EP 219 WHEN PEOPLE LEAVE YOUR REPLANT
Hey there Bootcampers, we hope you had a great Thanksgiving. One of the realities of pastoring is this: Sooner or later, someone in your church will decide they no longer wish to be a member of your church under your pastoral leadership. That can be difficult and discouraging, especially if you are early in the work of church renewal. How can you respond? The guys break that down in this important episode of the Bootcamp.
1. God brings sheep; God takes sheep
2. It’s difficult to keep the already departed.
3. Grieve their loss, but don’t despair
4. Send and bless those leaving
Here’s a blog on this subject.
Know this Bootcamper, you are not alone, we’re praying for you. We’d love to hear from you and offer a word of encouragement or counsel, just drop us a line, comment or hit us up on the Bootcamp hotline.
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the boot camp, back at it again. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. It is clear my LSU Tigers have no playoff hopes, but we do have some, uh, national dreams. Our quarterback is a Heisman favorite at the moment, and you know, we’re hoping that he can represent well. He’s throwing like Joe Burrow esque numbers lately, and which has been pretty, he actually.
The other couple weeks ago had a game that broke like FBS records, not like SEC or LSU, like just college football. There’s no quarterback has ever thrown for and rushed for as many yards in one game as he did a couple weeks ago. So we’re hoping that gets him to Heisman, even though we have at least three losses.
Bob Bickford: Well, I, I don’t know if Arkansas is going to have a coach Jimbo LSU [00:01:00] may not have, playoff aspirations or, or ranking aspirations, but, we, we probably won’t even have a coach at the end of this year, but Jimbo, I’ve got a question. I don’t know. So I I’m probably going to get, we’re going to get comments on this and people are going to criticize me, but Jimbo, I don’t know what the initials FBS stand for. Right. The first Baptist school football scholastics. Like what does that stand for? I don’t know what that means.
JimBo Stewart: I have no idea.
Bob Bickford: college football.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I don’t know why it’s called. I don’t know why it’s called FBS, but know that that’s the record. I did. Also, though, talking to speak in Arkansas, I read that your athletic director said they’re sticking with Sam Pittman for one more year.
Bob Bickford: Okay. Well, that’s good. That’s good. he’s well loved and, he’s in a lull. he looks like he’s lost on the sidelines. So we need a replanter to go down there Arkansas Razorback stadium. Put your arm around Sam Pittman. Tell him that he is in the double dip. And, if you don’t know what that means, [00:02:00] look at the show notes, at the bootcamp, read about the double dip, and then translate that into FBS language and then go down there on that sideline breathe some life and encouragement into my good boy, Sam Pippen.
JimBo Stewart: know, uh, apparently being fired isn’t always bad news. Oh, you know, my namesake. there at Texas A& M, got, got fired. And did you see how much Texas A& M was having to pay him? And like, he is going to get paid 75 million to not do anything.
Bob Bickford: Well, Jimbo, that’s what I got from leaving NAMM from the associate Director. So I, I didn’t want to, I didn’t wanna say anything. But thank you,
JimBo Stewart: Yes.
Bob Bickford: Kevin DeZell and North American Mission Board. I
JimBo Stewart: I don’t think you did.
Bob Bickford: didn’t even get 75 cents.
JimBo Stewart: Well, speaking of [00:03:00] people abandoning you and hurting their feelings when they leave you in a lurch, let’s, let’s jump into, let’s jump into the episode this week before I start crying because you left me, you abandoned me. so when you’re pastoring. In any, in any context, a plant, a replant, a revitalization, an established healthy church, regardless, sooner or later, somebody is going to decide that they don’t want to be a member, of your church, under your pastoral leadership.
this is going to happen. I, I think, uh, D. L. Moody said every pastor pastors a circus, just coming in and leaving. And, there’s, there’s a part of that that just seems to, continually happen. And it, you know, It’s really hard as a pastor not to take that personally and to feel like that has something to do with your worth and your value.
and you know, if you’re good at your job or not, there’s still, it’s, it’s really hard to take that in [00:04:00] stride when that happens.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. And the reason is, and I think this, this Is shared by Paul when he writes in first Thessalonians chapter two. He says this we cared So much for you that we were pleased to share with you Not only the gospel of god, but also our own lives because you have become dear to us, right? so pastoring is not just this transactional I study And deliver a sermon and do spiritual things and then I don’t think about you any other time. Pastoring and, and shepherding is full contact. It is life on life. It is heart to heart. It is, you know, experience, shared memories created, all those sorts of things. And so whenever someone does say goodbye, or maybe they just leave and you don’t know where they are, right. And what happened, or you hear some.
