Emerging Grace has some good musings on those of us doing an “exit-stage-left” on the church. She says,
How did we end up here?
Many in the emerging conversation have been displaced from their churches of origin. For some it was simply a matter of moving on. Others lost friends and reputations. Some even lost jobs.
Interestingly enough, the ones leaving churches are not necessarily the flaky and immature. They are mostly long-time members who were involved in church leadership.
And it carries on from there. It saddens me when I hear about severed relationships caused by the inability of institutional church members and leaders who are unable to accept the place in which these diaspora christians now find themselves. I understand that there’s a feeling that they are being rejected along with the church that no longer seems to express what is close to the hearts of those who are leaving, but how should one respond? I remember being one of those people, when good friends left the church we were in (my CLB) to start another church. We were faced with the question of whether our friendship with them was based strictly on our church association or if it was something more than that. At the time, we opted for the latter, and made extra effort to maintain the friendship even when the proximity changed. The friendship exists to this day, and we have been rewarded for our effort. Now that we’ve left, there are a few friendships we strive to maintain with some of those we’ve left behind… because those relationships are important to us. We’re thankful for those who reciprocate… but there are others. Others who suddenly don’t see the value in continuing relationships that had gone on for years and which had seemed to be fruitful. You can tell… it’s in that weird awkwardness that shouldn’t be there, but you can tell they don’t see you as “one of the tribe” anymore.
Ultimately, Grace puts it this way: “I have come to accept the aloneness of this time and place.”
Disavowed. Just sad.
I meant to comment on this post sooner.
After almost 2 years, we have come to understand and accept the relational fallout from leaving our church. The initial hurt and rejection has faded to a realistic acceptance and sadness of the social/political condition of the relationships.
Like you, we discovered that many relationships were dependent on the proximity and commonality of belonging to the tribe. I naively thought the friendships would continue. By now, it is evident who our true friends are. You described well the weird awkwardness of being outside the tribe.
Due to the fact that our leaving was very political, there were many people who were compelled to end their relationships with us in order to prove their loyalty to the remaining leadership. This was the most difficult aspect, because many of these were the people that we were in the trenches with and considered to be close friends.
The aloneness I feel now has more to do with finding others who envision church being different than what we have known. The response to the outcast post was really encouraging because it reminded me once again that perhaps God is truly involved in our displacement.
As always, I’m grateful for this web community that gives me hope that God is at work in the midst of His people.