that I was going to. His timing was perfect. I didn’t and I was looking, so he invited me to join him at his church that Sunday.
In joining Henry, I found a church that quickly became my family. Years later, I met my husband there (his first church family ever), we got married there, and had our daughter dedicated there–it was very much our spiritual home.
But things, sort of unexpectedly, started changing. As Brian was developing his own personal beliefs around some topics, they started to deviate from those of the church we called home, and he started feeling the need to find a place to continue growing. At the same time, I was in a tough place with God. I was struggling to connect, experience, and make sense of a bunch of recent experiences I had had with God. Going to church wasn’t even something I wanted to do–it was a struggle.
We were both in a spot where we felt like we kept missing God and were stuck. We just weren’t meeting him in this community the way we had before, and it was difficult to keep going. We found ourselves growing in frustration, bitterness, and apathy towards our faith and we didn’t like it. We wanted it to change, and we needed it to change.
So we decided to shake things up a bit by checking out some other churches. We went to a bunch of different ones; some that we had been to before, others we hadn’t, all very diverse on some topics that we were really contemplating.
And it was so scary. It felt like we were cheating! This church was our family. We were so connected, loved, and supported there for so many years. How could we just leave?
Was our spiritual health and connection a legit reason to leave a good church?
Even now it feels like betrayal to say that making this change helped, but it did. At one particular service, our daughter willingly stayed in the nursery for the whole service, and both Brian and I heard a sermon that gave us the hope that we needed to keep pursuing faith. It didn’t fix everything, but we both heard from God for the first time in a long time.
As the weeks went by, and we visited this other church some more, we discovered that the topics we had been contemplating were also being explored by this church family. That was exciting and encouraging to us. The location of the church and their heart for our area of the city was inspiring and something that we wanted to be a part of. Each week we attended, we felt like we connected and relevantly heard from God.
With this, we decided to leave a great church for another great church.
Making this decision was difficult, but clear. For a while, our reasons didn’t feel good enough to be leaving such an impactful community. And some people didn’t think they were either. After telling our friend Karen that we would be leaving the church, she helped put things in perspective: “You’re not leaving the Church. Sometimes God shuffles people for times and reasons that we don’t always fully understand, and all we can do is follow. We will miss you, but go and follow him.”
Our spiritual health was and is a legit reason to make a change. And maybe other reasons will become clear down the road, but I don’t need any more reasons than that right now. Church should be a place where I connect with God, where I grow in faith, and where I experience community. Those elements are critical to spiritual health.
Now we are getting plugged in. Brian is serving in hospitality, I’m doing music again, and we are building some new relationships that I’m sure will be purposeful and impactful in ways we can’t even anticipate.
But most importantly, we have renewed hope. We need to follow hope.