It is a question I am asked every once in a while by emailers or acquaintances. I believe it is an important question to consider especially for a sober-minded Christian who loves the Lord and His people. A committed Christian will want to be a part of a thriving, God-honoring congregation, and if he is part of a church that is not thriving, nor God-honoring, the question of when to leave and attend elsewhere needs to be considered.
Equally important is considering the question: When NOT to leave a church? If a person is seriously thinking of leaving his church, he should make sure it is for the right reasons. I appreciate Hayden’s comments under my first post on this subject. Commitment to a local church should be as significant as being married. You have made a personal commitment to an individual to remain faithful to him or her regardless of trials. Why shouldn’t we have the same perspective as to our commitment to our local churches? This church may have made a significant spiritual investment in you and now you are wishing to leave your “home” and go elsewhere? Not without sound reason.
I will take up the question of when NOT to leave a church with this post, and discuss the question of leaving in the next. Again, my thoughts are by no means infallible, nor are they exhaustive. I will offer five points. I am sure they could be improved upon.
– You don’t leave a church because of the music. In other words, if the music is old fashioned, or boring, or not contemporary enough, or too contemporary, and not old fashioned enough. My words here may rub some readers wrong because I know there are some passionate opinions about music and music styles in worship, but entertaining a preference disagreement with the music style is not good grounds to abandon a church. If the music compliments the service well and the songs are biblically sound and honor God, a person should look past the occasional singing of a contemporary version of And Can it Be? with drums and an electric guitar.
– You don’t leave a church because you think the preaching is boring or doesn’t meet your needs. The concept of boring preaching is subjective. Even the best preachers can be boring sometimes, but even that doesn’t mean the pastor is a bad preacher. There is a big difference between boring and bad. Boring may have to do with ability, where as bad impacts ones doctrine and theology. Boring will receive constructive criticism.
– You don’t leave a church because of petty, interpersonal disagreements with other members. Sadly, this happens a lot, however, if you happen to feel offended because the pastor dismisses your ideas about the youth night activities, or your wife’s idea for songs for the Easter sunrise service, that is not grounds to leave your church.
– You don’t leave a church when the old pastor leaves and the new one arrives. Inevitably, people will leave when a church transitions with a new pastor. Everyone just loved the old pastor, and in their minds, no one can ever replace him. But, I believe it honors the work of his former ministry when the people he pastored for so long are accepting toward the new pastor with grace, love, humility and submission.
– You don’t leave a church if it is too small or doesn’t have “big” ministries to kids, teens, or adults. Activities and programs can supplement the life of a church, but they shouldn’t be the focus of why a person attends a church. Also, people have a tendency to perceive a small church as having something wrong with it. “If it were good, more people would come” or so goes the idea. But there may be nothing wrong at all with this small church and “smallness” has its advantages, such as a closer knit group of members and more opportunities for personal service.