Grace, Forgiveness, and Jerks Who Leave Churches

PAIN-IN-THE-NECK PEOPLE LEAVING THE CHURCH: I’m sorry we ever came to this church.

ME: Apology accepted.



Of all the people who have left my church, not one of them has ever apologized.

Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. People who leave churches always do it for high sounding spiritual reasons. Part of the fun of tearing apart the pastor is to make yourself feel spiritually superior, above the lowly ones you are leaving.

But I mean, think about it, is it possible that every single person who has left my church (and there have been many) was innocent? Is it possible that none of them ever did anything wrong to the church? Is it possible that only I made mistakes?

I have apologized to pretty much every person who has left my church and had a civil conversation with me about it, usually after calling them repeatedly or just showing up at their house because they weren’t going to initiate the conversation.

Which is another point: why is it that so many leave without saying anything? Is this a guilt admission that they know they weren’t perfect in the situation?

I don’t know. I probably spend too much time thinking about people who don’t think about me.

People who leave do so because they are better than I am. I apologize for not having done more, for being immature in some of my dealings. In other words, I look for (and usually find) reasons to let them off the hook.

But not one person who has left has ever said, “Sorry I didn’t do more for the church.” Or “Sorry I wasn’t more supportive of you.” Or “Sorry we took you all for granted.” Not one admission in all these years of people leaving that they might have possibly contributed to the situation.

It’s always my fault. It’s always the church’s fault. They are always innocent victims with nothing to apologize for.

People who have stayed in my church for years have apologized to me. I have apologized to them. Grace is kind of a thing in Christianity.

Grace implies forgiveness and longsuffering, the ability to put up with rudeness and move on. My best friends in the church have repeatedly apologized to me as I have to them. Every slight offense is felt by me—not their offense toward me, but my offense toward them. When I feel I have offended, I apologize as soon as I can. When you offend a friend you apologize.

Is it possible that one of the reasons so many people leave churches is because they are unforgiving? Is a lack of grace precisely why they leave to begin with?

I’m not saying all pastors are innocent. There are times when it is solely the pastor’s fault. Those situations exist, not trying to cover for creeps. I’m just amazed at how unapologetic church-leavers are.

Perhaps being unapologetic is what leads to leaving churches. If grace were more than a buzzword and actually became a real definition of our actions and attitudes, maybe no one would ever leave a church. I know serial church-leavers; they tend to be harsh people.

I think there is a definite connection between apologizing and leaving churches.

In the end, many apologies are just words anyway. I’m just amazed at the blatant non-caringness of people who leave churches. But it shouldn’t shock me. Church is a family and people destroy their actual families with little thought for how it affects others, it’s no surprise they’d think even less of their church family.

Apologize when you mess up. Be aware of your own offenses more than how others have offended you. Be forgiving. Let grace reign.



Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
–Romans 12:10

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