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5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church

There are good reasons to change churches, but there are a lot more bad reasons.

Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.

If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Your primary call in the church is to contribute, not just to consume.

To leave a church because you’re not getting "enough" is a cop out. Your primary call in the church is to contribute, not just to consume. As a Christian, you shouldn’t require spoon-feeding for the rest of your life. Eventually you need to learn how to feed yourself so that, in time, you can actually feed others. Remember, your call is not just to be a disciple but to make disciples.

2. “It’s getting too big”

I can appreciate the sense of loss that accompanies growth. When we first began, our church was little more than a small band of brothers and sisters meeting together in a living room. It feels very different now that we are a church of a few hundred people spread across multiple services. There are moments when I miss the intimacy and simplicity of those early days. But remaining small is a sad and unbiblical goal.

When churches are faithful to the Great Commission, lives will be changed and people will be added to their number. It may not happen rapidly, but growth is sometimes inevitable for faithful churches, given a long enough timeline. If you have a problem with big churches, you really wouldn’t have liked the first church, and you definitely won’t like heaven.

3. “I don’t agree with everything that is being preached”

You know what? Neither do I and I’m the pastor. As such I fully reserve the right to disagree with myself. And every now and then I do exactly that. Why? Because I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m asking questions. And my hope is that those I pastor are doing likewise.

If you insist that your pastor agree with you on every little thing under the sun, you are going to either hop from church to church for the rest of your life in perpetual disappointment or you will eventually give up and drop out altogether. Chances are you are not going to agree with everything that is preached anywhere. As long as your pastor isn’t preaching outright heresy, you can afford to disagree on secondary issues.The truth is when you choose to stay despite disagreeing on some things, you, your pastor and your church are better for it.

4. “My Needs Aren’t Being Met”

When someone lists this as a reason for leaving it is a dead giveaway that somewhere along the way they came to believe that the Church actually exists to serve their needs. They’ve bought into the lie that, when it comes to church, it’s really about “me.” Here’s the problem: the Church actually isn’t about you. It’s about Jesus. It’s his Church. He came for it. He died for it. He redeemed it. He continues to build it. And one day, he’ll come back for it. It’s his.

The Church doesn’t exist to meet your needs. You are a part of the Church that exists to meet the needs of the world.

This is the same Jesus who came to seek and to save the lost and then commissioned his Church to go and do the same. The Church doesn’t exist to meet your needs. You are a part of the Church that exists to meet the needs of the world. Put away the shopping cart and pick up a shovel.

5. Unresolved Conflict

Wherever you find the community of sinning saints you will find conflict. Lots of it. The Church is one big family full of characters and misfits. Sometimes sisters argue. Sometimes brothers fight. Sometimes you want to bury your weird uncle in the backyard. But despite it all, family is supposed to be the place where you stick together. Even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

Paul addressed a lot of church conflict in his letters. No where do I hear him encouraging believers to bail on one another or move on down the road to a different church where it’ll be easier. Instead, much of his letters are his encouraging and coaching these ragamuffin communities in how to do this very hard and messy thing together.

When we leave at first sign of real conflict, it shortchanges God’s best work in our midst. It sidesteps the process of repentance, forgiveness and grace. It negates the power of the Gospel to bring reconciliation where reconciliation might seem impossible. We and those around us miss out on all of it when we just leave.

I do know that not all conflict is resolvable. I know that reconciliation is impossible where there is no repentance. I get that. But remember, repentance starts with us. And so does the extending of grace. And when we resolve to stick around and keep on repenting and extending grace, I think God can do far more than we often give Him credit for. Some of God’s best work happens in the mess.

An earlier version of this article appeared on aaronloy.com

Top Comments

John O'rourke

1

John O'rourke commented…

I would like to make a comment on the following statement: "The Church doesn’t exist to meet your needs. You are a part of the Church that exists to meet the needs of the world"

First of all, this is an excellent article that has many excellent and valid points of argument. It actually reminds me a bit of John F. Kennedy's statement: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

The primary goal of the church is to go into the world and preach the gospel. This goal was given by the Lord Jesus Christ in the great commission. Another reason we should look at this great commision is the fact that Life is short like a vapour that appears and then is gone. We have no time to lose in this commission. However, we need to look at this statement very closely and see if it matches up with scripture.

When we look at God's word, we see that the goal is to meet the needs of others,and in saying that we can't do that without our OUR NEEDS being met first. This isn't selfish, but on the contrary is "spiritual common sense" (a phrase which i coined :-).

