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We have a new pastor who is making lots of changes to the church. Should I stay or should I leave?
Thank you so much for contacting us with your heartfelt question. It can be very difficult when the leadership of a church changes and I am praying that God will give you supernatural wisdom on this matter.
As I cannot ask specific questions regarding your situation, I can only write a general answer that I hope will fit your circumstances in some ways, at least.
I have experienced the change of church leadership many times, sometimes good, sometimes under more difficult circumstances. One thing that I have observed is that a change in leadership almost always means changes in the way that things are done, and this usually makes some or even most people uncomfortable. We get comfortable with the way things are and are fond of our leaders. Change is neither good nor bad in itself, but it does shake us out of our comfort zone, which can be a good thing. Sadly, a group of people usually leave when things change, because the change is unacceptable to them. This is their choice and, if they find a niche in another church, can mean that they are happier. However, showing patience and seeking to respect the new leader is a better option, at least until God reveals His will.
Could it be that your new pastor has seen that the church needs a new direction? Perhaps the majority of members are older and he sees that, unless more younger people are attracted, the church has a limited future? Perhaps he is a very different person from your previous pastor and is trying to create space to use his own gifts for the benefit of the church? Remember, too, that good leaders have strength and are able to be firm when they think it is needed. The fact that your pastor seems to be insisting on his own way may actually be a sign of his ability to lead.
Please remember, too, that a man does not have to be perfect in order to be a leader - otherwise, there would be no leaders. All leaders make mistake from time to time it does not necessarily mean that they should be rejected. Like the rest of us, your pastor may have a lesson or two to learn and probably, experience will teach him.
Paul placed a young man, Titus, to run the church in Crete. He instructed him to teach sound doctrine and added,
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:15)
Titus, I am sure, made a few mistakes but Paul still told him to exercise firm authority and to make sure no one refused to listen to him.
Older people have a lot of experience and may find it difficult to follow a younger man, especially if they see him make a mistake or two. However, Paul is clear in his instructions.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
Having said all that, you need to ask the Lord for discernment. Only you know whether you should stay in this situation. It is possible, too, that God is calling you to make up some of the deficiencies of the present situation. Could you be the one who visits and encourages the elderly? Is there scope for a club or Bible Study for older members? Is there a way that your pastor can fulfil his gifts and vision for the church knowing that the older people are in safe hands? Could you organise a visitation team so that the sick get visits? This would be to support him in a biblical way, rather than entering into criticism of him. If you approach him in the right way, you could earn his respect and support. If he is not responsive, be patient until he gets to know you and trust you.
Your denomination must have rules, too. It is possible for you to make an enquiry (not a complaint) with your denomination leaders. Be tactful and don't burn your bridges behind you. Keep the way open for understanding and reconciliation.
Don't indulge in gossip and criticism, either. Words have power to improve the situation or make it worse. Speak loving and godly words, remembering that love is the most important characteristic that we could possibly show. It has healing power and can restore unity and godly purpose to your church.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)
Your ultimate option is to leave. but please do not do that until you have explored every other avenue and prayed earnestly for God's guidance. Times of trial and perplexity can be the making of us if we respond in a godly, spiritual way and do not take any flesh trips. If, in the end, you feel it is right to move on, you will then be able to say with the apostles,
But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)
If possible, it is good to maintain unity in the church. St Paul's strongest rebuke to the Corinthians church was for their disunity, yet I am sure that everyone in the church thought their position and criticisms were justified. This is what he said:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, "I follow Paul", and another, "I follow Apollos", are you not being merely human? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
We need to be sure that we are not merely reacting in a human way but learning to walk by the Spirit of God.
Later in the same letter, Paul says,
I do not commend you, for when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1 Corinthians 11:17-19)
Paul makes a very important point here. Divisions reveal who is genuinely living by the word and power of God. The issues in your church disclose what people really are and sometimes we need them in order to grow into His image. This difficulty is God's opportunity for you to grow and develop into the person God wants you to be.
In summary, it may be that a new leader in the church is making the decisions for the benefit of the church. While this may be uncomfortable, I encourage you to support them and ask God to guide you as you wait for the fruit of these changes.
I do hope that you reach a godly outcome in your church. We are praying for you.
This is a situation in which you will have to be very careful about discussing the situation with other people. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question, but it might be best to continue to find mature Christians who are not involved in the situation. It is possible that there are local leaders with whom you could speak, providing that you are humble and receptive and able to refrain from criticising your pastor. It would be good to find those who can offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey: Find a Church
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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