Discover New Worlds

Kid reading the Book. EducationBooks take you to new worlds. Your mind tramps through new places and situations, but your feet don’t get muddy. When you read my books you walk through some of the same fascinating cultures and sub-cultures I have encountered as I grew up in American, lived 16 years in Taiwan, and now live in New Zealand.

During my 35 years of writing for Christian publication I’ve seen the publishing world turned upside down. In Taiwan I reached out to Chinese people who knew little about Christianity with ESL Bible studies. In New Zealand I’ve needed to tailor church programs and puppet scripts to fit a small mission church in various stages. In recent years I entered a new world of cooking as I learned to cook gluten-free recipes for my celiac husband. I want to use this website to share these resources with others. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

You may also want to follow my weekly blog in which I talk about subjects of interest to writers and people in ministry. I hope these posts will bring hope and help to others in ministry.

6 Marks of Distinctively Christian Fiction

6102164_sWhen was the last time you finished reading “Christian Fiction” and came away saying, “It’s fiction, but what’s Christian about it?”

I do this all the time. Because I write Christian fiction, I try to keep up with what’s happening in the world of Christian fiction. Today fiction is more accessible than ever before. With a Kindle reader, I can read free books that didn’t even cost postage. On any given day, I can choose from hundreds of these. And I routinely try to purchase paid Kindle books, to find quality books and help Christian authors.

While I find many clean reads, I don’t find many books among these that are distinctively Christian. If a book is truly Christian fiction, I expect it to have these six things:

  1. Distinctively Christian books have a Christian message.

Maybe this is obvious, but many Christian writers leave this out. The book may be clean and have no profanity, but this doesn’t make it Christian. I’m not saying the story should be preachy, but it ought to have something to say that’s distinctively Christian.

I think of one author whose books I really enjoy. The protagonist in one of his series is outrageously funny. He solves mysteries that bring him into hilarious situations. But after reading four books in this series I can’t say that there’s any hint the protagonist is a Christian. Though he’s likable in a crazy way, if he were in my circle of friends I’d have to call him rude. And with each book I finish, I can’t find a truly Christian message there. While I like his writing, I can never recommend it as distinctively Christian fiction.

As a Christian writer, I have to wonder what’s the point of writing and polishing a whole book, bringing it to publication, even calling it “Christian fiction,” without saying anything truly Christian.

  1. Distinctively Christian characters act with integrity or suffer the consequences.

Christians make mistakes, sometimes big ones. Christians don’t always know which choice is right. But in Christian fiction, if Christian characters take short-cuts on integrity, they shouldn’t walk away feeling comfortable about it. It should prick their conscience or make their plans fail. In some way the reader should see that the character has failed. If this is missing, the Christian message is compromised.

These days Christian fiction often depicts Christian characters who lie, break the law, open someone else’s mail, carry out a grand deception, or compromise integrity in some other way. The offense is never classified as wrong. The end clearly justifies the means. Personally I find this very disappointing.

One of the most riveting books I’ve read in recent years is about a doctor who was forced into a difficult situation to save his son’s life. The book was so well written, but the author painted his protagonist into a corner. The only way to save his son’s life was to take an organ without permission. He took the organ and afterward the family of the organ donor forgave him. To me, this gave a 5-star book a fatal flaw. A fiction writer can make anything happen. In my view, this writer should have written the book in a way that honored and rewarded integrity.

  1. Distinctively Christian fiction doesn’t burden the reader with profanity.

Obvious, right? But today many Christian writers are adding profanity to their books to make them more “real.” Don’t they understand that Christian readers often choose Christian fiction specifically because they don’t want profanity? Whether readers want it or not, a distinctively Christian book takes the high road, whether or not profanity adds to reality.

In a similar vein, some Christian books don’t print profanity, but make it obvious what the word would be. The reader may not read the word, but he thinks it. I think we can do better than that.

