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the Most Out Church Part 8: Considering Leaving Your Church?
By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted July 25, 2012
RELIGION – We have been looking at how to
get the most out of church over the past few weeks. I have been arguing
that you will in large get back from church more than you put in. Some
people like to be armchair quarterbacks in churches, do very little but
complain and criticize very much. But I am going to assume that person
is not the typical Edgefield Daily reader for this week. I want to
write to the person who is seeking to contribute to their church. The
person, who prays for their church, serves their church, supports their
church financially, and desires to grow closer to Christ through their
However, this person also has started to become concerned about the
health of their church. They feel they are not growing spiritually.
They are concerned with the direction the church is heading. They may
be even concerned with the doctrine being taught in the church. They
may not be being ministered to by the church family. They may be
concerned that they don’t “fit” into the church anymore. What should
this person do?
Well, there is no one clear cut answer. I am blessed to pastor a church
that has people in the church who have attended this church their
entire life. I am sure in their time (many 70-80 years) there have been
pastors they did not care for, decisions made they did not like, have
had their feelings hurt, and many other negatives, but they have
stayed. I think that is a true testament to their dedication to the
church. These are also people who have very vibrant walks with Christ.
Now my past is not the same. My family changed churches two times while
I was growing up. The first time was to leave an older church that had
no young people to a church that had a youth program. My family still
cares for this church and has relationships in it. The other time was
when the church we were attending went through a major crisis dealing
with immorality in the life of the pastor. My family left to go to a
“healthier” church. Was my family wrong to do this? I don’t think so.
The Bible does not outline a procedure on how to leave a church. In the
early days of the church, a believer would have to move to another town
to find a different church. Sadly, in our world today with a church on
seemingly every corner, many believers leave one church for another
instead of working through whatever problem there was. Forgiveness,
love, and unity are to be the marks of believers (John 13:34-35;
Colossians 3:13; John 17:21-23), not bitterness and division (Ephesians
So what should you do if you find yourself praying about leaving a
church? First, ask yourself why do I want to leave? If there is false
doctrine being taught, then you should address it to the pastor. If his
beliefs are unbiblical then you should go. You are responsible for
making sure you are receiving good Biblical teaching. Don’t compromise
on theology and the integrity of the Word of God.
If you want to leave because your church does not have a specific
program (children, youth, certain Bible studies) before you look at
leaving consider that your dissatisfaction maybe God prompting you to
look to start these ministries. A good church member will do more than
just point out flaws; they will work to see it grow.
Some people in churches are just overworked by the church and want to
go somewhere else for a break. If this is you, before you leave you may
want to consider letting go of some of your responsibilities and taking
a season of rest before you look at leaving. You stepping down may give
someone else an opportunity to serve and allow you to be refreshed.
Some of you may not care for certain changes that are made. You need to
ask yourself have the changes that have been made unbiblical. A new
song, a deacon not wearing a tie, a change in the scheduling of a
certain event, a change in length of sermon are matters of personal
preference and not Biblical fidelity. You may need to look at laying
aside personal preferences for the sake of the body.
Some of you may just not care for your pastor. Pastors are all
different; different personalities, temperaments, leadership styles,
and preaching styles. Just as there are people that you don’t connect
with well in life, some of you may have a pastor you don’t connect
with. What should you do?
Let’s assume that the Pastor is not doing anything unbiblical, the
first thing you should do is not publically criticize him. Starting
division in a church is a great way to try and kill it. The second
thing you should do is pray and ask God to help you to look past
differences that you can still be fed spiritually by his messages. The
third thing is ask God to show you if the problem is you. It may also
be helpful to meet with your pastor and address some of your perceived
issues. You might be surprised by how just talking with your pastor
personally changes your perception of him.
Now let’s say you have done all these things, but you are simply not
being nourished by the preaching or pastoral care. Let’s say you tried
all my advice above, but you still are dissatisfied or and wanting more
from church. You want to move past an issue, you have tried but it will
not go away and it is hindering you from encountering God and
worshipping Jesus. What should you do now? You may need to start
praying about leaving your church and praying hard about finding a new
Notice, I said you may need to. You may also need to wait patiently and
endure. You can grow tremendously through times of spiritual struggle.
In my experience as a pastor some people leave far too quickly and some
people stay far too long. I can’t give you a checklist to go by. My
experience is that you need to stay on the staying too long side of the
issue as leaving a church is a much bigger deal than many people
understand. We will continue to look more at the issues that surround
leaving a church next week.
Praying Each Believer Serves Faithfully In the Church Where God Has
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