So through the grapevine some somehow that they’re [00:05:00] attending one of your close friends church in the association and you just You take it personal you feel it because you’ve loved them, right? And I think that one of the keys here is to say that if you grieve when people leave That could be a good thing in this in the regard that it shows that you care deeply about people Right.
And you’d love them. Now there’s another side of grieving when people leave and that’s because your congregation gets smaller. Maybe some resources go out the door with them, maybe a key volunteer position, all those sorts of things. And I think we’re not talking about those kinds of things, which are our realities that you have to face when you, when you do have departures.
But I think what we’re, I’m going to be talking about is the toll that it takes on you and maybe some perspective that you could have in dealing with the situation and the seasons when people depart. So I wrote a blog way back in July of 2020 regarding [00:06:00] people leaving and people moving from your church.
And I think we had a season and everybody had a season of people who perhaps were. You know, stopped coming to church or maybe left or transitioned somewhere else. so that was, uh, at the height of the pandemic, we, we had just returned to worship. and so we were reeling with the, with the fact that some folks had left our church and over all kinds of issues that were, that seemed to be really insignificant issues to me, and maybe to our elders and to some others, but they were significant to them.
So I think we’ve got four things that I’d like to cover Jimbo about how to, How to deal with people departing from your church. And here’s the first one. You need to remember this. God brings sheep and God takes sheep. There was a wise seasoned pastor who pastored a church just a couple of blocks down from our church.
And here’s what he said to me. I remember, never forget this. We’re sitting in Starbucks and Jimbo, at that time I don’t drink, I didn’t drink coffee. Jimbo, I got to tell you, we have to, [00:07:00] we have to update the crew. I’m drinking some coffee now and I’ll have to tell you about that at some
point in time, but,
JimBo Stewart: right.
Bob Bickford: but he said this to me, he goes, Hey Bob, this is one of the things I’ve learned is God brings a sheep and God takes sheep.
And I just passed her the sheep that God brings. Right. So in some ways you have to look at who God has placed in your church for the season is he’s giving you those folks for a season to pastor them well. so you pastor the people that you have. And you realize that some of the people that you are pastoring are going to leave.
And there’s a lot of things that you really can’t do to change that. So focus on the sheep that you have and pastor them well.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, it’s, you know, it’s hard in the moment to see that God’s hand may be in this and that he’s got a plan that not only good for those people, but good for you. and even sometimes when people leave, as hard as it is maybe it’s, you know, it’s God doing a good thing. It’s not always bad. even if it Feels bad.
Sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes it’s for wrong [00:08:00] purposes. Sometimes it’s for consumeristic purposes. sometimes it’s just God has a different place for them to be for various reasons and it’s time for them to move on and so I don’t know that there’s a good way, Bob. Is there a good way to tell your pastor that you’re leaving the church?
had somebody asked me that recently. They said, they were at their uncle’s church and their uncle was the pastor and they was like, they said, is there, is there a good way? To tell my uncle that we’re leaving the church and here are all my reasons why and you know, there are whatever good legitimate reasons I guess but you know, I tell my friend that you know, they did this long verbal processing asking me is there a good way to do it and I just answered, No, I mean, there’s not, there’s not a great way there.
There’s, there’s bad ways. There’s really bad ways to do it.
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: there’s there’s not a good way. There’s not, I said, there’s not a way where he does not take it hard. There’s just not a way that that happened. I did say, I [00:09:00] think, I started to think through it and here’s a bit of practical, for a church member that may hear this and think it’s time to tell my pastor, I think Thursday’s the right day to do it.