Many Christian authors now include “minced oaths” that used to be considered inappropriate for Christians. I’m talking about words such as (excuse me, please) golly, gosh, darn, heck, etc. Along with this is a word that, when I was a kid, was carved onto school desks as an obscene word: Sucks. If these words seem innocent to you, you might try looking them up online. You may want to go to several sources. You could argue that these words are better than the euphemisms the represent, but why should Christian writers use them at all?

  1. Distinctively Christian fiction doesn’t glamorize sexual sin or use it to stir the imagination in an unpure direction.

In the 1990’s I found a new favorite Christian author. This lady wrote a series which was absolutely riveting. I got to know and love the characters. As the series unfolded I found one character involved in a lesbian relationship. Another was forced into an activity with outright gore. And I believe one character had been raped. This author dealt with these subjects tastefully, pointing out the sin in each situation. These activities were an integral part of society for the characters and I believe the author wanted to demonstrate triumph over this kind of sin. So I read another book by the author, about a girl who had been raped. The author had a strong Christian point to make about that  situation. The next book by her was about a pastor caught in sexual sin. Another book was based on a book of the Bible and was proclaimed one of her best. I bought the book about a prostitute as a discard from the public library. When I was done I threw it away. I think that was the last book of hers I read.

Each book was amazingly well-written. Each dealt with sin as sin and treated it in a tasteful way. But I began to wonder if the author ever wrote a book that didn’t deal with sexual sin. I believe sexual sin is a sin of the mind in a way lying, stealing, and murder are not. I understand some Christian women have been raped or promiscuous in the past and may need books that deal with this, but I haven’t. I finally decided that, however tastefully these books were written, I didn’t need to drag my mind through whole books whose main focus was sexual sin.

Christian authors face a fine line here. As Christians we need to show compassion toward victims of sexual sin. We need to reach out to sexually immoral people, loving them while not condoning their sin. God offers salvation and forgiveness for every kind of sin. But it is possible for books that take a stand against immorality to pique a spiritually unhealthy curiosity about it. Obviously, a book could help one Christian reader and drag another one down. But an over-emphasis on sexual sin can actually do damage to the average Christian reader. I believe Christian fiction should be uplifting.

  1. Distinctively Christian fiction avoids gore, graphic violence, and revenge.

I believe Christian mysteries that involve murder or burglary can be appropriate. They can show how sin hurts people, that right triumphs over wrong. Graphic violence and gore, however, glamorize details that are unnecessary to tell the story. The Bible also clearly states that revenge belongs to the Lord. Christians should not seek revenge. If Christian characters in Christian fiction engage in revenge, they should, at some point, recognize that this is not right and bear the consequences.

Recently I was required to read a book about Christian ninja warriors as part of a review group. I did my best to give a good review of this book, trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But to me, ninja warriors just don’t fit with a Christian message. To their credit, these ninja fighters waited to be attacked and used their fighting skills in defense. Once the fighting started, however, they enjoyed beating the enemy and using all the ninja weapons to inflict severe bodily damage. They felt kinda bad when their enemies actually died. They seem to feel no remorse, however, for severely beating the enemy into an unconscious state.

Obviously this author loved ninja warriors and wanted to make them Christian, but to me, there’s a fundamental flaw in trying to make godly Christians into ninja warriors. This book may be Christian in name, but I can’t recognize this as distinctively Christian fiction.

  1. Distinctively Christian fiction bases romance on more than physical attraction.

I don’t hear anyone talking about this subject, but it’s about time we do. Is there a difference between Hollywood love and Christian romantic love? Going by most Christian fiction, I’d have to say no. Yes, Christian fiction cleans up the scenes some. Sex isn’t graphic and it is reserved for marriage. But in most Christian fiction, romance is based purely on physical attraction. The guy and girl fall in love and they know it—how? Because of how the other person makes them feel. It’s all about hormones.

