Leaving a Church
Posted on February 23, 2011
During the course of Riv’s current series on 1 Timothy, I am blogging about stuff I can’t get to during the weekend services.
I’m not sure I should be surprised, but the most hotly discussed portion of this past weekend’s message was my quick comment that there good reasons to leave a church but most people do not have one. The most awkward part was the conversations I had with people in the lobby who were in the middle of leaving their previous churches to go to Riverview.
This is a debatable issue, for sure, but I would like to lay out what I think are some legitimate and illegitimate reasons to “make the jump” to another church. This is by no means exhaustive, but I just want to spur your thinking a bit.
Good Reasons to Leave a Church
Jesus is missing. Recently, I attended a church service where Jesus’ only appearance was an accidental reference by the pastor when misquoting a text. This is by far the best reason to leave a church – Jesus is never or rarely mentioned. Instead of teaching about the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, the sermons in some churches constantly focus on what you must do (moralism) or the myth that you are already good enough (universalism). If you always feel that you are being called to an ideal you can’t achieve and Jesus isn’t declared as the solution, you might be hearing moralism. Further, if you are never ever uncomfortable and squirmy during a sermon, it’s possible that you are listening to universalism.
The Word isn’t Taught. If your pastor doesn’t teach from the Bible (and explain what the text means instead of apologizing for it), then run…don’t walk…to another church.
No Mission. Throughout the Bible, God constantly gets on his people for failing to be a light in the world. The church exists to give God glory and proclaim the redemptive message of Jesus to the world. If the church is only focused on itself, it has lost its mission.
Family. There are times where the needs of your family require a move to a new church. Recently, a great family moved from Riv to another church in the area because the unbelieving husband didn’t feel comfortable at Riv. He really liked another church in town, so his wife graciously agreed to make the change. I am praying that this will lead to his salvation. Another family made the move to a different church because their children were really struggling and felt more connected at another church. I truly believe it was the right move for their family, but this is one to be careful with. If you are not careful, you can inadvertently teach your children “it is all about them.” This can breed in them the self-centeredness that causes many to jump from church to church their whole lives.
Doctrine. This is another one to be careful with, but if you find yourself constantly disagreeing with the doctrine of the church you are attending, you may need to make a change. With this one, you should really study what the Bible has to say about the issue and then bring your concerns to one of the pastors to discuss it with him. If the issues are in debatable areas, then you need to decide if you can agree to disagree or if your concerns are too big and it’s time to move on.
Bad Reasons to Leave a Church
“I’m Not Being Fed.” This is the biggest one I hear and I am always a bit skeptical. If the church is not teaching the Word and not talking about Jesus then I agree, you are not being fed. However, most of the time this just means someone doesn’t like the teaching pastor or the style of the church. Usually it is supposed “mature Christians” who say this sort of thing. They are the types who should be pouring themselves into others, not worried about themselves.
“Things aren’t the Same.” Growing organisms change. It is only stagnant and dead organisms that stop changing. Change, while often painful, can be a great thing. And besides, if the church keeps growing it will change again. Who knows, the things you like may come back like skinny ties.
How to Leave a Church
I love what Ray Pritchard has to say about this. He says if you must leave a church, do so quickly, quietly, and graciously.