Here’s, here’s why. Monday, most pastors want to quit anyway, so don’t tell him on a Monday because that’s miserable. Tuesday is too close to Wednesday And he might still be really bitter on on Wednesday night if you tell him on Tuesday, obviously Wednesday is a bad idea unless it’s after church on Wednesday, maybe but still I don’t know I think Thursday you let him have you let him have Wednesday that gives him enough time before The weekend gives him Thursday, Friday to recover, Saturday to recover before he preaches on Sunday, Friday, you’ve just ruined his Saturday completely, Saturday, Saturday, you’ve ruined his Sunday for sure.
And then Sunday, just leave the man alone. Like, unless you got something nice to say, don’t say anything nice at all.
Bob Bickford: [00:10:00] Jimbo. You have analyzed that perfectly. I think we should diagram that. And I think if Rainer rewrites, I am a church member. That needs to be an addendum. And, um, you need to put that in there. Of course, if he’s listening to our podcast, he will write a book on what you just said, uh, and make hundreds of thousands of dollars on it.
JimBo Stewart: Instead of, I am a church member, it’s called, I am no longer a church member.
Bob Bickford: Yes, . I think we, uh, I think we’ve landed upon a book. So Tom, if you’re listening, please give Jimbo all the money that you’ll make from writing that book. Um, , Jimbo, that’s a beautiful summation of when you should tell a pastor. And, so there’s a timing issue and then there’s all of the, the reasons, and I, I think I’ve had people give me some reasons and I’ve had people not give me some reasons.
And maybe somewhere in the middle is… that the right approach. Cause I remember thinking, and this [00:11:00] goes to our next point too. I remember thinking when people give me some reasons, I would either want to debate them or refute them or try to think, do I need to change and accommodate in order to keep them?
So here’s the second point I want to say is it’s difficult to keep those who have already departed. Here’s what I mean by that. When somebody is thinking about changing churches, Jimbo, and this is ministry experience for me just over the decades of doing ministry. If they come to you and say that they’re thinking about changing churches, you can pretty much a hundred percent count on the fact that they have thought about it for a long time and they’re already gone in their mind because people leave in their mind before they leave at their feet.
And when someone would come to me and say, you know, I, I’m just not sure this is the right church for us anymore. I knew in just a matter of days or weeks that they were going to go to another place. And so whenever that has happened, I don’t try to save them for our church. Now I, that may be wrong with me, Jimbo, and [00:12:00] I’m happy for you to push back on it.
now there’s, there’s situations if, if people who belong to our church and covenant membership, are under some sort of church correction or discipline and they want to leave, then that’s a whole different matter, right? Cause, cause they want to, they want to leave to escape whatever you’re trying to do to help Christ be formed in their, their life.
So that’s, that’s a little bit different story. But if somebody has a preferential issue, if you sang one song that they didn’t like, If you didn’t sing a song that they like, if they have some kind of, you know, doctrinal position that only like 00023 people have in all of the Southern Baptist Convention, and because you don’t have it, they’re, they don’t Think that you’re, that you love Jesus and you might not be a Christian since you don’t believe in whatever it is that they, that you know that that is their favorite doctoral position.
I would just say this, just realize that, they probably already left in their minds and the best thing you can do is just allow them to leave. Mm-Hmm.
JimBo Stewart: yeah. Yeah, I think for me it [00:13:00] depends on how they approach the conversation. If they’re coming to tell me that they’re leaving, yeah, I’m not, I’m not going to try to keep them at all. Because then I will constantly feel the pressure like, Oh man, if I cross that line again, or, or do that thing again, then they’re just going to leave.
and so, but, if, sometimes I’ve had where they come with like, It doesn’t seem like they have resolved the issue. They just have questions and they are graciously come to me as their pastor to say, Hey, I’m having some issues. I’m having some struggles. I don’t know what to do. And if they seem genuinely open to some counsel on this for me, and their issue is not something that I think is worth leaving a church over, then. I like to encourage them, like, look, part of it is, yeah, every, every local body you find is going to be imperfect. And, I think we have to be careful to not let a consumeristic mindset shift into how we think about church. And it’s an opportunity for me to disciple them a little bit. I’m not saying that that’s even ever worked.