In new Christian fiction I often find Christian characters falling in love with unbelievers. Of course, they don’t marry them until they suddenly get saved. But they fall in love with them before they’re saved.

What’s wrong with this?

Love leads to marriage, a committed relationship for life. This is a partnership so close that it’s like two oxen being yoked together to work in tandem. Choosing a marriage partner is so much more than just finding a person you’re attracted to.

I love my husband and we enjoyed the romantic relationship that brought us to marriage. But let’s change that situation.

Let’s say that, instead of mild mannered Art Brammer from Montana who quietly has his heart set on missions, I meet Fabio Heartthrob. Fabio brings me flowers and chocolate and takes me for rides in his Corvette Stingray. He takes me to fancy restaurants and gives me impressive jewelry on special occasions. He loves my writing and compliments me on all my abilities. On moonlit nights he whispers romantic nothings in my ear. Fabio could have any girl he wants, but of all the girls on campus, he chooses me. I am the envy of all my roommates. Could I be attracted to someone like that? Could I fall in love with him?

Of course I could. If romance was based purely on physical attraction, like it is in most Christian fiction, I wouldn’t be able to resist a guy like this. I would marry him and enjoy months of marital bliss. Then I would wake up and realize I’d married the wrong man. For one thing, even if Fabio is a Christian, Christ is not his first love. His goals are having a great career, enviable house, and popular kids who win awards. My goals are serving the Lord, following his will, and raising kids who want to serve him.

Instead of becoming Mrs. Heartthrob I became Mrs. Brammer. Yes, I was attracted to Art who avoided girls before his junior year in college, always made the dean’s list, and was the fastest runner on campus. But we didn’t allow ourselves to get very physically attracted to one another before we made sure that we were going the same direction and wanted the same things. We prayed throughout our relationship that God would make his will clear to us.

Distinctively Christian fiction needs to show godly romance which includes feelings, but is the result of concentrated effort to discern God’s will. Before the heart is let loose to be blinded by feelings, it examines character, relationship with God, common goals, and God’s will.

So there you have it. You may disagree with these six marks of distinctively Christian fiction. This is my blog so it reflects my opinion. The word Christian has many meanings and Christian fiction is the same. But I believe we don’t need more Christian fiction, just more fiction that is distinctively Christian.

Sadly, most Christian fiction today, if judged by these 6 marks, could not be classified as such.

We could use social media to rant and rave about the situation, but I suggest we do something more positive.

We who are Christian writers need to write distinctively Christian fiction.

  • Resist the trends and ask God to show us what he wants us to write.
  • Examine our message as we write each book and make sure our stories say something worthwhile.

We who are Christian readers need to support distinctively Christian fiction. How?

  • Buy books that are distinctively Christian.
  • Review these books on Amazon or Goodreads to help other Christian readers find them.
  • Talk about books that are spiritually uplifting.
  • Thank authors who write this kind of books.

What distinctively Christian fiction books have you read lately? Why not post the title and author in the comment box to share these books with other readers?

 

Adoniram Judson–Devoted to God

adoniram judsonOf all the missionary pioneers, I think I like Adoniram Judson the best. One thing about his life stands clear: his commitment to ministry in spite of results.

Judson’s story has a lot to like. He was the first real foreign missionary from America. He became a Baptist by conviction on the way to the mission field simply by reading his Bible. He translated the entire Bible into Burmese. Though fastidious and cultured in his upbringing, he endured imprisonment in filthy prisons, and continued to minister after he got out. His wives, especially his first two, worked closely with him and added to his effectiveness.

But Judson is especially characterized by his commitment to ministry. After four months of sailing, he and Ann arrived in India, the land in which they expected to serve. They were quickly turned away by the British East India Company. But instead of returning home, Judson searched diligently for a country which would allow him to minister. That brought them to Burma, a country with almost no missionaries and no Christians, which was governed by men who were extremely hostile to Christians.

