This is a common question that many wrestle with when it comes to their church. It may be a question you have thought of yourself or are even currently contemplating. Should I stay with my current local church or leave and try to find a new body to be a part of? If you are thinking along these lines there is a reason you are. But like most, you may not know how to navigate through this minefield. Most leave for the wrong reasons and the wrong way.
So to help answer this question, let’s look at wrong reasons and wrong ways to leave a church. Why not right reasons and right ways? Because sometimes the impact is greater when you are able to see the wrong reasons and wrong ways people leave their church. Then you can see more clearly the why and how to leave a church in a way that is God honoring, Christ exalting and Church unifying.
Reasons Not To Leave a Church
1. Conflict and/or Unreconciled Relationships
So you want the perfect church because yours is not. Of course it is not. You are there. No I’m not joking. I’m serious. Why is there conflict and relationships that need to be reconciled in churches? Because a church is not the brick and mortar but the people. Saints for sure by God’s grace, but still living this side of heaven with the daily reality of the flesh.
Many leave their church with deep bitterness and resentment, leaving behind a trail of scarred relationships. And then they go and infiltrate another church with the same cancerous attitude that at the right moment will once again show it’s ugly head.
2. God-Centered theology.
That almost sounds ridiculous even as I write it. What else would theology be but God-centered. After all by definition theology is the study of God.
But unfortunately many so called churches are all about man-centered theology where the unholy trinity of me, myself and I reign. You just want your felt needs caressed and your ego stroked. That is why so many go to what’s been coined seeker-sensitive churches, ones that function not based on the prescriptions in the Word of God, but on what people want.
When the focus is on God and not man, as it ought to be, then the unadulterated Word of God is unashamedly preached(2 Timothy 4:1-3) and the true biblical Gospel is boldly proclaimed(Romans 1:16; Galatians 1:6-10). But when the focus is on man and not God, then people are being deceived into a false assurance because of a watered-down gospel.
As I was listening to Joel Osteen recently(I’ve since repented), he was talking about people who get down on themselves. His man-centered approach had him telling people that they are not so bad. What I need to hear is not about me but about the glories of who Christ is so that I can take my eyes off of self and fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith(Hebrews 12:2)
3. The music is boring.
No worries. I have a solution. Come with me to a Stryper concert and I assure you that you won’t be bored. I mean, come on, is that the reason you attend church?
Sure, music is a great way to express our worship of God. And those who lead the singing, whether it’s the great hymns of the faith or more contemporary songs that are lyrically God-centered and Christ-exalting, should do it as unto the Lord. I love to sing to the Lord with my fellow believers at church.
But the reason you go to church is not to be musically entertained. Again, it’s not about you. The music is a means as you sing to worship the Lord for how great He is.
4. Sin is taken seriously.
But of course. God’s people are called to be holy(1 Peter 1:16). The ministry of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are to convict(2 Timothy 3:16; John 16:8). After all, Christ Himself, as the Head of His Church, gives clear instruction on how to deal with a sinning, unrepentant believer(Matthew 18:15-20) Unfortunately this church discipline is not practiced by most churches.
Wanting to leave a church that takes sin seriously is a living commentary that you don’t believe in a holy calling or the convicting power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Or even more so it may even be indicative of the state of your soul, that you are lost and not saved.
5. I’m not getting anything out of it.
Now if by that you mean that your soul is not being fed because the Word of God is not being preached, then by all means, approach the pastor and church elders to discuss your concern.
But, my advice to you would be the same that I give to those who take my new members class, and that is, SERVE! The church is not a dispensory to meet your needs. Rather the church is the redeemed people of God who are there to serve one another in love(Galatians 5:13). When you go with the mindset of who can I serve and how can I serve, then your whole perspective will change. What you put into it is what you will get out of it.
How Not To Leave a Church
1. First decide to leave, then tell the pastor.
In this case telling the pastor simply just becomes a formality. You’ve already made up your mind. The pastor is blindsided when you tell him because he had no idea. Oh but wait I forgot that as a pastor he ought to have figured it out on his own that you were not happy. He should have seen it coming. At least that’s what you keep telling yourself. After all, he is the pastor.
And you’re right. He is the pastor. But that does not mean he is God. A little theology lesson here won’t hurt. Only God is omniscient, all-knowing. The pastor is not.
So rather than catching him off guard and by surprise, why not go to him and tell him what you are not happy about. Talk it out. Pray about it. See if there are any changes that can be made. And if so give it a little time.
Then and only then if you decide to still leave at least you can with a clear conscience knowing that you did not decide in the dark but first addressed the issue.
2. Through social media.
Email. Facebook. Text. You name it. In our time it’s so easy to communicate. But it’s not the way to leave your church. Unfortunately many do. What a gutless way to go. This is a growing problem in churches today.
Better way to do it is to speak with your pastor face to face or even over the phone.
3. Without thanking the pastor for his ministry in your life.
Let’s be honest. Being a pastor is a thankless job full of pressures. Most drop out within 4 years. Now don’t get me wrong. A real pastor serves out of a love for the Lord and for His flock, not for sordid gain, popularity, fame and self-glory. Nonetheless, it would really encourage your pastor’s heart if you simply went to him as a farewell to tell him how much you appreciate all his ministry to you. Actually you shouldn’t have to wait till you leave to do that. But it’s the least you can do before you leave.