Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.

There is nothing more painful than losing a part of our church family. Over the last year, we’ve lost over 20 people from our church. I haven’t written about any of it until now, because frankly, I’ve run the gamut emotionally. I’ve felt anger, worry, sadness, and yes, even a bit of relief. I have been pondering my thoughts and emotions, praying about it, and kept it all to myself.The Lord has done great things through this painful time in our lives and I feel I can now share my heart on this matter.

With each loss, I have been hurt. It’s like a punch in the stomach. One particular family was pretty close to me. We went shopping, ate out together, and they were so kind and generous to us. It was devastating when they walked away, without even a goodbye. But that’s what it was…a goodbye, without the words. They are moving on, seemingly as if nothing happened, while I’m limping along, grieving. Every time I pass by restaurants or stores that we visited together, I feel a twinge of sadness. I miss them so much. Some of these folks I’m able to keep up with on Facebook, and each time I see their names, I think, “Boy I miss them!” I pray for them still and I keep up the hope that one day, they will return to our “home”. 

People leave churches for literally a multitude of reasons – relocation, health problems, unhappiness with the pastor and/or members, disagreement over doctrinal issues – and the list goes on and on. May I share a bit from my heart regarding leaving a church? I hope you never have to leave the church where you serve, but if you do, or if you’ve left one in the past, perhaps these will help you.

1. As a pastor’s wife, I promised myself I would never be responsible for my husband leaving a church. That means, I will never cause him trouble in his ministry. I hold my tongue, I watch my “step”, for I do not want to be burden to his ministry. Am I perfect? No. Can the people find fault with me? Oh yes! But I do my best to be a blessing, not a hindrance to his work. 

2. As a layman’s wife, you should only leave a church, because your husband feels that that is the thing to do. Dear friend, if you go home from church and gripe and complain about everything from the music to the way the carpet is vacuumed, then your critical spirit will more than likely make your husband feel you should leave that church. A man who loves his wife, wants her to be happy, and he will do anything for peace in the home.
Here are a few thoughts to ponder from Scripture:
1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Too many women feel the need to voice their opinions to the pastor. If you are a widow or single, then you should go to your pastor or his wife, in the right spirit to discuss a problem or ask a question. As we see from the above passage, if you are married, you should talk to your husband at home. 

Proverbs 21:19 It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman
That one’s pretty clear! 😉

Acts 13:50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. 
Notice, they stirred up the “devout and honourable women” Women (yes, I’m speaking of myself here!) are an easy way by which the devil can gain entrance into a church. The saying “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is so very true!

3. If you’ve left a church for the right reasons, then you certainly wouldn’t want to gossip about it. Gossip is wrong and even if what you are saying is the truth (as you know it) the chances of it getting twisted in translation are about 110%! 🙂 If you left for the wrong reasons, then of course you will need to justify your decision to your friends and family, so you will need to talk it up…but it’s still wrong. Proverbs 6:19 tells us that sowing “discord among the bretheren” is one of the seven sins that God hates! 

4. If you are in a church that has, for any reason, recently lost some families, be assured that your pastor is hurting about it. If they have moved, he misses them. If they are upset, he’s beating himself up wondering what he might have done differently.If they are lying or gossiping, he’s trying to be meek and fighting the urge to “right the wrongs”. Pray for him during the days that follow. Drop him a note of encouragement or do something special to let him know that you are still following him, as he follows God.

I know from experience that losing people is hard on the pastor, and hard on his wife. Doing God’s work is hard when those with whom you serve leave, or worse, start casting stones. It’s painful and so very hard to look up to the Lord, as Stephen did, and say “Father, forgive them.” It’s especially difficult when stray stones start peppering your innocent children.

I can also say from experience that God’s grace is beyond sufficient – it is abundant! He sends strength when ours is gone, He lifts us up and binds our wounds. He feeds us from His dear hand and embraces us in ways that we would never know were it not for our light affliction. He is so good! In all things, He is good!

Goodbyes are never easy, but with God as our helper, we will keep on going for His glory. He has everything under control.

With love,

8 thoughts on “Goodbyes are Never Easy

  1. Susan says:

    How my heart rose up to meet yours in this post! We've been in full-time ministry for 15 years, and my husband has pastored for the past 6 of those years. I can vouch for the fact that the pastor – as well as his wife – feels every loss, no matter the circumstances of a family's leaving. And we faced the opposite situation just 6 months ago: the Lord called us to another work, and we found ourselves leaving the church we had started. Oh, how it hurt, even while we were excited about the new ministry the Lord had for us! And when some didn't understand and began casting stones – how much more that hurt.

    You have great and sound biblical advice here. We ladies do need to be so careful how we influence our husbands, because we WILL influence them one way or the other.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Amen! Good thoughts.


  3. Tori says:

    Great post Valerie,
    Wow, sadly today this is a very timely post. There are so many who nonchalantly just up and move. There is no faithfulness or allegiance any more. Our churches are suffering from the same mentality that most marriages are today; selfishness.
    Great post Valerie!


  4. Nikki says:

    Oh my!! How I related to this post. We've been pastoring for over 15 years and have experienced people leaving for many reasons.

    The greatest hurt, though, came from an associate pastor we had that lied and caused so much division that our church split. We lost 30-40 people at one time. He is now pastoring his own 'church' in the next town with some people from our church. I was astonished at the people who got caught up in his web of deception. There were more that were going to leave but thankfully stayed after much damage control from us. It took us (hubby & me) a long time to get over this. Our church has not fully recovered from it, though.

    The hurt is unbelievable. Yes, we do get attached to all our people. It feels like a death when someone leaves.

    Thank you for this post. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way. I feel encouraged reading what you write. Keep it coming. Us pastor/preacher's wives appreciate it.


  5. Valerie says:

    Thanks so much for the encouragement everyone! You all are a blessing!


  6. Jessica says:

    I am not a Pastor's wife, but anyone who loves their church and church family with all their heart will feel this pain from time to time. We had about half of our church leave within a few months time. Since we are a small church, the affects almost crippled us. It has been 2 years and we have not fully recovered. No new members and hardly any visitors. It is hard not to be bitter about it when we hear what is being said about us by old members, people in the community and even members of other churches we thought were friends. God's grace is sufficient. Hard lesson to learn.
    Great post!


  7. My mom shared this with me today after having to meet with the Pastor of my church and his family last night after service due to a family that has left our church and only visit when we have a guest speaker. This really helps put things into perspective!


  8. I'm glad you liked it, Amanda! I had forgotten about this post. 🙂


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