January 19th, 2020
One of the most difficult things we have to deal with, is people leaving our church fellowship. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, when it happens, in almost every circumstance, we find ourselves questioning the reasons why people we hold close to our hearts choose to separate from the body of believers we associate with our own worship.
There are four common reasons for people to no longer seek fellowship within the church body they have shared with other believers.
I find this ironic in the sense that when people leave regardless of what they say upon their exit, in the bulk of cases we tend to think of this action as being divisive by nature. It seems that way because despite three of the four reasons being benign or positive and only one that would appear to be negative; we tend to immediately assume the worst. We instantly think that something bad is driving these people from our congregation.
There is further irony in that even when the reason falls into that fourth negative category, God can and does use that to produce positive effects both on those who leave and those who remain. I’m not saying that this is always the case, but if we objectively look at the departure of someone from the church because of discomfort or dissatisfaction with the church; if people are not convinced that the fellowship, they are involved with is nurturing, engaging, and producing positive growth in their lives; then it is altogether reasonable that they should seek somewhere where they can be fed and grow in their role as a portion of the body of Christ.
And at the same time, their departure may remove from the church a less that positive influence in the assembly, even if that dissatisfaction is never overtly displayed.
In other words, the one leaving under negative circumstances, may end up somewhere else, where God can grow them. Furthermore, by their absence, a disruption to growth in the fellowship, may be removed. Both of these are positive results born out of a less than positive event. This is no different than God using flawed people to forward His Kingdom and bring Him Glory.
First let’s look at what scripture has to say in general about this.
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 (CSB)
We are going to focus around this portion of scripture for the bulk of this devotional. Reason being, when people leave our fellowship, our first tendency is to allow the act of separation, to function as a distraction from our core charge to walk in the Spirit.
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
Galatians 5:16-17 (CSB)
Reflecting back on our typical reaction to news of someone leaving our fellowship, we consider that our most likely reaction is to question ‘why’ with a healthy measure of concern for the situation. ‘What’s going to happen to the fellowship with this person’s absence?’ ‘Who will step into the role this person filled?’ Along with a thousand other questions, all of which are merely a distraction from our walk in the Spirit.
Reacting in this way is our natural (fleshly) reaction.
If we on the other hand, rely on the Spirit’s leading, then this reaction would perhaps result in some concern for those individuals that God’s Spirit guide them on their way. But as far as we are concerned, if we really believe the Words of God then we have to reflect back to what Paul told us in Romans 8; “all things work together for the good of those who love God”.
If we really believe this, when we are faced with the shock of someone leaving, we are immediately resolved that God has a plan that even covers this event, regardless of the cause of the departure, and He will see to it that His Glory is manifested.
The only thing that can sidetrack this is if we yield to the flesh and allow this distraction to be a disruption in our walk with the Lord.
The situation when someone leaves is to be dealt with much in the same way when someone is joining the fellowship or when there is no change. We are charged to walk in the Spirit and if we are walking in the Spirit, then we are going to be looking for every way to show God Grace and Love to our brothers and sisters, to our community, and to the world at large. Our charge remains the same regardless of the presents or departure of another.
Allowing the departure to be a distraction, is a snare that is laid by the enemy to deter us from our primary mission.
We are to remain in Christ as He remains in the Father. In His absence He has provisioned His Spirit to live in us and to work through us. We are to disseminate His love, His grace, and His compassion to a dying world; making new disciples, teaching those new disciples all that he has taught us, and to spread the Good News to every corner of the world!
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (CSB)
The slightest departure from this edict points to our failure to walk in His Spirit and calls for our repentance and surrender to the Holy Spirit and His Guidance in our lives.
It is then that we will be able to see that Romans 8:28 is more than a promise, it is a directive with consequence. We must place our faith in God’s plan not just for us, but for those we care about who both remain in our fellowship, and those who choose to depart for whatever reason.
If we find ourselves suffering from “Separation Anxiety” as a result of someone leaving our fellowship, it calls for us to consider some self-examination to be certain that we are walking in the Spirit and trusting God will do what He says He will.
In His Grace!