I don’t know that this conversation I’ve had has ever worked, [00:14:00] but I still feel like the need to have, you know, even recently for somebody else, I sent that, somebody was asking me about maybe leaving the church they were at, and I sent them, the podcast from Treven Wax, Season 1, Episode 12.
called It’s Time to Rebuild. it’s the one that sparked us bringing him on the boot camp where he talks about consumerism.
In that episode, he had on a guy named Ajith Fernando and one of the things that Fernando said was all Christians are called to suffer for the sake of the body. Maybe your suffering is that not all the things in church are the way you want them to be.
and in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a lot of suffering. and maybe God’s calling you to fully commit to this church. and so the other thing is even with this, this person I was talking to recently about their considering leaving their church, I just, you know, I challenged them on some of their thinking, but then I just said, but look.
I don’t think this is a decision that you make with a list of pros and cons. I don’t think it’s a decision I can make for you. This is something you have to listen to and submit to the [00:15:00] Holy Spirit on. I am not the head of your household. You are. And so, that’s between you and the Holy Spirit. And I would just encourage you, don’t just do it on preference.
Don’t just do it on, the things that you like or don’t like, but do it on the calling of the Holy Spirit. I’ll tell you what, if the Holy Spirit calls you to a, you know, a mud hut in a third world country, they’re probably not going to have the programs you want either, but that doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to church shop.
Bob Bickford: A hundred percent. Um, a thousand percent. I, I would say that I think there’s. There’s something I put this out on social media the other day. Um, go find an imperfect church and join it, right? Like just find one that needs, you know, needs the perspective that you bring and the gifts that you bring so that you could, you know, help them be More effective for the sake of the kingdom and and proclaiming the gospel like the church that has everything together doesn’t need you Right your spectator there like go go find a church It doesn’t have everything like you want it and [00:16:00] then You know trust that the Lord’s put passions in your mind and heart to help a church Become all that it can be and you he’s gonna use you as part of the body to do that.
JimBo Stewart: absolutely.
Bob Bickford: Here’s the next thing I would say Jimbo is grieve the loss But don’t despair.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm.
Bob Bickford: Now, when we’re in a renewal situation and we lose people, we lose a lot, right? They’re part of the body. They often serve and give. They hopefully give to the work of the church financially. And so everybody in a renewal situation, that’s doing those sorts of things, you need every single one of them,
And one of the things that we may think about is We, we’ve invested a lot in people typically when they’re at our renewal and they’ve been around for a while and they’ve been serving, we’ve guided them through maybe some marriage issues or some family issues or. or stage of life issues. And so, we often feel like, man, how [00:17:00] could we invest so much in them and they contribute so much to our church?
And then all of a sudden they leave, right? Just for some, maybe some really strange issue, or maybe there’s a job that, you know, in our case, when we left the church that we left here in St. Louis, right? We didn’t want to leave, but it’s. Like a job situation. We’re not commuting back to St. Louis to go to church.
Right. It’s just going to be a logistical thing. So, as a pastor, when I would lose people, I think it was appropriate to grieve the loss, like to just to grieve what would be missed when they were no longer part of our, our body, part of our fellowship. But then I would say this, don’t despair. Now it’s easy for me to say that on this side of the experience, But at the moment when I was thinking about man, I’m losing another tech guy.
I’m losing an elder. We’re losing a very generous contributing family like we’re we’re losing some people who are disciples and our disciples and and Encouraging and all those sorts of things [00:18:00] I could tell you man I would I would just start looking around and it’s like if I played fantasy football and then all of my starters got hit by You know Some kind of injury or the flu or something and then got taken out.
I, you know, if I was in a fantasy football league, I would be kind of scrambling and kind of in despair. Well, occasionally we would lose some folks who are really great, great servants, great church members. great encouragers. And I, I have to tell you that I had to remind myself, look, God is sovereign. He takes sheep, he brings sheep.