On July 13, 1813 Adoniram and Ann arrived in Burma. Their first baby had been born dead on the way. They were not welcome in this new country. They didn’t know Burmese and there were no language teachers who knew both English and Burmese. They didn’t know if they’d be allowed to stay. With such a disappointing start to his missionary ministry, upon arrival, what did Judson pray? “God grant that we may live and die among the Burmans, though we never should do anything else than smooth the way for others.”

That’s commitment.

Above anything else in his life, Judson was known for one thing. It took him six years of faithful ministry before he saw his first convert. This convert, Moung Nau, considered it a privilege to be the first Christian convert among the Burmese people, even though he expected his decision would lead to persecution, perhaps even death.

The Burmese government said that any Burmese who said this “American religion” was right and Buddhism was wrong, would be punished severely. Finally Judson felt led to ask the king for permission to preach the gospel and translate the Bible into Burmese. The king didn’t give permission or deny it. Judson decided he should move away from Rangoon to somewhere the government would let him preach more freely. At the time he had two converts. They begged him to stay in their town until there were ten. Judson stayed.

Early in his ministry, Judson made two goals:

  1. He wanted to translate the entire Bible into Burmese.
  2. He wanted to live to see one hundred converts in Burma.

After sixteen years of Judson’s ministry, people who were formerly uninterested in the gospel began to flock to the little open-porched zayats to hear the gospel. Many people were saved. Everywhere Judson went people begged for the tracts he passed out.

He was the only man alive qualified to translate the Bible into Burmese, and after ten years of hard work, he finished the New Testament. Within a year, Judson was suddenly arrested and imprisoned for no fault of his own. His wife, Ann, buried the New Testament manuscript in the garden, but she knew it would soon get moldy. Finally she dug the manuscript up, hid it in a pillow, and smuggled it to Judson in prison. No one wanted to steal the uncomfortable pillow and no one thought to look for it in prison. It this way Judson’s New Testament translation was preserved.

After 23 years in Burma, Judson finished translating the entire Bible, thus achieving his first goal.

Nearly two hundred years later, today Judson’s Bible is still the best Burmese translation and the one most widely used in the country.

Did Judson live to see 100 converts in Burma? By the time he died there were between 60 to 100 Baptist churches among the Burmese with nearly 8000 baptized converts. Among the Karen tribes of Burma there were around 800 Baptist churches and 150,000 converts. Of course, Judson didn’t so all the work himself. Other missionaries and Burmese and Karen believers also spread the gospel, but Judson baptized the one hundredth convert.

Today Burma is called Myanmar. Religious freedom is still limited. Missionaries from other countries are not allowed into Myanmar. Christians sometimes get killed or have their homes destroyed. Still there are around 650,000 baptized Baptist Christians and about 600,000 unbaptized Christians. (Most protestants are Baptists.)

Adoniram Judson and his first two wives gave their entire adult lives to ministry in Burma. Judson returned to his home in America for his first furlough after 33 years. He had spent so much of his time using Burmese that he no longer felt comfortable speaking in English in public. He had also lost his voice and was unable to speak above a whisper. Yet he returned to Burma, continued his work, and spent ten years compiling an English-Burmese Dictionary, which only he could have written.

Adoniram Judson believed every missionary’s motto should be “devoted for life,” and he showed devotion to God for Burma until his dying day. But I think I am more inspired by this one thing more than any other: He was committed to give out the gospel regardless of results. He was prepared to give his entire adult life to this ministry in Burma, “though we never should do anything else than smooth the way for others.”w11618538_aWe live in a day when many missionaries, even churches in America, must continue to find ways to faithfully give out the gospel even when we see few visible results. Sometimes an unfruitful ministry becomes a fruitful one in time. We may be preparing the ground for others who will see growth.

Of course, faithfulness in ministry involves more than blindly filling the calendar with activity year after year. Part of remaining faithful may be looking for creative new ways to present the gospel in ways that will be better received by the unsaved around us. We may need to change methods that worked in the past and are less effective now. Prayer and building relationships are vital in evangelism. Always we need to be open to God leading us in a new direction.

