When to Leave a Church?

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:7-8

We are called to obey your leaders, to have respect for their authority and their call to care for and keep careful watch over the people as shepherds, because leaders will be held to account. We are called to submit to those in authority and to value and respect them, enjoy orderliness, and learn from them. In contrast, a person with a lack of faith will not respect others because the emptiness where faith is supposed to be is filled with pride and even self-destruction, worry, and stress that lead a person nowhere good. This does not mean we submit to dictatorial or dysfunctional leadership (Isa. 21:8; Jer, 23:4; Ezek. 3:17; 33:6; 35:7; Hab. 2:1; Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:2-4; 3 John 9-10).

However, sometimes leaders and pastors are not following Christ, rather following their pride or misguided intentions and thus it may be time to go to another sheepfold. So, when do I leave? When it is dead and there is no life left and there is nothing you can do, you need to look seriously at the situation. Being a member of a church is like being partners in a marriage; when you leave, it is like experiencing a divorce and thus is to be taken sincerely and soberly, and with prayer. Seek what you can do to improve things and always make sure you are not the one causing the problems of division or discord, unless you are fighting for biblical truth. Even if that is the case, do so in love. Obviously, leaving a church is not a sin unless you are in disobedience. There are times when you need to take a stand, and if it fails, it may be necessary to move on to a healthier church. God gives us a green light to move on when:

· Heresy and false teaching are being proclaimed or a platform for that to take place is present and the leaders refuse to repent, or if there is just no teaching and you are not being fed (Romans 16:17; Galatians 1:7-9).

· The pastor and leaders do not reverence Christ or His Word (1 Corinthians 5:1-7; Colossians 1:15-17).

· The pastors or leaders are living in sin and refuse to repent (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

· The pastor or leaders are over-controlling and operate in the weakness of the flesh rather than in the power of the Fruit of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:33; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9).

· The diseases before mentioned, such as gossip and hypocrisy, are rampant and you are being hurt to the point you cannot function or worship, and there is no discipline for those who sin (2 Timothy 3:5).

· If you are the person who is sowing discord or division, you must leave right away. Run-do not walk-to the nearest exit and do not join another church until you repent and get some healing (Galatians 5:1-23)!

Besides that, it is hard to say; you need to think, seek wise counsel, and be in prayer. You should never leave a church for petty or superficial reasons. Examples might be that you do not like the speaking voice of the pastor, but he is teaching well, or you do not like the color of the carpet or the style of the music or how the kitchen is run, or that someone you do not like is elected or appointed to a leadership position. You need to stick to your commitment and responsibility. You need to be in prayer and ask our Lord how He can use you there. Are you growing? Is there a place where you are needed to serve? Is there anything you are doing wrong for which you need to repent? What about your attitude and motivations?

If you do leave a church, do not leave quietly or covertly. Meet with the pastor or leaders, dialog and give them clear reasons, remembering to be biblical and in the Fruit of the Spirit and in prayer. They have the need and right to know, so improvements and conviction by the Spirit can take place. Or, maybe you are in the wrong. So, make sure you listen. Then if you leave, you need to forgive and move on. Never, ever stay to spread bitterness and division (Prov. 6:19; John 13:34-35; 17:21-23; Rom. 16:17; Gal. 1:7-9; 1 Cor. 1:10; 5:1-11; 15:33; Eph. 4:11-14, 31-32; Col. 1:15-17; 3:13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 1:7-9; Heb. 13:7, 17)!

Let us gain our composure and confidence regardless of how many true believers are in the church, and live as His disciples for His glory!

© 2009, R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/

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