Oh no. I dread phone calls like this. It’s from a friend. Ian’s ringing to tell me that he and his wife have left the church they’ve been attending for the past twenty-odd years. It’s a sad story. They were pillars in that church, working faithfully, doing the jobs no one else wanted to do, supporting the leadership loyally: until two years ago when the church called a new pastor.
He came in and changed everything. Introduced all sorts of new ways of doing things. Pushed his favourites into the key positions in the church. Suggested to older folk like them that it was time to think about stepping aside and making room for younger people. He wouldn’t listen to advice. He trampled on their feelings. He pushed things through members’ meetings.
He hasn’t been round to see Ian and Lynette in months even though he knows they’re upset. He has been telling other people in the church that they are trouble-makers and that they need to change their attitude. And at the last members’ meeting he was downright rude to them – cut across Ian when he was trying to speak, and made it plain that he thought the church would be better off without them.
They can’t take any more of it. So they’re leaving. They’re not sure yet where they’re going to go, but they’ve got no option. They’ve tried to honour the Lord. They’ve done their best to keep the church faithful to biblical standards. But they know that it’s time to go.
I listen and my heart goes out to the poor man. I can hear the distress and bewilderment in Ian’s voice. He’s obviously hurting. I’m fond of Ian. He’s a good man, a kind man, a man who cares about the same things I care about. And from all I’m hearing, he and Lynette have been very badly treated. I’ve met their ex-pastor. I didn’t warm to him immediately. I can easily imagine him behaving in just the way Ian’s describing.
I grope for words. ‘I’m so sorry to hear all this. I do feel for you. Leaving a church you’ve been part of is always painful…’