There is a continual ebb and flow of interpersonal relationships within the local church community, especially in western culture. We have become a culture of nomads, less the intact familial and community stability of our nomadic contemporaries in the east. While nomads in the east move about with culture and relationships intact in a community effort of survival and purpose, we often move about in search of illusive ideals which evaporate as mirages on the horizon of reality. Thus we sever budding relationships as easily as we move from one community or church to another. We attach carefully constructed rationalizations to our choices. Sometimes, our reasons are even valid. More often, less so.
For the local church, this brings about a narrative mosaic of challenged relational interconnectedness. Some persons come and go quickly, sometimes leaving their mark on part of the community, but more often disappearing before anyone can develop a deep relationship with them. Others take root deeply in the community, developing lasting relationships and becoming deeply interconnected. Still others, having been rooted in the church, choose to part for a variety of reasons.
For the purposes of this post, I use the term “narrative mosaic” to illustrate the entire scope of relationships which flow in a church fellowship, regardless of length or depth. They all contribute to the life of the church, if even briefly. They all impact the lives of those that remain.
Children are just as affected as adults by the moves parents make. They are an integral part of the narrative mosaic. Their stories intermingle with the broader stories of their peers, teachers, pastors, and entire church in an intergenerational story of community experience. The resulting mosaic is an unique, beautiful expression of people loving each other and God as interdependant adventurers. Sadly, this mosaic is often bereaved by the choice individuals make to depart with little to no explanation, or worse, with unresolved conflict. Again, children see this and internalize it, experiencing their own grief in the loss of peer friendships by virtue of swift changes.
I am not suggesting people should not make changes or move. I am not against the notion that God will lead someone to change churches. I simply suggest that people would consider carefully and prayerfully what God is doing and how he is leading. Here are a few suggestions for those who might be considering a move:
- Is there conflict which is causing you to desire a change in location or churches? Do what you can to resolve the conflict. You cannot control other people, but you can control your attitude and responses.
- Do you need to move to find work which supports your family or yourself? I especially understand this one. It is one of the reasons I left Eugene to come to the Portland area. Still, be sensitive to those you are leaving behind. Communicate with them. Give them time to say goodbye. And, don’t be afraid to ask God about work possibilities in your current area of residence. He just might surprise you with an unexpected opportunity. This happened to me in the Fall of 2005.
- Are you dissatisfied with some aspect of your church’s ministry expression? Pray for your leaders. Ask yourself how you might be a part of the solution. Ask yourself and trusted mentors whether your concerns are valid. Talk to your leaders. They may be aware of others who have similar passions for ministry. You may find that the best solution is to remain and work with those you know, rather than start all over again in a new place.
- Do you disagree with the church’s theology? Is the issue the printed doctrinal statement or the actual teaching of the pastor or staff members? Is it a secondary issue or core issue? Have you spoken with the pastor about it?
- Have you thought about how a move will affect your children? What positives are there? Negatives? Is a move worth the disappointment which they might experience? Are you sure?
Ultimately, your family needs to make decisions which you feel God is leading you to make. My suggestion is to pray with open ears and heart, listen with humility, and desire an outcome which is best for your family and the church you are in. This may mean you will leave. Or it could mean you will stay. You will still face challenges and opportunities, whether you choose to remain in your current narrative mosaic, or uproot to find another community and church in which to plot your story of faith.