Today, I ran across this article. I agree with most of the author’s thought but it got me thinking. What would be a good reason to leave a church?
Here are some reasons I came up with.
- You are sent out. This one may seem obvious, but there are times that God has a plan and you are part of it. Planting a new church, helping another church, serving in another area, there are many reasons that could fall into this category. When James River Church decided to plant a church in Austin, Texas, 250 members agreed to pick up and move to the new city to be part of the effort. Not everyone ended up going, but that’s the idea.
My wife and I left Real Life church in 2000 to become missionaries with our movement. We were sent out.
2. Life circumstances change. There are times where changes occur that are part of God’s larger plan but we don’t control. “If a man won’t work, he won’t eat.” Jobs, medical, aging family, children’s education, all of these can be reasons to leave a community of faith.
Let me just say though that a new job offer doesn’t necessarily mean that is a good or valid reason to leave an area. A community of faith where your family can grow and serve to me is worth more than lots of gold in the bank.
3. Sin and doctrinal error. I am continually amazed at how many people will remain in a church when sin is not confronted and doctrinal error is not corrected.
Listen, I could be accused of being too soft on stuff. In our church, we had people who were not living lives according to the scriptures. We challenged constantly, and these people did not teach, nor did they lead. Everyone is on a journey, I get that. However that is different from a church I know of that did not confront an elder who was known to be involved in an affair, even allowing that man to continue to serve communion. Another church that I attended for a short time allowed someone to teach heresy from the pulpit and did not correct the teaching. When I asked them why, they said: “he’s a layman. We don’t hold him to the same standards.” Many of the congregants that day left with their faith undermined because of the teachings of this man.
For parents especially, this is critical. Difficult as it is to raise kids in this generation, we invite even more pain and hurt when we continue to expose them to hypocritical environments. Could I attend a church which held to Calvinism even though I’m not? I believe so. Could I attend a church were salvation was not by grace alone, or Jesus was not the sole way to the Father? Absolutely not.
*if there is sin, and the local leadership is not dealing with it, do not hesitate to call in higher church officials. There is more at stake than the local church.
4. Unresolved conflict. Here is a place where I might get myself in trouble with some. However, conflict happens, even in the scriptures. Paul and Barnabas separated over conflict. We infer from Paul’s later writing that at some point in the future, that was resolved. However, the truth is this. Unresolved conflict is poison in the life of a church and ministry. Repentance is necessary. Humility is necessary. Once those steps have been passed through, sometimes separation is necessary. Someone in the church has an affair with someone else in the church. Most likely, those families won’t worship together for a number of years and shouldn’t be expected to. The problem with conflict is that it is often swept under the rug and ignored. However, if the conflict doesn’t resolve after a time, it’s better to remove yourself from the situation, at least for a time.
5. Disagreement with leadership. And I’m not talking about not liking a sermon, or even sin. There are times where we feel ourselves at dissonance with the leadership and the direction of the church. This isn’t an automatic “let’s pack the bags.” Particularly if you are a leader, you need to be very careful, because you do not want to be the cause of a split. Measure your conversation. Are you gathering those around you who build up or who tear down? Who are excited or who are critical?
Listen, you can disagree and not leave. But your heart and your attitude should remain pure. If your heart begins to be in jeopardy, step aside. Pray, seek God. Find your joy in salvation and the pleasure of serving.
What to do if you decide to leave?
- Simple. Leave, and leave quietly. Don’t leave angry. David was heartbroken about leaving Saul. He maintained a correct attitude and posture towards his King.
- Refuse to engage in negative talk about your former place of worship. Spend time praying and find yourself a good way to guide conversations away from that area. Don’t give innuendo but you don’t have to give too much information either. “It was time to change for my family” should be enough. If someone pushes, they are probably a gossip and not worth talking to anyway.
So what do you think? When is a good reason to leave? What is a good way to leave?