A few weeks back I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a post that said, “If your ‘church’ is cancelling services on Christmas day, find a new church.” Personally, I agree wholeheartedly that churches should not cancel services on Christmas day. However, I strongly disagree that this issue alone is a good reason to leave your church.
In recent weeks, I’ve seen a half dozen posts about when to stay at church and when to leave your church. So I’ve been thinking … What is a good reason to leave your church? As a pastor, I’ve had people leave my church to attend another church, and I’ve had people join my church from other churches. How do you know when such a move is justified and warranted? Here are 10 reasons to think about leaving your church.
- Persistent Heresy. I’m not talking about a one time slip of the tongue from the pulpit. I’m not talking about disagreement about minutia like the timing of the rapture or the best version of the Bible. I’m talking about persistent heresy being promoted by the leadership of your church. A denial of the Trinity, advocating works-based salvation, or rejecting the Bible’s sexual ethic would fall into this category.
- Lack of Gospel Focus. Many churches spend Sunday mornings talking about how to have a better family, how to be a better person, and how to prosper in life. If all you ever hear is a steady stream of moralism apart from the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ, it may be time to think about leaving. To be clear, I’m not talking about one sermon or lesson. Rather a consistent lack of emphasis on the gospel.
- Entertainment Worship. I realize this means different things to different people. What feels like performance to some feels genuine to others. However, if your church focuses more on stage performance than congregational participation, there’s a problem. To be clear, entertainment worship can happen in traditional churches and contemporary churches, and performers can wear skinny jeans or choir robes.
- Relocation. This is one of the more obvious situations where you may need to find a new church. Sometimes people move to a new community, a new neighborhood, or a new side of town. For some, relocation makes church involvement impossible. The geography is just too far. Yes you can drive for the main service, but real involvement is practically impossible. When this happens, consider looking for a new church.
- Missions Apathy. When it comes to missions, no two churches are alike. Some may excel at giving while others excel at going. Some may have vibrant local outreach programs while others are well connected overseas. You should not expect your church to conform to all of your missions preferences. What matters is a church being committed to make real sacrifices for the cause of missions.
- Different Convictions. The reality is that churches can change over time. The sad reality is that these changes are not always positive. I think about a Baptist church I know that drifted into theological liberalism over a period of several years. By the time anyone sounded the alarm, it was too late to go back. The-church-that-once-was no longer existed, and many members rightly decided to move on.
- No Discipleship. The Great Commission is a call to make disciples. That means every church should have a strategy for making disciples. Unfortunately, not all churches take this task seriously. I have friends who were saved in a large, well known church. However, they quickly felt like they had “outgrown” their church because there was no emphasis on discipleship. They rightly decided to find a place to grow.
- De-churched. From time to time I meet people who grew up in church, but for one reason or another stopped attending. Years go by. Circumstances change. Churches change. Perspectives change. Often those who want to get back into church fell like they need to make a new start in a new place. I certainly don’t mind the de-churched going to a new church as long as they’re going to a good church.
- God Given Opportunities. What if everything was great at your church, but you heard about a new church plant where you could contribute and serve in a unique way. Maybe your money or your talents or your experience could be a strategic help. I know people who have faced that situation, and I believe they rightly decided to leave their church to be a part of a new God-given opportunity.
- Missing Relationships. I’m not talking about people who sit in the corner, avoid eye-contact, then complain about not having any friends. I’m thinking about situations where relationships are almost impossible. One family I know just couldn’t make their schedule work with the church schedule, and relationships were impossible. I think their decision to find a new church was the right one.
I certainly don’t think anyone should be quick to leave their church, and I thoroughly hate the idea of “church-shopping.” However, I do think there are times to leave.
Originally published January 16, 2017 on landoncoleman.com.