But we can also learn from Adoniram Judson’s example that we need to be faithful to the task and leave the results up to him. We work to please God and follow his leading. He will work through our ministry to see that our work is not in vain.

It’s only natural to want to see results from our ministry. Results encourage us, validate us. We can put results in a prayer letter and get others excited about our ministry. Results are our goal. Would we give our lives to a ministry that we knew would produce no results?

Adoniram Judson would.

On one hand, God may be working in ways we will never see, accomplishing his work that won’t be visible this side of heaven. But aside from that, we need to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Should results be my goal?
  • Should I need results to validate my ministry?
  • Am I devoted to God or devoted to success?

When I’m devoted to success, I get depressed when I see no results. When I’m devoted to God, I can be content as long as I know I am following his leading and pleasing him.

 

 

5 Mentoring Tips

dvargg1Two weeks ago we talked about the need for mentors. Today I’ve added five tips for mentoring.

  1. Listen.

Allow them to express their viewpoint even if you don’t agree. Welcome them to speak freely and talk things through, knowing that their perspective may change in time. Let them bounce ideas off of you. Be the safe person they can talk to about their doubts and confusion.

  1. Challenge your own thinking.

You may not agree with what they say, but perhaps you can learn something from their perspective. Don’t be intimidated by ideas which counter your way of thinking. Ask God to help you learn and grow along with them.

  1. Give feedback.

Help them examine their ideas by Scripture. Share examples from your own experience. Show them different perspectives on the situation.

  1. Work with them.

Let them watch you in action and provide opportunities to try new jobs, experimenting with different methods.

  1. Work through failure.

Encourage them to see failures as steps in learning. Let them see you make mistakes and work through them. Help them analyze what works and what doesn’t. Talk through difficult situations and discuss ideas to improve the situations. Remind them that the Christian life is about learning and growing, not perfection.

[Image courtesy of Dvargg/Deposit Photos.]

 

 

Becoming a Mentor

dvargg1I am rich. I grew up in a Christian home with two parents who loved each other. They taught me about God and hashed out spiritual issues with me. God led me to a husband who had been raised in a similar way. We raised two daughters. When it came to parenting, we naturally knew what to do about many things, because we had watched our own parents.

Of course. That’s normal and natural. But what about people who grow up without the advantage of Christian parents or godly examples? When they become Christians, they may struggle with issues that rich people like me find easy.

About twenty five years ago some men in one church realized their need for spiritual mentors. They came from unsaved backgrounds and struggled to meet many of life’s difficulties. So they asked some older men in their church to mentor them. They wanted to be Christian husbands and fathers, but didn’t have role models to help them. Sadly, the men who were more mature in the faith turned down this great opportunity. They decided that no one had helped them, so they would let these younger men figure things out for themselves.

Many parents could greatly benefit from a Christian mentor who would help them understand what good parenting involves. Should I spank or not? What do I do when time-outs don’t work? Do I have a right to tell my children what to do? What if my child doesn’t want to go to church?

I am rich in other ways. My husband and I have served on two different mission fields. We studied different languages and cultures up close and personal. We experienced victories and defeats and moved past them. We learned about missions first hand and by talking to fellow missionaries. We don’t know all the answers, but at least we know many of the questions. God didn’t allow us to learn all this just for ourselves. He expects us to share what we’ve learned.

Missionary apprenticeship programs have given us opportunities to mentor a number of young people considering missions for their future. Church ministry allows us to draw from our experiences to help families in crisis.  We share Scripture and our perspective and help people see things from a different angle.

I am rich in ideas. God has given me the kind of mind that sees a problem and immediately dreams of ways to fix it.  The need for programs and stories and crafts creates all kinds of ideas in my mind. Sometimes I can hardly switch the ideas off. When I see people who struggle to think of ideas I know I am rich.

