When it’s not Okay to Leave Your Church

Can I be honest with you?

Thanks.

I’ve been thinking A LOT about biblical church membership this past year. More specifically, I’ve been trying to come up with a good rule of thumb for when it is okay for a church member to leave their church and go find a new one.

Unfortunately, my church has been in a bit of an upheaval for some time. To sum up why, our pastor left for the mission field 18 months ago. We had guest preachers for several months before hiring a new pastor a year ago. And, shocker, the new guy isn’t the old guy.

New leadership has brought new staff, new priorities, and new strategies. And we all know how well people deal with change

So. Upheaval.

I suppose because I have a small leadership role in my church (lay Bible study teacher), or maybe because I’m always in the wrong places at the wrong times, people have come to me with their complaints about all the changes.

And I have listened until I am blue in the face (listening really takes it out of me, apparently) about all the reasons people are upset. And my strategy for helping folks has been to boil things down to this one question: is the Gospel still being preached?

Invariably, they must answer yes. Our new pastor is very clear from the pulpit every Sunday that Jesus is the Son of God, He died for our sins, and He is the only way to Heaven.

So, in my book, because the Gospel is still being taught, any other changes, no matter how small or large, are not reasons to leave our church.

But a lot of my friends are still hung up on their personal preferences not being met.

“I’m not connecting…”

“I don’t like the new guy’s preaching style…”

“I don’t like that they spent money on ______…”

“I don’t like that my area of ministry is getting less attention than another area of ministry.”

But what these people are really saying is, “My plan would be better than the current plan.” And while that might be true, for people to take that as a reason to leave the church is to say, “My plan is more important than the current plan.”

They even rationalize things by saying, “I deserve to be happy with my church. With so many good churches to choose from, what’s the harm in finding a new one?”

Well, our friend Paul, a staunch proponent of unity in the body, says this, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,” (Philippians 2:3-4).

It is selfish ambition and vain conceit to say, “If my church leadership doesn’t do things how I want them done, I’m leaving.”

It is only looking to your own interests and ignoring the interests of others to leave your church over personal preferences. Why? Because the church is a body, and each member is a vital part of that body (1 Corinthians 12). When one leaves for selfish reasons, there is a void, and it HURTS THE REMAINING MEMBERS!

Paul goes on to tell believers, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness,” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Jesus was never concerned about titles. He wasn’t worried about being rightfully honored. He didn’t focus on Himself or using His abilities to further His own agenda. He made Himself nothing, humbly serving others.

We church members would do well to do the same. Being a part of a church is not about you. It’s about others. And when you go to church with this question in the front of your mind – How can I serve someone here today? – then you get what Paul was talking about! Then you are living what Jesus modeled!

And – bonus – when you approach church this way, you will be more fulfilled.

If you are discontent with your church, ask God to help you change your priorities from yourself to His Kingdom. Look for ways to serve others so they will see Jesus in you and be inspired to move closer to Him themselves.

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14 thoughts on “When it’s not Okay to Leave Your Church

  1. In most situations, I agree this is a great way to gauge whether a person should stay — simply whether or not the Word is being rightly divided. However, there may be select situations where the Gospel, is indeed, being preached but there is something at the administrative level that is not right. I’m in a situation where I would love to run but I know that I will be there as long as my husband is there. I believe that God can legitimately move people from one church to another for His purpose and we are not remanded to one church for our lifetime. That all being said…no church is perfect and I need to check myself…..past all the hurt and even the vanity ;-). Thanks for the post!

  2. Very appropriate for us right now. Thanks for the reminder! (and by “us” I don’t mean “us” specifically, I mean “us” as a church. 🙂 ).

  3. beautifully worded! thank you for this post! wish they would let you stand up Sunday and share it 🙂 we are committed to our church and to the people in it, your church is your family. every one has a crazy family member or two but they dont become not family just because they arent doing what you want.

  4. Good stuff. I think you are right about a consumer mentality leading many people to leave churches. I think some of that is our consumer-driven culture, and some of that is due to the way we structure big churches in the West. We set up as big events, big programs, and Sunday mornings look like a theatrical performance. Compare that to the church in Acts. I think this only plays to the consumer mindset. But you are totally right about considering others first. How will leaving affect the body? If you see things are going wrong, don’t think God gave you the gift of criticism. It is time for servant-leadership and intercession.

    On the other hand, church membership is not a covenantal membership. If it were, your pastor would have broken the covenant 18 months ago when he left. So, we have to leave room for the Holy Spirit to move in people’s lives and move them on to new places. We see that in the NT with Paul and Priscilla and Aquila. Healthy churches should be losing people all the time as they have successfully equipped them to the point they can spread the Kingdom. This is taking the perspective of the church considering others (unbelievers) before themselves (the church). We have to look outward, because Christ died for the whole world.

    Thanks for your insights and leadership!

  5. In a day an age where only three things matter when it comes to conquering the evil one – the blood of the Lamb, word of our testimony (not our complaints) and as Jesus came to die, He calls us to die also

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