Time and time again in my faith walk I have heard people in positions of leadership in the church declare that believers need to be ‘planted’ — and time and time again it has made me cringe. It is this type of ‘one size fits all’ teaching that has kept people in unnecessary bondage, and prevented them from moving forward into a new season of life. Let’s delve into this cankerous cliche to find out the motives behind it, put it into proper perspective, and actually dare to disagree with those who champion it as a one size fits all solution.
The straw that broke the camel’s back.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was making moves, launching out into my own parachurch ‘ministry’ with the support of my pastor when it happened at a luncheon. One of the other people on staff noticed that I hadn’t been around as much as I was before and made the comment that I “need to stay planted” in the church. To which I wanted to reply ‘I’m not a plant, I’m a human, and God gave me legs for a reason.’ — but God knew I was about to let loose on him and decided to intervene on his behalf at that moment by sending a sudden distraction to lure him away from the table.
The problem was that I had heard some form of ‘stay planted’ preached to me quite enough in the past, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was in a season of God telling me that it was time for me to leave. If I am being real, I was ready to verbally vomit years of frustration with leaders who regularly felt the need to get out the proverbial ‘submit baton’ in order to put people back in their place. That poor unsuspecting man was going to be the victim of my release and he likely did not deserve it. The very mention of the phrase “stay planted” triggered this image in my mind’s eye:
While I now jest and laugh it off, the truth is that over the past nearly 10 years of my faith walk I have had more than my fair share of people with so called ‘authority’ telling me, or a group I was in and/or the congregation that they needed to ‘stay planted’ or ‘stay aligned’ or else..
The interesting thing that I have noticed in my life is that nearly every single time I have made a move that ended up in a dramatic level of freedom and breakthrough in my life, it was during a time when a leader thought I needed to ‘stay planted’ but God was telling me to go. This led me to take a closer look at what it really means to be planted in the Biblical sense, and also to try to figure out what the root cause of leaders chanting this over and over again really is.
Where did the ‘Stay Planted’ idea even come from?
There is a saying that it comes from in a worldly sense — to ‘prosper where you are planted’ but from a biblical context the verse I have most often heard quoted to justify this cliche is this:
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. — Jeremiah 17:8
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. — Psalm 1:3
How has it been misinterpreted?
Both of these verses are referring to being planted in the Lord and in the law of the Lord, and while that may in a season mean staying put in a particular organization or position, it certainly does not mean that removing yourself from attending a particular church automatically equals being out of the will of God.
People who quote this scripture in order to coerce people to stay put are essentially saying that their organization is equal to God. That my friend, is blasphemy.
If you are a Holy Spirit filled believer, the word is clear that the Holy Spirit inside of you flows and moves. It is not stagnant. Sure some people may be the types who stay in a single church their whole life, but that is typically the exception, not the standard.
Why do leaders champion it incorrectly?
Nearly every believer that I mentor out of religious and abusive situations into healing always asks me why the people they have hurt them did so. Here are a few of the reasons why a leader may misinterpret or misuse the biblical concept of ‘being planted’.
It’s What They Were Taught
Too many times believers simply choose to believe everything they have been taught by a man, without even questioning it, biblically researching it, or praying about it for themselves. They simply just do it and pass it down to the next person.
There are some leaders that genuinely want to make sure that you are ready before moving on to another path. They want to make sure that you are facing your problems and growing through them as opposed to running from them. Healthy leadership will present the concept of you staying planted in humility and will not use coercive language or emotional manipulation in order to make you accept it.
False Sense of Responsibility
A leader often carries a heavy burden for those whom they lead. If they are not careful they become susceptible to what I call the ‘hero syndrome’ and they take on an unhealthy level of personal responsibility for those that they lead. This can come from a person with a really good heart, who just doesn’t have a good balance on when to let go and trust the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life.
Leaders for various reasons develop unhealthy codependency upon those who they lead. Some examples are that they may unknowingly get their sense of worth or identity from those they lead, the quantity of people that they lead, or at worst they become dependent on the finances of the people that they lead in an unhealthy way. In the more severe or extreme instances, you will usually hear the leader on a regular basis connect you’re alignment with them as being vital to your alignment with God, and usually your ability to achieve your God given destiny. They continuously make you feel like your sole purpose throughout your life is to stay with them, and them alone.
Where does that leave you?
Well, if you have been a victim of being stuck due to this type of teaching, the first person you likely have to blame is yourself. Yep, you read that right.
Normally I am not one to blame victims, but the truth is that most people come into agreement with this probably for the same reasons that I did; I simply did not read and study the scriptures for myself. Couple that with my desire to be a people pleaser and I was all in on the train of toxic submission.
Of course there are some cases that are exceptions to this where people have been under very heavy systems of control and manipulation — but for the most part we as believers have become lazy in our walk and prefer to be spoon fed as opposed to actually feeding ourselves.
Taking personal responsibility for your part in a circumstance is empowering, and allows you to avoid a wider scope of problems in the future associated with the bad habit(s) that originally made you vulnerable.
You gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.
Good ‘ol Kenny Rogers (RIP) sang it, and boy was he right. There are both times to hold onto relationships and stay in communities, and there are times to let go and leave.
As you grow in your faith walk, I cannot stress enough how important it is to develop healthy discernment for what steps you should take. The ability to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit and Scriptures for one’s self is absolutely a core necessity for every believer.
Both Jeremiah 17:8 and Psalm 1:3 are illustrating that those who place their faith in God and his ways are those who are most fruitful and who have stability in their lives through all seasons. I will say that Godly counsel is biblical, and so is being connected with others but those things should never replace or trump our own personal relationship with God and what He is showing us or telling us to do. We simply cannot place more faith in man or in ourselves than we do in God.