He’s going to bring somebody to replace, this need that our body has in this in a similar way or in a different way. So what I would say is grieve, but don’t despair.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, that’s a good word. You know, it can even be an evidence of God’s provision as you wait and see how he provides for those that you lose. Early on at the replant that God allowed me to be a part of, I think like the second highest paid person at the church was the piano player [00:19:00] and she was not a member of the church and she didn’t do any rehearsals.
She didn’t do Wednesday nights. It was just Sunday mornings and she was getting paid like 2. 50 a week to play like four songs on a piano on Sunday mornings. And so it was one of the things I, I tried to slowly and patiently lead our. Leadership to go, Hey, we probably don’t need to be paying somebody a thousand dollars a month to play piano when we’re barely making ends meet here financially.
And, they were very worried that then who would play piano? I would, you know, if she leaves, we don’t have anybody else that can play piano. And, we didn’t rush to send her out. We kind of let the Lord work it out himself even, and just, and he did, and she left and within. 90 days of her leaving. I think we had like five people who played piano really well.
like even better than she did. And we started to have a rotation of like just phenomenal piano players. And there was a senior adult guy in our church that’s [00:20:00] still a member of that church that came to me one day and said, you know, I was really worried. When, when the piano player left, like we’re done for now, we can’t even get anybody to play piano said, and then the Lord just provided, you know, next thing you know, we’ve got a handful of people.
That’s just one, one way of showing, like, trust the Lord. I mean, you can grieve death, definitely grieve that loss. You need to, you need to process the grief of losing somebody, but trust him to provide, don’t despair. This is the Lord’s church. He loves this church, more than you do.
Bob Bickford: Here’s the last one I would leave. And this is an important one. And, and I think this is really good to do send and bless those. Who are leaving, right? So a lot of times Jimbo in the church world, people leave and nobody really knows why, right? There’s no public acknowledgement. There’s no, announcements.
There’s just, there’s nothing right. And. And so what happens is, is all of a sudden we just know that, you know, this family’s not here, this individual is not here any longer. And then people [00:21:00] fill in the blanks where there’s a gap of information. And so one of the things we started doing, even when people were leaving and they were not happy, right.
Or they were leaving when they had some level of dissatisfaction, we just simply determined. And I would have this conversation is a hard thing to do. You know, we’d have a conversation that we’re leaving the church and blah, blah, blah, that sort of thing. I said, well, can we as a church family then bless and send you out and say goodbye?
Right. And most of the time they would say yes. Right. Very, very few times did, did I have folks who, you know, just, Just stop showing up. So we would bring them to the front at the end of the service We would thank them for their season with us We would reiterate the fact that God brings people and God sends people and that we’re now sending this family To another congregation or we’re sending them into the community To be missionaries.
And so I would always read, from Philippians and, and Paul writes this in Philippians one in verse three, I thank my God and all my remembrance of you [00:22:00] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy because of your partnership with the gospel from the first day until now. And I’m sure this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. And then I, verse seven, you know, I might say some personal words. It is right for me to feel this way about you all because I hold you in my heart for you all are all partakers of grace, right? And, it gave a time for our church then to come and say goodbye, to hug them, to send them out. And then we’d pray a blessing over them.
And then, then we would see him leave. And that just gave us closure. And it also helped us recognize that, that God brings people and God sends people. And so that was a good way for us to, to say. Goodbye to some folks and have some closure. So, this is a, uh, again, I mentioned this is a blog that I wrote back in 2020 so we’ll put the, put the blog link up on the show notes and all this kind of stuff.
And I just want to say to the pastors out there right now, if you’re in a season where people are leaving, man, don’t despair. Just place your faith in the Lord. Learn what you need to learn. Don’t [00:23:00]take it too personal. Make sure that you are pastoring the people that God has brought to you and remain with you.
And just be faithful to them and be a faithful shepherd of the folks that God’s bringing you.
JimBo Stewart: Hey man, that’s a good word.