We had started off with a church planting team full of close friends. It was exciting and God was doing good things. This was wonderful, having team members who already cared about us and our family, who loved us and supported us in prayer. And then, down the road, after ministering together, praying together and growing together, some friends left. It may have been because the church didn’t look like they thought it would. It may have been a difference of opinion in how a church should function or maybe just the romance of church planting had worn off. It may have been something we did that caused hurt or offense. I don’t understand why this happens, but it seems to be a common story. Has this ever happened to you?
Maybe you have never planted a church, but if you pastor a church, you know what I mean and you probably have a story or two yourself. Friends leave. They may have good reasons for leaving and they may have terrible reasons for leaving. They may leave for a reason that you will never even know, but it will still result in the loss of a friendship.
At that point, it is not really about the church anymore. I mean, we all know that people will leave. None of us is so naive as to think that everyone who attends our church will stay forever. Close friends are different though, and it hurts, especially if it is a bad breakup. Whether the reason for leaving is bad or good, it leaves a wound behind.
So what do we do? I think we mourn for a while, perhaps a long while if needed. We ask God to dress our wound. We process, we pray, and time goes by.And you know what we don’t do? We don’t write that person off. We don’t forget all the good that existed in that friendship. We don’t subconsciously (or consciously) vow to never open ourselves up to people again.
I have been guilty of this. When my friends left a wake of pain behind them in their leaving, I could not think of anything but that pain. I forgot their support during the church plant, their faithful serving, their prayers and love and the fun times. Don’t do this. It is too easy a pit to fall into and too hard to climb out of. No matter how hurt, how betrayed, how disappointed you feel, do not link that person forever with the pain they caused you. They are more than a cause of pain to you; they are one whom God loves, as much as he loves you. And don’t decide to never have a friend again, because you fear they might hurt you too. Easy for me to say, hmm?No, not easy, but true. And I want to live in truth, don’t you?