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The New Testament knows nothing of individual believers taking a little from here and sampling a little from over there.

The biblical doctrine of the church describes a body of believers deeply committed to Christ and to one another.

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During these years many people have left our church (some of them because of me).

To be honest, some of the people who have left I don’t miss much. But I always appreciate the one who takes the trouble to say good-bye.

Still, it is rarely easy to hear someone say, I gotta go. Church membership and church involvement are serious undertakings. The Bible speaks of our being members of one another (Romans 12:4-5). We eat from one loaf and drink from one cup (Ephesians 4:4-5).

We are to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Every once in a while a shaft of blazing beauty seems to break out of nowhere and illuminate these companies, and then I see what my sin-dulled eyes had missed: Word of God-shaped, Holy Spirit-created lives of sacrificial humility, incredible courage, heroic virtue, holy praise, joyful suffering, constant prayer, persevering obedience.

I write as a man who has been a pastor of the same church for almost three decades.

Embarrassing or awkward as it may be, have an exit interview with one of the leaders, elders, or pastors of the church you are leaving.

Explain the reasons for your departure, express your gratitude for their hard work, and commit yourself to praying for the church with which you will no longer be associated.

Has your theology changed to the extent that you need to join a different church? Resist the temptation to concentrate on the warts and blemishes of the church you are leaving.

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