My grandparents lived in the same apartment in the Bronx since 1940. As the got older, my parents wanted them to move to Florida to be closer to them and so they could help take care of them, but they refused, having lived in their apartment for 50 years. The neighborhood had gotten worse, there were gangs of teens who were beating up old people, yet they didn’t want to leave the place they had become accustomed to for so long. Finally, my dad bought a condo for my grandparents and moved them down to Florida. My grandmother loved her new apartment and showed it off proudly to visitors, but complained every day about missing the Bronx. Change is difficult.
Over the decades, I’ve been part of several congregations, and have seen some people bounce from place to place, never finding a congregational home, while others move in and never leave. Its a good thing to be around for the long term, but sometimes, we do need to move on. As we live and grow in Yeshua, we have different needs at different times. Sometimes a congregation that was fine for us for a long time is no longer meeting the real needs we have. Its not that the congregation has changed or is deficient, or that the leadership is not doing its job, but may just be that the time has come to move on.
When it is time to move, people feel funny about it because they have developed friendships, and their children have grown up in the congregation. Nevertheless, when its time to go, we can choose to leave well, or lead badly. Leaving badly is usually the path selected by people who can’t just admit that its time for a change, so they have to find some “spiritual” reason for leaving. They claim they are no longer being fed or they have a problem with the leadership, or there is some other short coming or deficiency in the congregation. The problem with this approach is that they sin by slandering the leadership or committing Lashon Harah against the congregation. It burns bridges and harms people. Its a negative and destructive way to go.
A more positive approach is to leave well. There is nothing wrong with moving on. People simply need to acknowledge that they have different needs and its time to move on. They do no harm to others, and can go with the blessing of the congregation. No sin is committed, and friendships do not need to be sacrificed in the process. To me, its always better to leave well. I don’t want to leave badly, and I don’t want to have stayed too long. Over the years, when I see people who were part of communities I was part of in the past, its always a pleasant experience, and a blessing. When people have left badly, its awkward and uncomfortable. To this day, I have friends who left badly, and unfortunately affected our friendships. Leaving badly is never a good thing. Sha’ul wrote in Romans 12:8, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The wise thing is to realize when its time to move, and do it well.