If you are thinking about leaving a controlling church, save yourself the trouble of trying to do it the "right" way.
Here is a portion of a comment that a friend named Charley left on my last post......
"After dedicating approx. 2.5 years of my faithfulness, talents, abilities, loyalty, tithes and offerings to a church. I came to realize that "The Apostle" in charge of the place is a victim of "Al-Capone-Pastor-Syndrome" times 10. Of course I have fled from the presence of the "The Apostle's" face. He has prophesied to me that I am under a curse of a 7-year barren wilderness and tells others that I have broken covenant. Now I sit back in dismay and amazement taking solace in blogs such as this one."
I love Charley's touch of humor, but I too stand in amazement that a pastor would treat someone like this and think he can pronounce 7-year curses on people. First of all, it's ridiculous and second it's just plain mean! I have come to realize that no matter how much you have given or how much you try to do things right, there is no right way to leave a church in the eyes of a controlling leader. You can try to walk in love and leave the "right" way, but go ahead and give up trying. Brace yourself because it will be hard, you will be talked about, and it will hurt. I wish someone would have impressed this upon us ahead of time, but I just thought it would go differently because we tried to do the right thing. So I'm telling you now - you can never do it right in their eyes.
We struggled with the "when and how to" of leaving for weeks. My husband and I knew we were leaving, but we tried to introduce the idea slowly to our children because this church was all they had ever known. They were born and raised there. The week before we left, we were getting ready to go to church and everyone was already in the car. I was walking toward the door and I felt as if my feet were embedded in cement. I was standing in my dining room and my husband came to find me. I said, "I just can't do it! I can't go!" The thought of walking in those church doors was more than I wanted to bare that day, but I mustered up the strength and did it because of my children. (A side note - after they learned the whole truth they were ready to leave too.) It was tough sitting through that service and my daughter elbowed me in the arm several times because my sighs were a bit too loud.
The next Saturday, after much agony and much pacing, we made the decision to make the call. Over the years we were taught that if you are going to leave a church, the right thing to do is go to the pastor and tell him. (Most of the time that's so he can talk you out of it or tell you how wrong you are.) My husband made the call, and much to our surprise, he didn't have much to say. Could it be that it was going to be easier than we thought? No!
We began to hear a couple of days later that we were being called "evil" (among other things) because we had called the pastor on Saturday - "the day before he had to preach." (If you are planning on leaving, just let me tell you from personal experience - that's not right in their eyes.) BUT what if we had called on Monday, or how about Tuesday? That would have been the day before he had to preach also. If we had called on Friday, it would have been 2 days before he had to preach. What was the right day to call? Is there a right answer? It doesn't matter what day we would have called - it wouldn't have been right in their eyes. Looking back, my husband said he would not have called at all. But then we would have been evil and bad for not calling and "leaving the proper way."
We saw people who had given so much of themselves for years and it was basically spat on when they left, so why would I think leaving the right way would have been accepted and respected. Controlling people are only concerned about what is best for them and even though they say they care about you, when you leave you will find out they really don't. I thought we owed the leaders something, but we didn't. And you don't owe them anything either. No matter how many ways you try to leave a controlling church, it's going to take some time to get over how you will be treated. Even when you get to new place you will still be reminded of the things you left, but it gets better with each passing day and the freedom is better than words can describe.
I know this is not a cheery New Year's message, but I wanted to tell you these things hoping it would save you some disappointment or pain. I know there are people out there thinking of leaving a controlling church, and if you decide to take that step it will be one of the best decisions you have ever made. Don't let the control they have continue on. Start off the new year walking in the freedom, joy, and peace that Jesus so graciously provided for you!
Charley, keep reading, keep writing things out, and keep the humor flowing!