Yes, I Do Take It Personally

First Thessalonians 2:8 says:

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Sometimes people tell pastors, “Don’t take this personally, but we’re leaving.”

I used to think no one would leave the church I’m pastoring. Ha! How naive!

Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say with absolute certainty, I do take it personally when people leave our church for another. And if I didn’t take it personally, I’m not sure I would want to be a pastor.

Being a pastor is not a job. It is a ministry and calling. I moved my family 500+ miles away from our home, heritage, and families to pastor this church. We left everything we know to be here. We are literally investing our lives for the sake of this church. Don’t take it personal? I would rather you leave without saying anything.

The verse I mentioned from Thessalonians says the apostles shared their very lives with those they were ministering to. I’m not just trying to preach and teach the Bible. I’m trying to share my heart–my life with this church. I’m putting my soul into this ministry–into YOU, church member. I pray for you. I study God’s Word very hard for you. I endure frustration, discouragement, anger, loneliness, fear, and anxiety for you. 

It is personal.

Not the Only One

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. The rest of the body feels this way too, and they should. A local church is compared to a body in Scripture, and every person is a member of that body. How much would you want to punch someone after having an arm severed and then have them tell you: “Don’t take it personally.”

When someone leaves a church for unbiblical reasons (there are biblical reasons, mind you), something breaks or tears in the body, and it hurts. It’s personal. The people of the church have invested their lives into that member. They’ve paid their water bill, babysat their kids, driven them to the doctor, cried with them, prayed for them, and many times for years.

It. Is. Personal.

Leave if you must, but please stop saying that.

Not Friends With Jesus’ Followers? Not Friends With Jesus

I’m tired of people saying they love Jesus but either have a loose affiliation with or flat out reject any fellowship with followers of Jesus. That’s not true, and I can prove it to you by Jesus’ own words.

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He is talking to His followers at this time–not just anyone, which is very important. Then Jesus said in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Let’s get this straight by turning these verses into an if/then exercise:

  1. If Jesus commands His followers in verse 12 to love each other . . .
  2. And if Jesus said in verse 14 that His friends do what He commands . . .
  3. Then we can conclude that if someone doesn’t love Jesus’ followers, they aren’t friends with Jesus.

I am tempted to jump to the obvious implication that if you don’t regularly attend church, then you should wonder whether or not you are truly friends with Jesus. But that is too easy of an implication because it still possible (likely?) that there are some who regularly attend church but that don’t love followers of Jesus.

You can force yourself to sit in a pew one hour a week and still not love Jesus’ followers. So while I do think local church attendance is part of how a follower loves other Jesus followers, I need to press this implication further.

If someone is characterized by any of the following:

  • Spends little to no time with followers of Jesus throughout their normal week
  • Holds on to resentment toward followers of Jesus
  • Is unwilling to serve or sacrifice for followers of Jesus
  • Is apathetic about the hurts or needs of followers of Jesus

Then that person should ask themselves if they’re truly a friend of Jesus. How could someone claim to be a friend of the King of kings and refuse to do what He says? They might identify as “Christian” in a kind of cultural way, but that term is increasingly different than a true follower of Jesus.