"Nobody's perfect, you know!"
If you've ever left a church for anything other than geographical reasons, I would bet money you've heard someone say this.
The implication behind it is that you're an ungracious, unforgiving jerk face.
Of course, people (myself included) never say this about things they DON'T like. At my former church, the pastor (and people in the congregation) would complain about other churches in the area and how most of them weren't "bible believing". Not once did anyone follow this with "But nobody's perfect, you know."
But as soon as people started leaving THEIR church...
"The church is full of sinners, same as everywhere else!"
"You're being divisive!" (one friend of mine was told that there was a "spirit of divisiveness" in the church, which is a passive aggressive way of saying the same thing).
The great thing about using "nobody's perfect" as a verbal sparring tool, is that it is absolutely, 100% irrefutable. Because it's true. Nobody can launch a successful defense against it. Show me one perfect person. One! Go ahead, I'll wait. And you can't say Jesus.
See? Case closed!
Only, not so much. Because if you look closely, it's a strawman argument. It assumes that the person leaving is looking for a perfect church. I can assure you, no one has ever left a church because it isn't perfect.
In the end, everyone leaves a church (or anything, for that matter) for the same general reason: their needs aren't being met.
Some of my Christian readers might be offended by my use of the "n word". The rest are wondering why I referred to "needs" as the "n word". Allow me to explain.
You see, in some churches the leadership doesn't like people to talk about their needs. Because it takes valuable time away from talking about the church's needs (which, coincidentally, are always God's needs). Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church!
Now, I'll admit, no one likes a whiner (I can attest to this, having done my fair share of whining). And some people's list of needs is longer than others, and contains things not on most people's lists. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a pervasive attitude within a church where talking about what you need is generally discouraged, no matter what it is.
People have needs. This is just as irrefutable as "No one's perfect, you know!"
Let's be fair. Is there a strawman lurking behind my argument as well? Is the job of a church to meet the needs of it's members? If not, then I don't have a leg to stand on.
Well, it certainly shouldn't be the ONLY job of a church. Churches are supposed to help people other than it's members. There's much spirited disagreement on what form that help should take, but it's generally agreed that some form of helping should be going on.
This is a difficult question. Quick, to the analogy!
A few months ago I had a "skip level meeting" at work. This is simply a meeting between me and my bosses boss (the VP of engineering at the software company I work at). I.e I "skip" my boss and talk to his boss. The VP tries to do this with every engineer on a semi regular basis. It's not a performance review, just a chance for the employee to talk.
The engineering veep at my company is different from others I've had. He's always asking people if they enjoy what they're working on. And he's not a twenty year old with a pierced tongue and a degree in cheese appreciation. He's fifty, hard working, and he's not afraid to fire people when the need arises. So why does he ask people this? Surely the job of a business isn't to meet the needs of it's employees, it's to meet the needs of it's customers! What kind of namby pamby hippie crap is he trying to peddle?
I asked him this once (minus the phrase "namby pamby hippie crap"). He told me happy employees work harder and better than unhappy ones. He continued by saying that it was also the company's responsibility to train us in useful, marketable skills, and that we should tell him if we felt this wasn't happening.
He told several engineers this, and the idea was so alien that it caused a rumor to start that the company was going under (which he quickly quashed). He was honestly concerned about the careers of the engineers under him, partly because an engineer who felt their skill set was stagnating might choose to leave the company.
Many feel that churches behaving like corporations is dangerous, but in this case I think some churches could learn a valuable lesson.
While it's not their ONLY job to meet the needs of its members, it is beneficial for them to do so.
But some churches don't want to hear this. They treat church membership like military service. Once you're in, you're in for life.
Except it's not like that. Each country has only one military. You'd have to emigrate to join another one. Whereas you can get in your car and drive down the street to a different church (in some countries).
I know, I know. There's only one 'Church' (note the use of the Capital 'C'). To those not familiar with Christian speak, the capital denotes the worldwide church, i.e all Christians ever, throughout all time. It has no geographical borders, and it isn't limited to church buildings.
But isn't it funny how many pastors that proclaim that "there's only one Church" still hem and haw when you want to leave their church (lowercase 'c')? When new people attend their church, that's proof that they're doing GOD'S WILL (tm). When people leave the church, that's proof that... the people leaving are divisive, selfish, and impossible to please.
I admit that some people ARE divisive, selfish, and impossible to please. But sometimes people leave because their very reasonable, very necessary needs aren't being met.
Then again, what do I know? I'm just a heretic.