It helps to be something of an investigator, a private eye, if you are going to be a church leader. You want to be asking, why, a lot. Why isn't so and so coming anymore? Why did so and so leave to go somewhere else? Why did so and so just drop out? Why did Pastor so and so leave and go somewhere else? It's also helpful to investigate why someone joins a church. Why did so and so start coming, and why do they keep coming to the church? Why did so and so join the church? In a church we were part of in NY, one family who joined the church wanted to tell us why they chose to join our church. It was a helpful and affirming experience.
It does not feel like a positive and affirming experience when someone leaves, of their own choice. We are left with feelings of guilt, failure and self doubt. What did we do to cause this? When someone drops out, or leaves of their own choice, the fingers of blame point to us. And there is often a kernel of truth in what is being said although due to the heightened emotions at the time we rarely discover them.
We are a ragged bunch in the church. We are sinners who often have a higher view of ourselves than we ought. We get sanctification confused with justification and wind up thinking we are justified by our sanctification. God chose us, saved us, and created the church to put us into. Its supposed to be the place where we grow up in Christ, to maturity, attaining the full stature of Christ as the Scripture says. But in the meantime, we are often unbalanced, uncertain, and not blessed with perfect vision or understanding. Now, we see through a glass darkly, as Paul wrote. Best, not to act as if we have perfect clarity because we don't. We are very much a work in progress. But, so is every church.
We end up erring on the side of judgment or grace. Better grace than judgment, it seems to me. God is a good sorter of these things out. We can trust him. It seems a lot of the time we are stumbling along and not making much progress. We are making more than we think. It is a long process, this maturity business. It takes a lot of commitment, flexibility, and patience with others and yourself. It takes a body of Christ who is in it for the long haul, as well. Who is there for you when you may not be at your best, and we all have those days, or years. Better remember the words of Paul in Philippians: What I'm getting at friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning ... live in responsive obedience... be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent, and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. (from Philippians 2, The Message Bible)