There are a lot of good reasons for you to leave your current church. There are also a lot bad reasons for you to leave your current church. The fact is that if your church life isn’t messy and complicated then you aren’t doing it right. However, another fact is that if your church life isn’t refreshing and wonderful then you aren’t doing it right. This is how relationships work and your relationship with your church is no different. Like any relationship there will be seasons of pure joy, seasons of pure frustration, and seasons where everything seems pretty balanced.
Unfortunately, it’s the seasons of pure frustration that tend to drive people away from their churches, just like, unfortunately, people are often driven away from their spouses. But part of being in community together includes a commitment to one another through thick and thin, especially through the most frustrating times. To give up and leave your church when it gets difficult or messy is the easy thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.
It can be difficult to discern whether or not God is actually asking you to leave your church. Maybe you have wrestled with this before or are currently wrestling with it now. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you leave your church that I hope will help you sort through the mess and be able to discern what God is really asking of you.
1. Will I be able to walk with God closer and know him better if I leave?
This should be one of, if not the primary question in your mind as you are thinking about leaving your church. Nothing in this life matters more than your relationship with God. Nothing. Not even your relationship with your church. If you can say with confidence that you will be able to grow deeper in your relationship with God at another place, then it is possible God is asking you to leave. However, this should not be a license to leave just because you are struggling to grow. Most of the time the inability to grow spiritually lies within us, not within our church. If you are a true Christian but aren’t growing closer to God, then it is most likely your fault. If anything, the lack of growth in your life should drive you deeper into the Christian community that you already have in your home church, rather than away from it to seek it somewhere else. Before you abandon your church, think deeply about the answer to this question.
2. Would Jesus be pleased with my reasons for leaving?
“Well, I don’t get along with someone there Jesus, so I’m going to leave.” Jesus responds with Matthew 5:23-26.
“Well, I’ve been hurt by someone there so I’m going to leave.” Jesus responds with Matthew 6:15.
“Well, its just too heavy of a load to deal with all the struggles there, so I’m going to leave.” Jesus responds with Galatians 6:2.
“Well, I’m just really not getting what I need from that church, so I’m going to leave.” Jesus responds with Philippians 2:3-4.
I could keep going but I think you get the point. Most of the reasons that I hear from people leaving their church are not reasons that Jesus that would be happy about. When you enter into relationship with someone, or with a church, you have to take the good and the bad. No person is perfect and no church is perfect. If you are thinking about leaving your church because it isn’t perfect, search the Scriptures to see how Jesus would respond to finding out your reasons for leaving.
3. Have I done everything in my power to make things better?
Whether you are frustrated with the pastor, a specific person, a specific group of people, or something specific about the church as a whole – it would be childish and immature for you to leave if you have not done everything in your power to make it better. It does no good to whine about a problem or give up and leave if you have not offered a solution. More often than not, God puts frustration in our lives so that we can become sanctified and help sanctify those around us. Don’t allow your frustration to drive you to abandonment, let your frustration drive you to become more like Christ and help those you are frustrated with become more like Christ in the process.
4. Have I talked to church leadership about my frustrations?
Your pastors and other church leaders are probably frustrated by many of the same things you are. In fact, they are probably looking for people who feel the same way to help lead the charge to improve the situation. Even if your frustration is with the church leadership, you need to have the courage to express your frustrations to them and engage in a dialogue. By doing so, even if you decide to leave in the end, the church will be better off. Please don’t just leave your church without talking to your church leaders or at least explaining why.
5. Am I leaving to leave, or leaving because God has called me elsewhere?
God rarely, if ever, calls people away from something unless he is calling them to something else specific. When God called Abram away from his home and the only life he had ever known, he wasn’t just calling him away from Haran, he was calling him to Canaan (Genesis 12). When God called Paul away from his plans to preach in Asia, he also called him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16). Don’t leave your church just to get out. If God is calling you to leave, he is most likely calling you specifically to another community of believers. Make sure you aren’t leaving just to be somewhere else.
6. Will I be moving to another church, or to the couch?
Whatever your reasons for wanting to leave your church, one thing is certain – you are not better off on the couch at home. If you are going to leave your church, make sure you are getting involved in another gospel centered, Bible believing congregation. Too many people leave their church and never join another one. Similar to question 5, make sure that you have a plan to get involved in another church before you leave your current church.
Please don’t leave your church without asking yourself these questions, or questions like these. There is too much church shuffling going on in our churches these days and it is not healthy for the people or for the churches.
What thoughts do you have on this topic? What other questions would add to the list?