Our family returned from the mission field in 2005. We were struck by what we found.

Church attendance and baptisms were declining. Students were leaving the church after graduation and few were returning. Society was moving away from the gospel. And a host of refugees and immigrants were moving to North Carolina, some from countries closed to traditional missions.

I began to trumpet the need for new churches. You can imagine my shock when the most common objection was, “We need to fill the churches we have first.”

I couldn’t agree more. But filling the churches we have simply won’t be enough. Given the current population, there simply aren’t enough existing churches to meet the vast need.

It’s time for some of your members to leave in order to lay the groundwork for new and revitalized churches. And these likely will be some of your best members, including: Neighborhood small group leaders who will saturate a neighborhood with praying, caring and sharing the gospel; evangelistic Bible study leaders; church revitalizers; and church planters and core team members.

The best time for a member to leave your church is when they’re called to go.

So how do you know when it’s time?

It’s time for some of your best members to leave because God is calling them to go.

  1. They respond to the call.
    I’m convinced that many would go if we would simply issue the call. Pastor, let me challenge you to regularly pray, preach a missionary message and give the invitation.
  2. They’re willing to leave.
    Not all who hear the call to go are actually willing to leave. Leaving requires tangible sacrifices. Those ready to go will count the cost and conclude that Jesus is worth it.
  3. They’re prepared to go.
    They’re people of godly character. They have a solid grasp on the gospel. They know how to pray, share and train new believers how to pray and share. If you don’t have members like this, step out on the joyous journey of equipping your members. Then watch your gospel influence multiply.
  4. They’re committed to the missionary task.
    It’s not enough to go. You have to go, planning to leave. Leaving well requires a long-term commitment to entry, evangelism, discipleship, establishing a healthy church, leadership training and exiting to new fields.
  5. You’re ready to support.
    Members on the front line endure a lot for the sake of the gospel. They’ll need your support. When we left the pastorate to serve as missionaries, the regular encouragement we got from members disappeared while the spiritual attacks greatly intensified. Those ready to go will need encouragement through mentoring, support for their marriage and children, persistent prayer and regular retreat.

It’s time for some of your best members to leave because God is calling them to go.