Leaving your church

Picture14Maybe you should leave your church.

How do you know if it’s time to move on? How do you know if yours is a good reason to leave?

I get these questions a lot.

Let’s begin with the obvious:

There are a host of bad reasons to leave your church.

Music style, dress code, worship volume, unresolved conflict, carpet color, and dissatisfaction are not good reasons to leave your church.

God uses the church to help us grow. At times, that will include growing pains. When you sacrifice your preferences for the sake of unity, you’re growing. When you’re forced to resolve conflict, you’re growing. When you ignore your strong consumer instincts and stay, you’re growing.

This isn’t Macy’s. You don’t just take your business elsewhere when you don’t get what you want.

So are there any good reasons to leave your church (besides a cross-country move)? I think so.

1) When you are called to go to another church for the sake of ministry. Pastors leave churches all the time. But this is not just for ministers. We’re currently planting a new church ~20 miles north of us. We’re actually asking folks to leave our church to help start this new work. If you’re confused about whether your situation qualifies, ask yourself: am I running AWAY from something or am I going TO something?

2) When the church leadership is no longer doctrinally pure. That does not mean they merely disagree with you. It means they err in a major field of orthodoxy (Trinity, deity of Christ, inspiration of Scripture, atonement, etc.).

3) When the church leadership is no longer morally pure. This does not mean they are perfect, but persist in unrepentant sin.

4?) When the church leadership is no longer feeding the sheep. This didn’t seem to be a big issue until the explosion of the seeker-driven movement. I’m still not 100% convinced this is a good reason to exit (notice the question mark?). But having seen my share of severely malnourished saints produced by this movement, I’m beginning to rethink my position.

Keep in mind, these are reasons to leave your church to go to another church. There is no good reason to quit church altogether.

The church is a gathering of Christ-followers for worship and equipping, who then disperse to light up a dark world with their life and message. You need the church, and the church needs you.

Find a church that is:

-God-honoring
-Christ-centered
-Bible-teaching
-Saint-equipping
-Kingdom-building

And remember that it will do all of these things imperfectly!

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16 responses to “Leaving your church

  • drairwolf

    Thanks for your thoughts. I do find that even some of the stuff you mentioned at the bottom- “Bible-teaching, etc” can be used for self-centered church going. It still subtly about “me”. I think we need a bigger change where people in our church ask, “Does this place give me an adequate place to use my gifts and passions to serve Him and others”? Or, “Does this church make a difference in our city”? I hope we can change how people view why they go to church in the first place and that will change why they will decide to leave or not leave a church.

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Certainly. Anything we can do to minimize self-centered church-going is progress. Very good thoughts.

  • afalston

    This sounds familiar: “am I running AWAY from something or am I going TO something?”

    I’m not sure if I should leave a πŸ™‚ or a :/

    Either way, thanks for posting.

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    I repeat myself a lot. That’s the risk of following a blog written by someone you know. I repeat myself a lot. [Did I already say that?]

    Thanks for weighing in, Ashley!

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Lot of wisdom in that man πŸ˜‰

    Jeff

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Reblogged this on Jeffrey E. Miller and commented:

    Reblogging an old post about “leaving your church” Let me know what you think!

  • cdyck

    Good thoughts….I was wondering about our music… πŸ˜‰

  • afalston

    Could you expound more on #3? “3) When the church leadership is no longer morally pure. This does not mean they are perfect, but persist in unrepentant sin.”

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    It’s the shortest explanation on purpose, Ashley. I think this is best handled case-by-case, rather than canonizing a list of sins or length of time that ultimately disqualifies.

    • afalston

      Let me ask some more specific questions about this paragraph:

      1. How does a typical congregation member recognize when a person in leadership is involved in “unrepentant sin? If you don’t feel comfortable answering that question, can you explain how it should be handled if a person suspects this might be the case?

      2. Is it okay for the typical congregation member to ask the person in leadership about it directly if the member has a good reason to suspect the leader may be “no longer morally pure” or is that supposed to be handled by elders/other leadership?

      3. If it is handled by other leadership, how does the member talk to the elders/leaders about it without gossiping. How can the member then know if it’s time to leave if they go through a third party and don’t talk to questionable leadership directly?

      4. Are there Biblical symptoms of true repentance? How does a person recognize true repentance versus just saying “I’m sorry”?

      5. What do you mean by “a length of time that ultimately disqualifies?” Does that mean that the person continues in some moral impurity for a length of time without repenting or that the person claims to repent over and over again for a certain length of time but keeps doing it anyway?

      6. Finally, I realize that you can’t give an exhaustive list of what is “no longer morally pure” behavior, but I bet you had a few ideas in mind when you wrote this paragraph or at least some specific scriptures you were thinking of. Can you point us to those scriptures or give some general basic examples?

      Yes, I know they are hard questions. If they were easy to answer, I probably wouldn’t need to ask them. Disclaimer: You asked people to weigh in, or I wouldn’t be!

      Thanks!

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Ashley, I think your #2 is critical. The plurality of leaders in the church are the ones who decide whether to remove or retain the leader in question. That’s one perspective (which would require another series of blog posts that would answer your #4, #5, and #6 in particular). My blog was written from the members’ perspective. If the leader in question is not to be removed in the judgment of the plurality of the leaders, the member who cannot in good conscience continue to worship there should remove themselves from fellowship. That’s really my point.

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Thanks, Ashley. I’m certain these are genuine questions you have. Forgive me if you thought I was promising a series to answer your questions. I’m not.

  • Jeffrey E. Miller

    Ashley, there’s a reason you can’t find what you’re looking for on Bible.org–even with millions of pages of content. Your questions, I think, must be answered on a case-by-case basis. So any article that’s helpful is going to be in response to a specific situation.

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