People are quitting a lot of things lately.
From gyms, to jobs, to marriages, to diets, and more, there are very few aspects of life that are immune to being abandoned.
The church included.
If you’re considering leaving the church you attend, there are a few things you may want to consider before making the leap.
Unless it’s because of a severe issue like abuse, cruelty, or theological drift, your current church may have more to offer you – and you to offer it – than you may realize.
Are There Good Reasons to Leave a Church?
First, let’s acknowledge that, in addition to what I mentioned above, there are some good reasons for leaving a church. Here are just a few:
- The church is stuck in dead traditions
- They’re so determined to do new things, they’ve become unbiblical
- The leadership is not leading
- The leadership is overly controlling
- You live too far away
- The only thing they want from you is a warm body and an offering
- and more.
But there are also some bad reasons to leave a church, even though they may seem like good reasons at the time:
1. Because It’s Small (Or Getting ‘Too Big’)
Many of us have bought into the myth that, if a church is not growing numerically, it must be broken. I call this The Grasshopper Myth, and it’s so prevalent I wrote a book about it.
If the ‘problem’ with your church is that it’s not getting bigger, I have good news for you. Small is not a problem.
Is it possible that the church’s lack of growth is a sign of deeper problems? Could be. If so, the church needs to address those reasons. But if the only issue you have with the church is its small size, that’s not a reason to leave.
On the opposite side of the church size coin are people who leave because the church is getting ‘too big’ for them. I may be a small church guy, but I don’t believe a church can get too big. Yes, some churches do unhealthy things to get big. But other churches do unhealthy things that keep them small. Either way, the problem is ill-health, not size.
The size of the church is never a valid reason to leave a good church.
2. You’re Not Being Fed
There’s only so much growth we can receive as passive church consumers.
As we grow spiritually, the amount we can take in from others – even from great sermons and programs – diminishes until we do one thing: start serving.
Expecting to grow spiritually by attending church but not participating is like expecting to get physically healthy by eating better but not getting off the couch.
In both 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5 we read about immature believers who wanted more “milk”, even though they should have been ready for “solid food” (some translations use the word “meat”). Often, church members will leave a church because they want meatier sermons. But, while sermons can always be better, I don’t believe we can ever get spiritual meat from sermons. Just milk.
What makes something milk is that it’s been through the cow. Someone else has eaten it, chewed it, processed it, and fed it to you. Meat is something we have to chew on. It requires our work and participation.
If you’re a mature believer who isn’t being fed, don’t look for a better teacher, seek to be discipled.
The church is not a marketplace where we pick the spiritual products we like. The church is a community that worships Jesus and disciples each other.
People don’t become giants of the faith by hearing better sermons. They do so by drawing closer to Jesus and living better lives as a result.
3. You Haven’t Found the Right Place to Serve
One of the good reasons to leave your church (see above) was if the only thing they want from you is a warm body and an offering.
But before you do that, be sure that’s really what’s going on. If the church leadership wants you to be involved, but hasn‘t found the right fit yet, keep trying.
I’ve known people to stay at our church for years, serving where they can, before we finally found the right fit at just the right time. They were always glad they waited.
4. Someone Hurt Your Feelings
If you leave your current church over hurt feelings, you’ll leave your next church for the same reason. People are people. Feelings get hurt. Sometimes we’re too sensitive, sometimes the hurts are real. Either way, the solution isn’t leaving, it’s reconciliation. Or growing thicker skin.
Leaving a good church because one or two people offended you, only to go to another church where one or two people will offend you is not a solution.
(Please note: if you have been abused at a church, this is not what I’m referring to here. That is a much deeper issue that will require a different approach than what this article is meant to address.)
5. The Church Is Changing
Every church needs to make regular adjustments. Not to core theology, but buildings need to be upgraded, new songs should be introduced, clothing styles fluctuate, demographics shift, and so on.
Some people hit the brakes on every change, good or bad. If you have that tendency, you need to resist the temptation to assume that a change is bad just because it’s uncomfortable for you.
If the leadership of your church is changing things before you think they should, they’re probably being proactive instead of reactive. That’s good leadership.
Society is changing around us. Fast. If your church leaders are trying new ways to meet the needs of a shifting society, don’t fight them, help out.
6. You’re Not Teachable
Yes, the problem might be you.
Before you change churches, ask yourself if what really needs changing is you.
After all, the Gospel is about change. From darkness to light, from death to life, from sin to salvation. And sometimes, from stubborn to teachable.
This may not be your time to change churches. It may be your time to let Jesus use your church to change you.
7. You’re Giving Up On Church Entirely
If you’re planning to leave your current church to stop attending church altogether, please reconsider this very dangerous step.
Very few decisions are more likely to cause long-term spiritual damage than disconnecting yourself from the company of healthy fellow believers. Even for a little while. Because a little while almost always becomes a very long time.
Even deciding to ‘see what’s out there’ in other churches can be a dangerous practice. Church-shopping can become church-hopping, which easily leads to church-stopping.
Christianity was never meant to be lived in isolation.
We need you. You need us.
We need each other.
If you know you need to leave your church, I cover that in my follow-up article: 8 Principles To Consider Before Leaving A Church You (Used To) Love.
(Photo by Declan Andrews | Flickr)