From the book, What People Ask About The Church, by Dale A. Robbins
There are many things that can cause a person to consider leaving a
church some good and some not so good. Many times the Lord may reassign a person to
another church so he or she can bring ministry or encouragement to another congregation
that's the best reason to leave a church. In other situations, people may discover
that their church actually impedes their spiritual well-being, and may find the necessity
to withdraw. Frequently, people leave a church simply because they are disinterested,
dissatisfied, or feel they can find something better.
Before doing anything, it's a good idea to pray about your situation
and seek the Lord's leading (Prov. 3:6). If you feel the Lord genuinely wants you to leave
and go elsewhere for good reason, go to the pastor and discuss it with him. Don't just
stop showing up for church. That is inconsiderate and immature. Keep in mind, leaving one
church always means finding another the Lord does not lead anyone to simply stop
going to church (Heb. 10:25).
My advice to you is, if you are presently in a church that (1) is
scripturally sound, (2) is reasonably stable and loving, (3) has godly, moral leadership,
(4) is doing its best to exalt Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and (5) if they're making
a reasonable effort to minister to you and your family, then hang in there and remain
faithful! You don't know how blessed you are to have a healthy church like that. Many
Christians would give anything to just find a church that is merely at peace!
If you're unhappy with a church which fits this fivefold
description, it's very likely that the problem isn't the church, but yours. Either you're
hung up on some trivial issue, your feelings have been hurt, or you struggle with
discontent from other personal problems.
Seven things to consider before leaving a church:
(1) Don't leave a church out of your personal discontent. If
discontent is rooted within you, it will follow you wherever you go, regardless of what
church you attend. Many years ago, a certain lady who had attended our church for a few
weeks came to speak with me. "Your church is so refreshing from all the other
churches around here," she complimented. Curious, I asked, "Just how many other
churches have you attended?" "Oh, about thirteen," was her reply.
Privately, I realized that we were going to have problems with this new lady, because when
it comes down to the basics, most Christian churches aren't that much different from each
other. Whenever a person finds dissatisfaction with several congregations, you can be
assured that the problem is their own, not the churches. And sure enough, the woman
eventually became discontent and left our church too, the same as the previous thirteen.
(2) Don't leave a church because you transferred your own
personal frustrations there. Avoid pushing off your feelings of disappointment
from other areas of your life onto the church. Sometimes unhappiness toward the church is
a derivative from other personal problems such as: Family or marital difficulties, job
dissatisfaction, personal offenses, memories of childhood abuse, mental stress, emotional
illness, and so forth. People who struggle with deep internal problems sometimes develop a
distorted estimation of the people or situations around them, and may blame them,
including the church, for their anguish. Generally speaking, the church is not your
problem. Remember that it and its ministers are there because they love you and want to
help you not hurt you.
(3) Don't leave a church because your feelings got hurt.
Hurt feelings are a "violation of self interests" and are usually a result of
being too self-sensitive. In any church or gathering of people there may be many offensive
things said or done, mostly unintended, but you don't have to let yourself become
offended. Those who are easily offended may simply be immature, too self-centered, or may
retain self-sensitivities due to past, festering wounds. Hurt feelings are probably the
greatest reason why people leave churches, but deepening your roots in Christ and His word
can immunize you against such tenderness. "Great peace have they which love thy law:
and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165 KJV).
(4) Don't leave a church over trivial criticisms.
People sometimes have a remarkable ability of making a mountain out of molehill. I've
known people to change churches merely because they didn't like the way the pastor combed
his hair, the length of the services, how the bulletin was typed, or other silly reasons.
Of the many excuses that persons use to leave a church, this is among the most shallow. If
all you seem to do is criticize and find fault with the church, you have an attitude
problem. Regardless of where you go to church, you'll find similar faults again, because
the problem isn't with the church the problem is with you.
(5) Avoid leaving a church over its style or individuality.
One of the most common explanations people give for switching churches is their
"disagreement with certain beliefs." However, I can recall many instances where
people used this reason even though their newly selected church believed and taught the
same things. In reality, it was a dislike of the personality of the church its
teaching methods, the style of worship, the structure of the services, or the pastor's
preaching style, etc. Many churches actually believe and teach the same things, but each
might have a slightly different method, structure, or style which makes up its unique
personality. No two churches are alike in their personality or methods, any more than two
people are alike, but it's not really very mature to abandon a church over such, shallow,
external things. Our estimation of a church should be based on more spiritual, substantive
issues, such as their beliefs, their love for one another, or their commitment to reach
the lost, etc.
(6) Don't leave a church when faced with self conflict.
Many people do not understand that spiritual growth requires confronting and overcoming
conflict with our self-willed nature (James 1:3-4). The environment of the church provides
two important features of growth producing conflict: (a) Authority who will challenge you
with truth and correct you when you are wrong. And (b) an environment of believers, many
of whom are imperfect and whose rough edges will serve as sandpaper to smooth out your
wrinkles. "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his
friend" (Prov. 27:17).
If anyone thinks he is spiritual, just get close to your brethren,
and you'll find out what's really inside you. People are like "mirrors" in which
we can see ourselves as we really are. If there's bitterness or a lack of love, it will
become exposed. It doesn't matter how agitating, rude or unspiritual your brethren might
be. This does not justify your intolerance or impatience with them. These attitudes are
characteristics of your own immaturity a weakness in YOU that needs perfecting.
This is why some people run from church to church because it exposes their bad
side. They see their own sins and blemishes revealed in their relationship with the
brethren, or they become outraged when their self-willed desires or sins are challenged
through convicting preaching or correction.
If people remain "islands" to themselves they will never
have to face the spiritual immaturity within them. But exposing themselves to the
environment of the church will cause them to face conflicts that they must overcome in
order to grow up. A sign of spiritually mature people is that they can be loving and
patient with anyone (1 John 2:10, Gal. 5:22-23), and they can humbly submit themselves to
truth and the correction of authority (Heb. 13:17).
(7) Don't leave a church until you have attempted to help
make it better in some way. I have always noticed that the most critical people
in the church are usually the ones who do the least. Have you prayed faithfully for the
church and its leaders? Have you made yourself available to serve or help in areas of
ministry? Have you expressed helpful suggestions or brought your concerns to the
leadership (in a non-judgmental fashion)?
Go to the leadership and share your heart, but avoid dishing out
harsh criticism, verbal assaults, or nagging complaints. These will only cause a leader to
become defensive and withdraw. It will not encourage him to improve or change, any more
than a nagging wife can change her husband. All leaders know what it is to deal with
constant criticism, and the only way they can rise above discouragement to do their job is
to ignore their critics. If a leader perceives you to be a complainer, he'll immediately
turn you off. He may politely listen, but inwardly will identify you as a trouble-maker.
However, if he perceives you as a caring person who offers encouragement and helpful
suggestions, his heart will remain open and he'll listen.
Never spread your "unhappiness," criticism or dissatisfaction to members of the body this doesn't do anything to help, and stirs up discord in the church, a sin God hates (Prov. 6:19). If you can't keep from spreading your discontent to others, sadly, it may be in your best interest and for the peace of the congregation, for you to move on to another church. Compassionate leaders who are unable to reason with such persons would be wise, and justified by scripture, to encourage their departure from the fellowship. "Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; yes, strife and reproach will cease" (Prov. 22:10).
This article is copyrighted © by Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, .
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