When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to Peter, He said: "Feed my Sheep". He wasn't talking at that time about the whole human race, but His sheep. Who are His Sheep?...me and the rest of the body of Christ, ie. those who are elected to salvation.

When we look at Galatians chapter 6, we read " we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"

All people are mentioned here, but there is an emphasis on the "household of faith". If you are going to a church and you are not being fed spiritually or indeed physically (...let's look at Acts chapter 6..".In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food."...)

then you need to talk to the church leadership. In Acts, we see that there was seven men chosen. This pleased the Lord and all the people and their needs were met. As stated above, the Lord said to Peter to feed his sheep. He said it three times.

In conclusion folks, a church is a place where your whole person (Spirit, Soul and Body) is being fed so that you can be equipped to meet the needs of others.

Heather Brandenburg

1

Heather Brandenburg commented…

I must completely disagree with this, here’s why.

1. "You’re not being fed." Though I understand you are saying don’t give up when you aren’t getting what you need, what if you’re attending a church that tells you there is no hell? What if you attend a church where the preacher says they will perform gay marriage, yet you know that is explicitly wrong according to the bible. OR vice versa (and this is where we extend ourselves)....what if you believe, as some congregations do that gay people SHOULD be ordained or married, and your church doesn’t practice that etc… then you aren’t being fed and you need to leave. Personally, I believe what the bible says about homosexuality, YET I don’t believe in enforcing that on others--I just follow it myself...yet--if you aren’t being fed you NEED to leave.

2. "It’s getting too big." You make the point that you should stick with a church that’s growing because that means they are doing what God wants and they are “faithful.” I must disagree again...I know lots of mega churches that preach prosperity doctrine which is complete antithesis to what Christ said about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God. He also said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven AND--do not do as the pharisees do, putting on airs and gold robes and going about praying in public--because they have received their reward--the honor of fellow men staring at how faithful they are or how big their new Audi/Lexus/church is...not the honor of God.

3. “I don’t agree with everything that is being preached,” again, please reference point #1. You say, that you yourself don’t even agree with everything that is being preached--but what about the church that preaches false doctrine, or threatens people? I was part of a church where the pastor would torture people from the pulpit using the word of God against others for their own personal control and manipulation of others. Hey--I didn’t agree with that preacher’s misogyny, hatred etc… so I left. Good reason to leave--if you don’t agree with everything being preached OR the preacher.

4. “My needs aren’t being met.” You make the point that the church is about Christ--YES! It is--but Christ SERVED people during his entire mission on earth. IN fact he said real leadership on earth is to serve. The last shall be first and the first shall be last and YES--there are damaged people, who were raped by preachers and pastors, taken advantage of, or hurt! Or people who were hurt by their fathers and mothers--raped/beaten?!? Or people who have been through wars, or internal struggles or their own sin and they NEED LOVE! If you aren’t giving that--then they have every right to leave!

5. “Unresolved Conflict.” It says in the bible that who-so-ever has a problem with a brother should leave their gift at the altar and then be reconciled with their brother/sister. Go first to them in person, if they won’t listen, then bring another believer, if they then won’t listen, bring them before the elders. I lived for years in an abusive church, where the minister thought he was “God.” He would even refer to the church as if it were his church, saying, for example, “That isn’t going to happen in Bill’s church…” Not “God’s church,” mind you...but “his.” That was the first clue I needed to leave. I waited and got abused further. When I did confront him personally he told me he was the “good guy,” and I must be mistaken. According to the bible there are no “good guys,” that’s why we need Christ. The minister was a liar. Sometimes you have to leave because you, or others, are being abused and will continue to be abused due to “Unresolved Conflict.”

In conclusion--your “essay” tells people to stay in abusive systems, when you, sir, obviously have no clue how abusive your system can actually be...

236 Comments

Linda Pate

1

Linda Pate commented…

Remember God is Love. As long as you have Love in your heart you have God in your heart. A church is just another building unless it's body is filled with "love". You can be a Christian with or without a church. Have faith, read the Bible and God will give you answers through the Holy Spirit.

Heather Brandenburg

1

Heather Brandenburg commented…

I must completely disagree with this, here’s why.

1. "You’re not being fed." Though I understand you are saying don’t give up when you aren’t getting what you need, what if you’re attending a church that tells you there is no hell? What if you attend a church where the preacher says they will perform gay marriage, yet you know that is explicitly wrong according to the bible. OR vice versa (and this is where we extend ourselves)....what if you believe, as some congregations do that gay people SHOULD be ordained or married, and your church doesn’t practice that etc… then you aren’t being fed and you need to leave. Personally, I believe what the bible says about homosexuality, YET I don’t believe in enforcing that on others--I just follow it myself...yet--if you aren’t being fed you NEED to leave.

