There are many reasons people will leave their church. Although circumstances are different for each person, I believe there are four reasons that that are the most valid ones to warrant leaving a local church.
FOUR OF THE BEST REASONS
1) You or someone you know is being abused. We expect our churches to be safe places and most often they are but abuse does happen. It may come in many forms, the most common being physical, sexual and emotional abuse. However, there is another form of abuse that is getting more attention – spiritual abuse. There are many resources online that can help you recognize this form of abuse. Two websites you might find helpful are churchleaders.com (http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/155481-10-ways-to-spot-spiritual-abuse.html/ and the National Association for Christian Recovery (http://www.nacr.org/abuse/spiritual-abuse). If there is abuse, report it to the authorities and leave that church. If you are the victim, seeking professional help may be necessary.
2) God calls you to serve at another church. Some churches are short on volunteers. I appreciate the sacrifice of people who give up the comfort of their own church to serve a church that needs them more. Serving provides opportunities to use your gifts and to make a difference in the lives of others. It is one of the best ways to get to know a congregation. I have observed that people who are involved in a church are usually happier than those who just sit in the pew.
3) Your presence hinders growth in the church in general or in the lives of specific people. Some individuals make life miserable for others in the church because of their constant complaining, demands and lack of cooperation. Their leaving is like a breath of fresh air! There are other ways a person’s presence might hinder the growth of others. Attending the same church as an ex-spouse is one such case. Also, I know parents of adult children who chose to attend a different church so that their children would feel freer to get involved unhindered by their parents’ presence or opinions.
4) The teaching of the church is not biblical. There are different opinions on what is “biblical”. Common differences between denominations such as the role of women, church governance, and mode of baptism, are not core Christian doctrine. Rather than using these issues to determine if a church is biblical or not, use instead, a statement of basic Christian beliefs such as the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed. Whether or not a church uses these creeds in worship is irrelevant. The question is whether or not the church believes in the central Christian doctrines that are well stated in these historic Christian creeds.
REASONS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE LIST
You may be surprised at my short list. This is not an exhaustive list but I believe the reasons stated above are the best reasons to leave. Here are four common reasons for leaving a church:
I don’t like the preaching – Before leaving a church over the preaching, I suggest trying to be a better listener first. In the next blog post, I will suggest ways that you can make your pastor a better preacher. Also, Sunday morning is not the only time you have access to sermons. If you want excellent preaching, go online. There you can listen to preachers who have honed their craft and whose sole focus is preaching. Pastors of local congregations do not have that luxury. They have pastoral care responsibilities, teaching, meetings and many other responsibilities, not to mention the emergencies that arise. I used to say to my congregation, “If you want to hear an excellent sermon, go online. If you want to experience church, you need to come here.” Church is more than the preaching and to judge a church by Sundays’ sermons is short-sighted. A similar complaint to this is “I’m not being spiritually fed.” Before leaving a church based on this I would first make sure that you are taking responsibility to spiritually feed yourself. Today there are many resources available to help you do this.
I don’t like the music used for worship – The church is not there to cater to your preferences. Besides, these days we have 24/7 access to our favorite music online. I don’t feel the need to sing my favorite worship songs on Sunday mornings. I do that all week long. I have a playlist of favorite YouTube worship music videos that I listen to and sing along as loudly and as often as I wish!
The church is too inwardly focused – Some churches are focused too much on their own needs and comfort. If you are new to the church, your insights and ideas may be just what the church needs in order to see things from a different perspective. If you are not new but have not been in a position of leadership, offer to lead where you can make a difference. Try it before giving up on that church.
The church has nothing to offer me outside of Sunday morning. Some churches have little to offer individuals who are in the minority in their church. It might be a certain age group or demographic such as older singles or people who are divorced. Instead of expecting programs to fit your need why not start one? It might be possible to reach out to other churches in the area to find people with the same interests and needs without having to leave your church. For families though, I feel differently. Local churches need to support parents and provide suitable programs for teens and children. I have seen many parents bring their children to church only to find they have to teach their own children in Sunday School or children’s church because there are not enough volunteers. If our churches desire to reach the younger generation for Christ and nurture them in the faith we need to have programs and volunteers to provide for the spiritual needs of children and youth.
CAN YOU SPOT THE DIFFERENCE?
I hope you notice a basic difference between the first four reasons and the last four. I am not saying that the last four reasons are never good reasons to leave a church but I am suggesting that they do not automatically qualify as good reasons.
What do you think?
I’m interested in knowing what you think. I am writing from the perspective of a pastor (Can you tell?), so my perspective may be different from yours. Am I being too narrow or too harsh? Let me know. What are some of the valid reasons you’ve had for leaving a church?