Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A Portion of the Worship Center at our Old Church
From Tibia to Fibula
I mentioned, in a post last December, that my husband and I were contemplating a move to a new church. We prayed for guidance in this decision. Rich had attended Saddleback Church for over 15 years. I’d been a member since 2006. One doesn’t just up and walk out on a church for no particular reason, does one?
It’s important for me to tell you that we both believe that Saddleback is a fine church. No incident provoked our urge to leave. I’m at a loss to articulate exactly why we considered a change, though at times I was daunted by Saddleback’s size and celebrity.
All the same, we both felt a tug at our hearts. We were being called away. Earlier in December, we’d visited my father’s church to enjoy its Christmas cantata. I wrote later,
As we drove home, I realized that worshiping with this young, reaching congregation had reminded me that church isn’t just a place we go. It’s what we are.

In January, we began poking around for other churches to visit. Rich said, “Doesn’t it make sense to start with our little canyon church?” I agreed. We studied the Trabuco Canyon Community Church’s website. The following Sunday, we visited.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I wondered what lay ahead. At this small church, “new folks” couldn’t hide. And I felt a sense of disloyalty to our church. Can you cheat on a church, I wondered?

Inside, people greeted us. The pastor spotted us, approached, introduced himself and shook our hands. Early in the service, when he invited the congregants to rise and greet one another, people roamed the small sanctuary. The greeting continued until everyone, it seemed, had greeted everyone else.

We returned the next Sunday.

And the Sunday after that. On that third visit, a conviction settled on me as we entered the sanctuary.

After the service, we walked to our car to stow our bible before heading for the fellowship hall. I said to Rich, “This feels like home. I don’t really feel like we need to shop around at other churches.” Rich smiled at me. “Me too,” he said. Before we left that day, we had membership packets in hand.

Now came the task of separating from our previous church. We’d been active in the baptism ministry and a small group. I’d served in the writing ministry. I drafted an email and sent it to the staff members responsible for the baptism and writing ministries, thanking them for the opportunity to serve and announcing our departure. Rich sent a note to our small group leader. He phoned our good friend Mike, whom we had brought into our small group a few years earlier, to tell him of our decision.

I felt like I might as well have written, “Dear Church: We’ve had some great times together, but it’s time to move on. It’s not you; it’s me….I’ve found another church.”

In reflection I realize that notion is silly. Our love affair is with Christ. The bible describes the church as His body, not the churches as His bodies. It’s as if we’re moving from the tibia to the fibula.  The same blood–His blood–nourishes them both.

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NASB)


  1. We left a “megachurch” (not as mega as Saddleback, but a proportionately mega church for the Midwest) and ended up in a church of about 200. We were very involved in the megachurch and in our case, difficult circumstances did precipitate our departure. I made a “breaking up” appointment with the pastor, and we talked for a few minutes. It didn’t go well, but it didn’t go horribly. It was kind of like, “Here’s your hat–what’s the hurry?”

    We are on good terms now, though pain remains from some unresolved issues. The overarching truth that the bride of Christ is the collective believers on earth now and throughout history is so important to remember.

  2. Ann, thank you for sharing your experience. That last sentence says more than several entire books I’ve read.