Is there ever a good reason to leave your church? I found myself asking that question after coming across Aaron Loy’s article titled 5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church. My conclusion? I think there is.
While the decision to leave your church should never be made lightly, here are five reasons you might want to consider looking for a new congregation:
1. Your church makes you afraid.
If going to church causes anxiety, ask yourself why? If there are any signs of cultish behavior, secrecy, shaming, intimidation, bullying, or marginalizing of people in a way that makes you wonder who you can trust, you are not in a healthy place. Churches are called sanctuaries for a reason. They should be safe.
2. Your church makes you angry.
If you have any unresolved conflicts that are making it difficult for you to attend services or participate in church activities, and your efforts toward reconciliation have proven unsuccessful, it may be best to look for another congregation. Please note the caveat: your efforts toward reconciliation have proven unsuccessful.
Even if you have already decided to leave a congregation, you should attempt to reconcile relationships with anyone you have conflict with before leaving. But sometimes, even when reconciliation has been achieved, past hurts and painful memories may get in the way of your fully participating in the life of a congregation. If that is the case, it may be best for everyone if you moved on to a new place.
3. The sermons are life lessons, not biblical teachings.
If you are in a church where the sermons consist of life lessons or political and social commentaries rather than Biblical teaching and preaching, it might be time to go. This is not to say that there is no place within a sermon for life application or consideration of current events. For example, we anticipate that a Christian pastor will talk about the persecution of Christians or the devaluing of life by contemporary culture. But if sermons contain more social and political speak than they do Bible talk, you may want to ask whether you belong to a church or a political action group.
4. Your reasons for staying are not spiritual but temporal.
If you have come to realize that your church is not the best place to practice your faith, but you nevertheless remain because your children attend the attached school, it’s where all your friends go, or the facilities are state-of-the-art, you are staying for the wrong reasons. The primary goal of church membership is to be nourished in the faith. Everything else, as the saying goes, is gravy.
To stay for the gravy when there is no meat is to starve yourself of what you most need. The church down the road may not have professional-caliber musicians, a new building, or a nationally accredited school, but if it provides solid teaching and a caring community, you will not miss the rest.
5. There is corruption, abuse, or dishonesty among the leaders.
If you don’t believe you can trust your pastor, elders, or lay leaders — or there is an absence of accountability and transparency about how the work of the congregation is funded or carried out — you may want to ask yourself why such secrecy exists? A healthy congregation is one in which there is nothing to hide.
Certainly, it is important to protect the privacy of individuals in sensitive situations, but when it comes to the shared work of the congregation as a whole, all members should have input and access to information. When reasonable questions are evaded or not answered, it is fair to ask why.
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We live in a world dominated by a consumer mentality, and that mentality has invaded our churches, resulting too often in church shopping on the basis of style and surface considerations rather than substance. The decision to join a church should not be made lightly, and neither should the decision to leave. But sometimes there are compelling reasons to consider a change. If your church has become an obstacle or threat to your faith, that time may have arrived.
The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
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