“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” –Gossip Girl.
Membership covenants are a way for leadership to control the folks even when they are leaving their church.
I am opposed to membership contracts, popularly known as membership covenants in order to make them sound “godly.” I continue to hear stories of churches that don’t let go. Almost all of them use the materials from 9Marks (affectionately known as 9Marx) which I call the “Hotel California of the evangelical set.” You can check in (become a member) quickly, but you can never leave.
Only leaders should “help” a member to relocate.
The thought seems nice. Let’s help those leaving the church find another church. However, in the Calvnista crowd, it involves more than you think. The Gospel Coalition posted Relocation Services: Help Members Move to a New Church.
The goal of leadership is outlined rather quickly. “Leaders” are the ones who need to assist in this process.
as pastors, pastors’ wives, and ministry leaders, we have a responsibility to assist our members when they transition to a new community.
This raises another question. “Why just leaders? Why can’t the average Joe Schmo member in the church help another member find a new church? Better yet, why can’t a functioning adult, moving to a new community, find a church? There is no problem with asking the pastor or “leaders” if they know a good church in Scranton. Knowing the pastor from the last church I attended, I would only have been directed towards a Reformed church of the “theo-dude” type.
For example, I know that the pastor would have failed to mention the church that I have now attended for years. My husband and I were determined to find a church where we could worship, and we talked about our unique experiences and needs. In other words, we were capable of doing our research.
those members who’ve invested deeply in the life of their local body, the transition is painful as the roots are deep and the ties that bind them are strong. Some may need extra care to transfer their commitments to a new church family.
The one that leaves darn well better go “well” and find a church that the current “covenant” church leaders allow or else.
Read this next part with a jaundiced eye. They are catechizing members to find a new church of which the current “leaders approve.”
Our job as ministry leaders is to help brothers and sisters see God’s plan for his church while they are making hard transitions. Teaching about the importance of the local church ought to begin in the front door of our membership classes. It ought to be reinforced in our church covenants, as in my local church where we promise, “If we leave this church, we will join another gospel-preaching church as soon as possible where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.” That way when they head out the back door, they’ve been biblically catechized in their responsibility as Christians.
Let’s talk about how this works using examples that I have known.
- They don’t want a member to leave. There have been articles written encouraging individuals to rethink their reasons for leaving. Didn’t they commit to the church? Is this all about the member’s selfish wants and needs? They do not want a giving unit to leave and will sometimes play hardball to keep them present.
- What if the members want to take their time and visit some churches? These Hotel California churches want you to make the decision immediately. Let me share a secret with you. You should pick one of their “gospel” churches, tell them you are attending, and then look for a new church. This will keep them off your back.
- If one does not pick a church immediately, one can expect “retroactive church discipline.” They won’t let go, (often acting like rabid dogs. This is what the church contract is there for. This is what happened to Todd Wilhelm. I invented that term due to Todd’s situation in a 9Marx church previously known as UCC Dubai. They changed their name recently to Evangelical Christian Church of Dubai.
How to avoid nasty goodbyes?
- Don’t sign a church covenant. Attend, but don’t join. If you give, they will be happy, at least for a while.
- Do not give a reason for your departure. They may try to get you to change your mind.
- Once you have decided to leave, do so quickly and quietly.
- Do not go into any meetings with any leader. Tell them you’re too busy and will miss them very much. 😉 Trust me on this one. These meetings rarely turn out well for the leave-taker.
- If you want to say goodbye to church friends, call them and take them to dinner. Do not involve any church leader unless you can trust them. (Pro tip: Most times, you can’t.)
- Send your former church a certified letter, remove your church membership, and keep a copy of the receipt.
And next time around, do not join a church that heavily features 9Marks materials. That’s all you need to know.
DO NOT SIGN a CHURCH COVENANT!!!