I am attending a two week "Exploring Membership" class at my new church. At the end of the first 2 hour meeting the pastor asked if there were any pressing questions from the group that she could answer then, or work on for next week. She gave the example that many new people wants to know how the church stands on certain theological issues.
I thought for a while . . . but then I had to ask the following question;
You know, I hate to even bring this up. Here I am getting ready to join a new church, but I must ask, what would happen if I decided to leave in a few years? In other words, how does this church see my commitment to join? You see, some in my last church perceived my joining as the same commitment of a man marrying his wife. Therefore, this must mean my leaving is the same as divorce, and the leaving for another church is the same as betrayal (or adultery).
The pastor looked at me oddly, then she answered.
Oh. Good heavens no. I just had lunch today with a couple that said they were leaving. The hard thing was that they were also leaving The Church, never to attend anywhere again. I would have been delighted if they had chosen another church in town to attend and that wouldn't have bothered us all all. Certainly a church membership is nowhere near the same as two people getting married.I did want to have lunch with them and I wrote them an e-mail promising if they would have lunch, that I would not, in any way, attempt to talk them in to coming back. But I just wanted to communicate to them that I love them and support them and that they are leaving in peace. I didn't say this as not to put guilt on them, but I am concerned about them because they don't want to go to any church and I will be praying for them.
It made me feel better. But it was an awkward question to ask, the same as asking a woman to marry you, but then talking about the congruency plan if later you want to divorce her.