Ideas are crucial for a writer, but I probably wouldn’t be writing for publication today without the help of a couple of mentors who showed me the first steps.

Mr. Clarence Townsend, my English teacher at Faith Baptist Bible College taught me how to submit my first manuscript to Regular Baptist Press. Gladys Doonan encouraged me too. Thirty-five years later I continue to write articles, programs, and books for Christian publication. But without Mr Townsend and the late Mrs. Doonan I probably wouldn’t be writing for publication today.

In recent years I’ve been able to use my website and blog to mentor conservative Christian writers into writing for Christian publication. I am a full-time missionary and I work actively at freelance writing. I can’t personally critique many articles and explain what needs to be changed, but I can point to resources to get you started. I offer many writing articles that will help you write for publication. If you have a writing question, you are welcome to leave it in the comment box so that I can address it in upcoming blogs.

God doesn’t provide us with life experiences to grasp selfishly, learning from them but refusing to share the knowledge. What unique experiences has God given you? Will you share what you’ve learned from them? Or will you be like the men in the beginning of this article who felt too intimidated to open themselves to the scrutiny of others?

Mentoring can sound scary. “Who am I to tell someone else how to live?” you ask. “I don’t have all the answers. What if I steer them the wrong direction? If they search my life too closely they’ll see my faults. These young guys are so savvy about social networking they make me feel like a dinosaur.”

In the New Testament we get a glimpse of Timothy, a young and timid pastor. Perhaps a false form of humility prevented him from displaying his abilities. But Paul urged him not to neglect the gift that was in him or hesitate because of his youth. Paul encouraged him to be an example to others in every way, to mentor the people under him.

Mentoring doesn’t set you up as a perfect authority figure who straightens everyone out. It doesn’t mean you know all the answers or that you don’t make mistakes. It just means you are willing to share your experiences and perspective with others in a transparent relationship.

Ask the Lord to lead you to people who you can help. Then wait for Him to work through you in new and exciting ways.

Coming in two weeks: 5 Mentoring Tips

[Image courtesy of Dvargg/Deposit Photos.]

Four Ways to Leave a Church Well

h7039537_sMaybe you feel God leading you away from a church you once loved. You’re not moving away from the area but somehow you feel this church is no longer right for you. You’ve been faithful to this church for years and now you feel you need to leave. You’re grieving this loss as you would grieve for a dying family member. Every time you attend church, you go with a knot in your stomach, but you know the Lord is leading you to find another church.

How you leave is as important as your decision to leave. I’ve been on both sides of this situation and given years of thought to the process of leaving. Here are four tips for leaving a church well.

 1. Seek to resolve the problem.

The fact that you are now considering leaving a church you’ve been faithful to for years probably means you have a problem. Have you tried to resolve the problem?

It’s natural to want to compare notes with friends to determine if they see the same problems you do. Most people talk about a problem to everyone except the person they have the problem with. One person voices his dissatisfaction, and the next says, “You know you’re right. I can see what you’re saying and this is what I have seen.” Adding all the little flaws or perceived faultys up doesn’t solve the problem. It makes the problem bigger and harder to solve.

Plus it’s unscriptural. Read Matthew 18:15-17 over again. Sharing something negative about someone who isn’t part of the problem or part of the solution is—gossip.

Attack the problem, not the person. “The pastor’s a control freak. His wife manipulates people to get her way. The youth pastor is spiritually immature. The deacons have no integrity. The teachers don’t care about the students. The music minister just wants to show off.” These are personal accusations that cause deep personal pain and are practically impossible to fix.

Most of the time, if you have a problem with something in a church that is serious enough to make you want to leave, you need to go to the person responsible and try to resolve the problem. It’s not fair to blame a church or someone in a church for a problem you have never even tried to fix. Don’t wait too long. If you wait until you have accumulated too much against the church in your mind, it will be almost impossible to fix. Not only will the problem be big, your mind will be less willing to see things from a different point of view.

