In an article entitled “When It’s Time to Leave a Church” H. B. Charles Jr writes:
I detest church hopping. Yet I accept the fact that there are times when Christians transfer church membership. But there is a proper time and way to leave a church.
What are the legitimate reasons for leaving a church? When is the right time to leave a church? How should one leave a church to join another?
Red Lights: Wrong Reasons for Leaving a Church
Here are seven wrongs reasons for leaving a church.
Sin. Someone has sinned. Maybe it was a leader. Is this a good reason to leave? No. It does not promote holiness to leave because of sin. There was gross sin 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). We should respond to sinning brothers with restoration, not amputation (Galatians 6:1-5).
Disagreements over secondary doctrinal issues. Biblical convictions matter. But don’t be willing to die on every hill. Contend earnestly for the faith (Jude). But don’t break fellowship over every disagreement about scripture. Paul advised Timothy, “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness…” (2 Timothy 2:14-16)
Disunity. God hates those who sow discord among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19). But evidence of salvation is love for your brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 3:14). And this love is demonstrated by preserving the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). Don’t jump ship because you can’t get along with others. You will only have the same problem at the next church. “Do nothing from selfish ambition of conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself” (Philippians 2:3).
Personal offenses. There will be times when Christians sin against one another. What then? Leaving is not the answer. Moving every time you are (or feel) wronged will only lead multiple church transitions. Or you will remain at the fringes of the church, which is just as bad. Jesus gives the answer: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15). These simple instructions could jump-start revival in many churches. But what if he doesn’t listen? Turn up the pressure (18:16-20).
Unwillingness to submit to authority. Aaron was more spiritual than Moses. And Joshua was a better leader. But the rod was in Moses’ hand. Don’t fight those the Lord puts in leadership over you. Of course, you should not sit under unbiblical, immoral, or abusive leadership. But there is a way to deal with disqualified leaders (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Without a doubt, you should hold your pastors accountable. But don’t handcuff the spiritual leaders of the church to personal preferences, empty traditions, or unbiblical priorities. Let the leaders lead. And be willing to follow (Hebrews 13:7, 17).
A low view of the church. There is no chapter and verse that commands you to be a church member. But scripture teaches by what it assumes, just as much as it teaches by what is commands. There is no biblical category for an “unchurched Christian.” The apostles would have asked, “Why are you calling her a Christian if she is not a part of the church? Christ is the head of the church. And he does not have out-of-body experiences. You cannot be connected to the head and disconnected from the body. Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25-27). And to love Christ is to love what he loves.
Disregard for truth. Paul charged Timothy to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2). He then warned that faithfulness to the charge would cause some to flee: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Faithful preaching will drive some away from the church. But they will not go home. They will find a church where the preacher will tickle their ears. Don’t let that be you. If you are under sound teaching and faithful preaching, for God’s sake, stay put!
Green Lights: When it’s Time to Leave a Church
Here are three basic and acceptable reasons for leaving a church. Continue reading