Should I Change Churches? (2020 Edition)

September 8, 2020

Eons ago (you know, 2018), I wrote one of the most viewed posts on my site by posing the question, “Should I Change Churches?” The gist of my answer was…

There are lots of good reasons to leave a church but most people do not have one. Click To Tweet

Since writing those words, two monumental shifts have rocked the church landscape.

The first is the “if your church doesn’t **insert virtue signal, cultural hot button, or political position** find a new church!” trope on Twitter.

The second is the toxic trifecta of 2020: coronavirus, racial tensions, and deep political divides, all of which have shaken our cultural institutions, and the church is not immune.

As church leaders are forced to make often polarizing decisions in this climate, many faithful followers of Jesus find themselves asking the same question I posed in 2018: “should I change churches?” And while I think a lot of the advice in my first article still holds true (I really think you should read it first), there are a number of nuances unique to the moment we find ourselves in.

For what it’s worth, here are a couple pieces of advice to help process your decision.

Don’t change churches because of politics.

By its very nature, the church is a diverse set of people who commit to one another because what unites them (Jesus) is greater than what divides them (everything else). It’s notable that even among Jesus’ disciples, there was political diversity. Simon was a Zealot (that means he was an anti-big Roman government dude), and Matthew was a tax collector (he literally worked to further the interests of the big Roman government). They couldn’t be more politically different, and yet they were brothers because of Jesus. As Pastor Scott Sauls reminds us,

We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith.

Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines

If your decision to change churches is informed more by Fox News, CNN, Twitter, Facebook, or Buzzfeed than the Bible, you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t let your decision get infected by COVID.

I’ve talked to a lot of pastors who have people joining and leaving their church because of their response to COVID, and it’s coming from all sides.

  • People are leaving churches because they are only holding online services.
  • People are leaving churches because they aren’t taking the virus seriously enough and have started services with little to no restrictions.
  • People are leaving churches because they require a mask to attend (or because they don’t).
  • People are leaving churches because they have temporarily suspended kids’ ministry.

All of this is a common American posture toward the church that has ratcheted up during this season; we treat our faith communities like the cereal aisle. There are so many options out there that we hunt for the perfect one that suits our mood (which eventually changes and sends us back on the hunt).

I haven’t talked with a single pastor or church leader who isn’t laboring hard to make the best possible decision they can for their church family at this unprecedented time. I don’t agree with all of their decisions, but heck, I don’t agree with all of my own decisions right now. Pastors are doing the best they can, and they could really use a bit of grace and support right now, especially when you disagree with them. They might be right, they might be wrong, but these decisions aren’t easy to make, and they aren’t (for the most part) moral right and wrongs.

Years ago, I asked a friend from Zambia why he went to the church he did. His answer was, “it’s the first one I went to when I moved to the United States. In Zambia, we don’t have a lot of options. There are probably other churches I would agree with more, but this is my church home now.”

We could learn a lot from my friend.

Don’t change churches because you found a better online experience.

Online church may be here to stay, at least in some form (I’ll reserve my commentary on that for another day). But worshiping on your couch, in your pajamas, is like a $20 knockoff Rolex. It may look good for a little while, but eventually, the veneer will begin to chip away, and it will become less reliable. You’ll end up throwing it in the junk drawer with power cables from old phones and stale sauce packets.

Central to the life of every Christian is other Christians. We are meant to be together. The word “church” literally means “gathered.” Many people have treated church like Netflix during this season, scrolling around for a service to binge. We watch church instead of participating in it. Instead of singing, we scroll through Twitter. Instead of taking the Lord’s Supper, we munch on a donut and sip coffee.

There is so much about the church that necessitates us to be together. Online church is a suitable temporary replacement, but we should long to be together again. And when you walk into the doors of a church for the first time, it will feel different from online. It must.

Don’t decide on a new church when you have never met a single person from that community. It’s a family, not a new release.

Do represent Jesus well.

Whether you decide to stay in your current church or decide to make the change to another, make your decision by faith, with thanksgiving, giving Jesus glory. If you can’t do that, perhaps you should reconsider.

“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:17
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