 2. Do no harm.

If you have a serious problem with a church that you feel will not be fixed, leave quietly doing as little damage as possible. Perhaps the church has definitely moved in a direction that you don’t feel is right and the leaders want to continue to move that way. If the path is clearly set, you won’t be able to turn it around, but you can destroy the church trying to. It’s best to slip away quietly without taking others with you. If they choose to leave the church, they need to leave for their own reasons, not yours.

People will want to know why you’re leaving. What are you going to tell them?

When people leave a church they often give a reason for leaving, but the reason they give may not be the main reason they are leaving.

The number one reason given is probably, “I just don’t feel like I’m being fed.” In other words, the pastor isn’t a very good preacher or teacher. Is he giving out the Word of God? If so, we can learn from it. A pastor in full-time ministry may not preach as well as the one you hear on radio, but God can use His Word, even if the preacher’s presentation isn’t what you’d like it to be. Perhaps you aren’t being fed because your heart is not prepared to receive the message God has for you. If you are harboring resentment in your heart, you probably won’t get much out of your pastor’s sermons. Don’t blame the pastor for what could be your own heart’s problem.

If you are leaving because you feel the church position on something is wrong, you could say you disagree with the church’s position and feel like it’s best that you leave.

Whatever you do, don’t add up all your petty dissatisfactions with the church and dump them everywhere you go. Keep your reasons for leaving as simple and non-personal as possible.

After you go, in which of these ways would you like to be remembered by those who are left behind?

  • “I remember them. We understand they felt they needed to leave, but at least they left in a way that didn’t hurt our church. They helped our church in many ways while they were here, and though they’ve moved on, we wish them well.”
  • “The personal accusations they made when they left will hurt our church for years to come. They helped our church while they were here, but they did more damage than good by the time they were gone. I wish they had never been a part of our church.”

The way you leave will determine which of these ways you are remembered.

 3. Leave with a positive attitude.

Leaving a church you have loved can be a traumatic experience, for you as well as the church you leave. The problems and pain may loom so large that you can’t see anything else. But surely you have benefited by being in the church as well. Think of the leaders, teachers, and church people who have helped you or built into your family. Have you grown as a result of the church’s teaching? Can you express appreciation for the blessing your church has been over the years? Maybe you don’t like or agree with what’s happening right now, but that doesn’t negate the blessings you’ve received over the years.

Maybe you’re hurting and you just want to get out of there as fast as you can, but take the time and energy to express appreciation and love if you can.

4. Make a clean break.

If you continue to live in the same location, you may come into contact with people from the church you are leaving. This can be really awkward. Take the initiative to set the tone for these contacts.

Don’t just look the other way and pretend you don’t see people from your former church. If the wounds are fresh and you don’t feel ready for conversation, just wave at them and smile.

Don’t dredge up old history or try to influence people against their church. Normally it’s best to keep conversation on neutral topics. Ask about their family or health or dog.

If a member of your former church asks you why you left, keep to a one-liner that explains the issue and ends the topic. If the person is considering leaving the church himself, make sure he is leaving for his own reasons. Avoid disparaging the church. At times it may be necessary to say, “We felt the Lord leading us away from the church, but I don’t want to talk against the church. It was a good church for us for many years and we wish them well.”

As traumatic as it may be to leave a church you love, you can do so in a way that honors God. When you have left, may even your enemies say, “I may have disagreed with that person, but I’m glad I knew him. I know he loved the Lord and was just trying to do what he felt was right.”

(In case you wonder, I am not intending to point at any person or situation with this blog. I have intentionally written this blog at a time when it would not be considered an attack against anyone. I merely recognize that leaving a church can be traumatic for those who leave and those who stay behind. I have received good advice on the subject and I want to pass that on. When a church move is necessary, I believe these principles can make the move less painful and more God-honoring.)