I don’t think that what I am about to say is going to be much of a surprise. The truth is we live in a consumer society. The wisdom of the day tells us as soon as your needs or tastes are no longer satisfied or fulfilled, you are no longer obligated to remain loyal.
Now this approach to life makes sense when it comes to fast food restaurants or brands of toilet paper, but not when it comes to Church. What I have experienced and observed over the last several years is that people, unfortunately, treat their church as if it was just another brand. Once their tastes or perceived needs go unmet or unfulfilled, they leave and go shopping for a new brand that will satisfy them.
Here’s how I have seen it go down: The slightest amount of discomfort or difference in preference leads people to jump ship and begin shopping for the elusive “perfect for me” church. Now, there are good reasons to leave a church. A couple examples are if the church abandons orthodoxy or if they are more focused on politics, morals, or becoming like a country club than being focused on the Gospel and worshipping Jesus.
There are good reasons to leave a church, however, there are also bad reasons. Here are three bad reasons to leave your current church.
1. The people are not like me!
Leaving your church in search of people like you undermines the gospel to unify people across natural dividing lines. One the many countercultural differences that the Christian church has with the world is that it brings people with different backgrounds together. In fact, this is what the Gospel does.
The truth is when you are a part of a church, you will most likely be sitting, singing, listening, and participating in a community group with people who you would not normally choose to interact with. And let’s face it, that can be awkward and frankly downright frustrating. However, do not let the awkwardness and the fact that people are different from you allow you to leave and begin searching for a church full of people exactly like you.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5–6 ESV).
In Romans 15, Paul prayed that the church would live in harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus. Paul is praying Jesus’ prayer found in John 17:22. He is praying that we would be one and united together in agreement with Jesus’ desire for us.
2. A broken relationship.
People are messy. We are all broken and sinful people in need of God’s grace. If you have been committed to a local church for a period of time, then you will know that it doesn’t take long before you experience relational tension. Let’s just be honest, whether you hurt someone or they hurt you, the easiest thing to do is to run and disappear. Don’t!
Your first inclination may be to bail as soon as you get uncomfortable. Past experience may tell you that the slightest conflict equals the end of relationship. If all you are doing is dating the church without investment or commitment, you may be tempted to simply move on as soon as the initial fondness starts to fade. After all, there’s another church down the road.
But just like in the covenant of marriage, growth happens when we stay true to our commitment, address sin and conflict, and allow ourselves to be challenged and stretched. That is where sanctification happens. That is where disciples are made. That is also where real joy is found.
Paul writes in Romans 5:1:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus has reconciled us to God. This means that because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we who were once God’s enemies by grace through faith in Jesus we now have peace.
Being at peace with God allows us to come before Him clean and pure in His sight. In Christ, we no longer stand guilty as sinners before God, but rather we stand completely cleansed.
Christianity is not an individual sport. To be a Christian is to belong to a body with others. It is to be linked together with other members of God’s family. And when there is tension between a brother or sister, we must pursue peace with them.
You see, being at peace with one another is important because it tangibly shows that we have experienced peace with God and that we clearly understand the Gospel. Also, the watching world gets a glimpse of the love, mercy and grace of God.
I love what Pastor Matt Chandler says,
“If you view church as some sort of…buffet, then you severely limit the likelihood of your growing into maturity. Growth into godliness can hurt. For instance, as I interact with others in my own local body, my own slothfulness in zeal is exposed, as is my lack of patience, my prayerlessness, and my hesitancy to associate with the lowly (Rom. 12:11-16). Yet this interaction also gives me the opportunity to be lovingly confronted by brothers and sisters who are in the trenches with me, as well as a safe place to confess and repent. But when church is just a place you attend without ever joining, like an ecclesiological buffet, you just might consider whether you’re always leaving whenever your heart begins to be exposed by the Spirit, and the real work is beginning to happen.”
3. The ___________ (fill in the blank) is not your preferred style.
The laundry list of tastes and preferences is real. This might sound harsh ,but I believe one of the main reasons people leave a church due to preference is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.
Here are some real quotes from people who left churches I’ve led:
- “The worship pastor is refusing to listen to me about the songs and music I want.”
- “I don’t like the new preacher’s preaching style.”
- “I am not being fed.”
- “No I am not in a community group but I still don’t understand why no one visited me when I was sick.”
- “ I am tired of being a part of a mobile church.”
I think the mentality of leaving a church over a preference is born out of a misunderstanding that being a part of a church means attending a service on Sunday created to meet ones needs rather than being a part of a body of believers living on mission together who happen to gather on Sundays in order to encourage each other as they rehearse and respond to the Gospel.
I know I said three, but here’s a bonus one for free.
Someone sinned in the church. Is it ok to leave? What if it was a leader in the church?
No. It is not ok.
There was some pretty rough stuff going down in the church of Corinth. But Paul commanded the church to deal with the sinning member, not leave the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). When Paul bids the saints to “come out from among them,” he was talking about the world, not the church (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
I love what Pastor H.B. Charles says, “We should respond to sinning brothers with restoration, not amputation” (Galatians 6:1-5).
Finally, I am going to end with an expert from the book Gospel 101 by Jeff Dodge.
“The theology of the gospel must point us to the church. Why? All who embrace the gospel are immediately birthed into the new community of the church. The church is our new home. Fellow believers are our new adoptive family. In the gospel, we are not just united to Christ, we are united to His church. We are called to find the believers around us and be discipled by them in order to become more like Christ.”
In an age of bold individualism and autonomy, Christians in the 21st Century need this gospel reorientation. Jesus Christ died and rose again for us, not simply for me.”