Sometimes it may seem like there is a block in one’s ability to receive God’s guidance. Common issues that interfere with people being able to receive God’s guidance are:
- Self doubt
- Living in sin
- Double mindedness
- Soul ties
- Indoctrination (being told that you can’t hear God’s guidance for yourself)
Are you running from conflict, or is your season changing?
So you are contemplating leaving an organization, or relationship and you are wondering if you are making the right move or if you should “stay planted”. While I can’t tell you exactly what move to make, I can guide you through some questions that you can ask yourself. If you respond honestly then it just may bring some clarity to you.
Do you feel stuck in a cycle? If you find yourself feeling like you are going in circles despite your efforts to change and ‘die to yourself’ but something keeps preventing you from your breakthrough then there is a possibility that an external factor or connection that you are tied to is holding up your breakthrough.
Are you being led by emotions? I am not saying that emotions are bad, (sometimes we forfeit our own emotions in an unhealthy way in order to make other people happy while leaving ourselves vulnerable and devalued — and I am in no way suggesting you do that) but what I am asking is are you making a quick rash decision based on being triggered by something or because you are offended? The enemy is great at playing human emotions and especially when it comes to offense. Try to make sure that it is the Holy Spirit guiding you to move, not your flesh. Leaving relationships or communities that you really do belong in just because someone upset you is a dangerous practice, and will prevent you from growing in some areas.
Has the ‘grace’ for the place or people left? It is not always the case but one way many people know that God is calling them to move out of one community and into another, you will find that the grace has lifted for the place or relationship he is calling you out of. This may look like:
- A position you once thoroughly enjoyed has become almost unbearable.
- You physically are not feeling well for an extended period of time. Exhaust, fatigue and poor health can all be symptoms of not being aligned with heaven.
- You no longer enjoy going to church or meetings. It has become burdensome.
- You are no longer growing in your faith.
- You have hit a ceiling in respect to being able to use your giftings within the organization.
- The organization or person exhibits toxic behaviors that Jesus does not require believers to tolerate.
Keep in mind that people are humans. If you find yourself switching churches every 6 months chances are you have unrealistic expectations of what people should do for you. You may even struggle with being self centered. While seasons in life do change, they typically don’t change as rapidly as the weather does. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone should always cater to you.
I also want to mention that it is perfectly normal to not see where God is taking you to next on your journey until after you have left a circumstance. In addition, it can also be very normal to be sad or even experience a mixture of sorrow and exhilaration at the same time as you move on.
Permission to Disagree
It is ok to disagree with leaders.
There, I said it.
For far too long within the walls of many religious organizations there has been an unhealthy association between disagreement and rebellion. My friend, it is not rebellion to disagree.
It is not rebellion if God is leading you to leave but your leader is telling you to stay. (They may have a PhD and the biggest healing gift you have ever seen — but they still are not God.)
It is not rebellion if God is telling you to launch out but your leader says you aren’t ready. Just make sure that you are launching out because you are being called to, not because of your ego, or need to feel significant or in control.
God is your father. You ultimately answer to him.
Handling the exit – how to leave a church or organization in a way that honors the heart of God.
I could write a book on this, but I will opt for a few tips to make your exit as healthy as possible if that is what you feel God is leading you to do.
Be mentally and spiritually prepared. As someone who has been through multiple transitions myself and who coaches and mentors people through spiritual transitions I will say that things can get a little crazy — especially if the organization you are exiting from is vulnerable to being under the influence of a stronghold or if you were in an influential position.
Once you have left you must be very mindful that this is a spiritual decision and it may affect you spiritually, mentally and emotionally. You may have odd dreams involving the situation. You may go through a sort of spiritual detox which can be quite exhilarating but also difficult and uncomfortable at times. Keep praying and reading scripture. If you need to seek help from an outside source to help guide you in how you can settle the inner turmoil.
Try to leave in peace. Do you part to be respectful even if others aren’t. Remember God is watching and He is your defender. You do not have to quantify your reasons or overly explain yourself. If you were in a position of responsibility in the organization and need to let people know you are leaving, keep it simple and refuse to engage in arguments about your decision, and by all means try to stay away from the phrase ‘I feel…’ it leaves room for people to accuse you of making a decision based on your emotions.
(If you are in physical danger or there is a heavy spirit of witchcraft in operation then don’t worry about how you leave — run and don’t look back.)
Don’t be messy, even if the situation is messy. So maybe you are leaving because some real ugly stuff has been going on.
Do not assume that God has left it up to you to shout it all from the rooftops. Do not assume that you are supposed to tell others to leave.
Do not assume that vengeance is yours, because it’s not.
You may not be ready for, or called to start those battles.
Trust me, I know first hand that it can be difficult to resist delivering justice where you feel it should be served, but I have seen innocent bystanders deeply wounded due to decisions that people made to try to get justice. Yes there may be times where God is asking you to expose something but you must do so to the proper people with wisdom, caution, and in prayer.
Forgive and Bless. If you are leaving a toxic situation then do just that — leave it. Don’t pick it back up again, resist the temptation to reconnect. Thank God for the good that may have came out of that season, pray to break unhealthy soul ties, bless those who were left behind and move on. Don’t let past hurts keep you from connecting with other believers in the future.
At the end of the day…
The decisions that you make on whether to ‘stay planted’ or walk away are ultimately between you and God, and possibly your spouse in some cases. I promise you that God has got your back no matter where you are. Keep your eyes on him — his love and grace are limitless. Even when we make mistakes, he has a way of helping us out of them as long as we stay humble and teachable.
Just know this — that you and your two legs were created to live a life of freedom, not to be bound by man made rules or theories. So be you and live your life fully, and freely in the peace and love of Christ regardless of what others say.