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.