5 Really Good Reasons to Leave Your Church

Don’t shop around for a church based on style, but don’t stay at one lacking substance.

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.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Cheryl Magness
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  • Clint_W

    I wonder how the Sermon on the Mount would stack up against #3.

    • bakabomb

      You beat me to that comment and expressed it succinctly. Christians are supposed to work to bring God’s kingdom to pass in the here and now, and our pastors do well to guide us accordingly. The issue isn’t so much the degree of social/political content, but rather the tone and tenor of it. “Churches” like Westboro Baptist are on the far end of that spectrum — if the message is conveyed judgmentally, is full of disparagement or even hatred, start looking elsewhere.

      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Sorry,”Bakabomb”but I see nothing in the “Sermon on the Mount”to suggest that Christians have any such mandate as you suggest.The”Kingdom of God” is called that for a reason:It will be a Kingdom in which Almighty God will reign AS KING! Seriously,people? The Gospel’s purpose is to seek out and gather in the citizens of said Kingdom;Our Saviour Himself will usher the Kingdom in,and He won’t need any human help to do that.You’d better re-read your Bibles again,especially the Book of Revelations.Christians are fragmented among many,many denomination;the idea that we are commissioned to bring to fruition the Kingdom of God has to be some kind of unfunny joke,or should be.

        • bakabomb

          My Bible consists of more than the Sermon on the Mount and RevelatioN (singular). It includes, for example:

          ” Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” — James 1:27

          The first few generations of Christians fully anticipated the return of Christ in their lifetimes, the resurrection of the dead, the Final Judgment and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. None of those things happened, nor have they happened to this day, 2000 years later. Yet widows and orphans — and millions upon millions of others — continue to suffer in their distress.

          So I’ll never be convinced that Christians have no business trying to right the wrongs of our global societies, or to aid those in need of sustenance or justice. My Bible tells me otherwise.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Hmm…Respectfully,Bakabomb,I believe that you and I are talking at cross-purposes here.The debate here is not about the duties attendant upon the saints as we travel through this”vale of tears”;no.My contention is that whatever the early Christians mistakenly believed about the supposed immanent advent of God’s Kingdom,it was neither they then nor we now who were tasked to bring said Kingdom about,and the Scriptures doesn’t teach otherwise.I concur wholeheartedly with you that God’s people should indeed be working in the sense of which Scripture says they should.But as long as humanity is in its current state,neither Christians or any human beings under ANY denominational construct will ever realize the manifestation of The Kingdom of God in any meaningful sense.That’s simply not something that weak,fallible, sinful human beings,Christians or otherwise can do.Look around you,Bakabomb.In what sense does our present even REMOTELY resemble any logical concept of a kingdom over which Almighty God is reigning? When has it ever? No,Bakabomb…I’m fully aware of what Our Saviour called upon us to engage in while we are here,and our activities should reflect the heart of those called to be citizens of His coming Kingdom,but ask yourself this : Why would there even be widows,orphans,and/or suffering of ANY KIND in a realized Kingdom of God over which HE is reigning? According to the Book of Revelations,such conditions will NOT exist,and The Saviour will be the One who will bring this about,NO ONE ELSE.That is what we all of us look forward to;in the meantime,as Our Saviour said in Matthew 25 :31-40-that’s what we,the citizens of the coming Kingdom already prepared for us-those are our”marching orders” until the Kingdom is manifest.—God bless you,Bakabomb,and keep on proclaiming the coming Kingdom,and showing yourself to be a citizen of it!!

  • http://discover-thetruth.blogspot.com/ HopeLawrence

    I left my church some years ago, not because of any of these reasons, but then I came back and saw it differently. There are a few things I’m uncomfortable with, like “evangelizing” means simply inviting someone to church rather than tell the unbeliever about Jesus and a few other things where it seems that this particular church has been placed above Jesus Himself. It’s come to a point where I go because I’m expected to be there for service and any ministry I’m in… could it be the particular church I’m a part of or me because I’m going through quite a spiritual battle.

  • http://www.TheBibleSpeakstoYou.com/ James Early

    Thanks for sharing this. I think a lot of people wrestle with whether to leave their church or not. Above all, I think there has to be a lot of prayer. We can’t just make a formula out of these 5 points and say, “Well, I guess it’s time to leave my church because I don’t get along with someone or I was treated poorly, or they are becoming cultish, etc.” I think it’s really important to pray about this decision and follow God’s guidance. It may be right to leave, but when? Ask God. Maybe you can help bring healing to the situation and someone else will leave and things will turn around. There is no pat answer when to leave or whether to leave. That decision must come as a result of listening for God’s guidance and what will bless the most.