2. "It’s getting too big." You make the point that you should stick with a church that’s growing because that means they are doing what God wants and they are “faithful.” I must disagree again...I know lots of mega churches that preach prosperity doctrine which is complete antithesis to what Christ said about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God. He also said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven AND--do not do as the pharisees do, putting on airs and gold robes and going about praying in public--because they have received their reward--the honor of fellow men staring at how faithful they are or how big their new Audi/Lexus/church is...not the honor of God.

3. “I don’t agree with everything that is being preached,” again, please reference point #1. You say, that you yourself don’t even agree with everything that is being preached--but what about the church that preaches false doctrine, or threatens people? I was part of a church where the pastor would torture people from the pulpit using the word of God against others for their own personal control and manipulation of others. Hey--I didn’t agree with that preacher’s misogyny, hatred etc… so I left. Good reason to leave--if you don’t agree with everything being preached OR the preacher.

4. “My needs aren’t being met.” You make the point that the church is about Christ--YES! It is--but Christ SERVED people during his entire mission on earth. IN fact he said real leadership on earth is to serve. The last shall be first and the first shall be last and YES--there are damaged people, who were raped by preachers and pastors, taken advantage of, or hurt! Or people who were hurt by their fathers and mothers--raped/beaten?!? Or people who have been through wars, or internal struggles or their own sin and they NEED LOVE! If you aren’t giving that--then they have every right to leave!

5. “Unresolved Conflict.” It says in the bible that who-so-ever has a problem with a brother should leave their gift at the altar and then be reconciled with their brother/sister. Go first to them in person, if they won’t listen, then bring another believer, if they then won’t listen, bring them before the elders. I lived for years in an abusive church, where the minister thought he was “God.” He would even refer to the church as if it were his church, saying, for example, “That isn’t going to happen in Bill’s church…” Not “God’s church,” mind you...but “his.” That was the first clue I needed to leave. I waited and got abused further. When I did confront him personally he told me he was the “good guy,” and I must be mistaken. According to the bible there are no “good guys,” that’s why we need Christ. The minister was a liar. Sometimes you have to leave because you, or others, are being abused and will continue to be abused due to “Unresolved Conflict.”

In conclusion--your “essay” tells people to stay in abusive systems, when you, sir, obviously have no clue how abusive your system can actually be...

David Thorne

40

David Thorne replied to Heather Brandenburg's comment

Heather, I appreciate where you're coming from. I know there are churches that are unhealthy and controlling. I don't believe the point of the article is to encourage people to stay at your present church- no matter what! If a church is hurtful in anyway- you need to leave. But, I would guess that most churches aren't that- and that's the heart of this article. Most people leave churches for the simple reasons stated in the article- but the true reason is selfishness. We think think the church is all about serving "us". I see it all the time in church. You have the Christians who understand that the church is a place to serve and lead and give to others and they understand that that's spiritual growth. Then you have the Christians who think the church's job is to spoon feed them each week and they leave discussing if they were adequately entertained. This second person leaves many perfectly good churches, looking for the next one that will entertain them a little more than the last. This is not the purpose of church. And this is very different from the abusive church you're responding too. I totally agree with leaving the church you're were talking about. www.refuelblog.com

Madilyn

1

Madilyn commented…

I would just like to say that a church being too big is a perfectly legitimate reason for leaving it. It has nothing to do with not wanting to share God's word, it's more about the sense of belonging. If you don't feel like you belong and can connect at your church, then it's not the right one for you. Personally I have trouble forming a connection not only with God, but with His people when I am in a large group setting. It's intimidating to me and instead of focusing on God, I end up getting distracted. Not to mention that crowds make me anxious. And to say that because I don't like big churches I won't like Heaven is an ungodly, conceited, condescending and presumptuous thing to say. What do YOU know about Heaven? The Bible states that Heaven is a thing beyond human comprehension. We as man cannot and should not begin to tell people what Heaven is and how it relates to our experiences on Earth. It is not our place. Do not criticize people for their personal preference in church sizes. That is such a petty and irrelevant thing to focus on.

Adam Peterson

3

Adam Peterson commented…

So when should you leave the church? Other than moving away it seems like there is no way out--which really puts the pressure on picking the right church in the first place, but that's probably a different discussion--so what would be a legitimate reason for leaving the church? Is it possible for any of these reasons to be founded on a depth of spiritual analysis?

janet ireland

5

janet ireland commented…

yes why do you want to go in the first place?
It was never an option for me I got taken.
I would not have attended that particular one if it had been my choice.

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