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Getting 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 church.

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 4:31-32).

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 one.

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 Placed Them,

Pastor Phillip 

For all past articles please visit our Archives

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