How do I explain to non-Christian colleagues about having left my former church? Sadly, during the pandemic my church pastor and elders announced major changes—to adopt a liberal, egalitarian, and LGBQT-embracing agenda. After much discussion and prayer, I’ve resigned as a member. I’m now traveling to a small church in a nearby town, which has solidly Reformed theology.
However, I often invited unbelieving work friends to church events. As restrictions ease and our office is due to reopen, I don’t know how to explain my switch if the matter arises. I don’t want to badmouth anyone, or seem fickle, and I really don’t want to dishonor Christ by saying the wrong thing! Can you suggest any principles or approaches?
Thank you for your winsome witness in the office and your deep concern for the truth of Scripture. With you, I am grief-stricken by the departure from gospel norms of your former church. Please allow the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring fresh healing and hope to your heart.
If the subject of your church attendance arises, share your thoughts on your new community. Emphasizing the goodness of your new church home. Inviting colleagues to outreach and worship events demonstrates continuity with your witness.
Speak the Truth with Love
Now, if someone asks more specifically why you left your old church, be honest and say, “We grew apart on some principles and practices, and so I am going to a new church.”
If someone asks more specifically why you left your old church, be honest.
If your colleague presses for more information on specific issues, you could share something like: “I am most at home in a church that affirms historic Christian beliefs from the Bible, including sexual ethics calling for celibacy as singles and fidelity to lifelong heterosexual monogamy. We do have a variety of opinions in our new church on other social and political policies, but there are core, historic doctrines we feel are vital.”
If you are pushed on complementarian theology, readily acknowledge that you are following Scripture on both the full dignity and equality of all people and how you understand particular roles in church leadership. Without compromise, you can humbly affirm that other believers debate these particulars while being faithful to first-order doctrines and moral principles.
Defending the Hope Within You
At this point (or in other conversations) you may be accused of capitulating to a particular political party or ideology or of being intolerant. This is when wisdom and winsomeness—not to mention courage—are vital, as well as thought-out responses to hot-button issues.
If someone mentions the doctrinal and moral changes of your former church, be ready with an apologetic that distinguishes biblical standards for baptized members from being a good neighbor in a pluralistic world.
Focus on the beauty of the biblical anthropology and sexuality. From the poetic order of Genesis 1:26–28, affirm that each person is made in God’s image and given meaningful work as a steward of God’s world. They do this work as a man or woman, single or married. If pressed on sexuality, gently declare your convictions of God’s created ideal and the complexities of why people feel the way they do.
If you can go a bit deeper, help concerned colleagues know the differences between permitting lifestyle options in a pluralistic world, prohibiting evil, and promoting particular virtues. Your promotion of the Christian ideal is not intolerance, any more than when Jews or Muslims affirm their own beliefs. People have the liberty to believe and act according to conscience—and you want for everyone the same rights you desire for yourself.
We are in a spiritual battle. Your foundations of humility before the sovereign Lord, hospitable witness, and affirmations of the beauty and brokenness of humankind will strengthen your witness and be a conduit of the Holy Spirit’s work, as the elect are drawn to Christ.