How To Know When It’s Time To Leave A Church

leaving-arrivingThis is Part 2 in a series of posts called “How To Leave A Church.”

If your church has rekindled the ancient spiritual practice of punching old ladies in the face during the Lord’s Supper, it might be time to leave your church.

Other than that, there aren’t too many instances when your fingers should start Googling the names of churches in your area.

There are a few exceptions:

  • You should leave when the Bible isn’t being taught (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
  • You should leave when the church sends you out to move to a new area to reach an unreached people group (Acts 13:1-3).
  • You should leave when you and your family don’t feel safe (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Other than that, everything else can be worked out.

  • Churches can start reaching lost people again.
  • Ministries for children, teens and adults can improve.
  • Worship services can be breathed back to life again.

As long as there’s leadership in place that is willing to teach the Bible and lead with passion.

And you.

But if you bail because you don’t like the music, or there’s no-one like you there, or there’s nothing for you or your kids…

…You’re part of the problem.

We were called to be disciples, not consumers of religious services, free to exercise our free agency when our felt-needs aren’t being met by the Church, Inc. in our target demographic.

Do you believe that?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Brian Jones

    Have you confronted them about that?

  • CG

    I don’t know what to do but I feel like leaving the church that I’m at. I get treated so bad by my pastor and some of the people there. They come and hug me then they go and talk bad about me. Why do they treat me so bad?

  • Rick Music

    I too, disagree. This implies that the relationship with the “church” is more important than your relationship with God. When the culture of your “church” adopts the methods of the world as a way to draw/keep attendees, you must examine for yourself how that culture meshes with your personal quest to build your relationship with God. If it does not fit and you are being distracted/hindered in your personal worship time then you have every responsibility to go elsewhere, but you must do so quietly and peacefully without drawing attention to yourself or the reasons you are doing so.

  • Brian Jones

    That’s really tough. But you can’t give up. Praying for you (whoever you are :).

  • trac1965

    I left because the new pastor was, forgive me, a douchbag.
    I was starting a new job where I had to work on Sundays. The day before I was to start I went to him sobbing, begging him for help in how I could stay connected. His answer?
    “Gee, trac I don’t know.” Then he walked away.
    After months of bickering with him on his poor decision to allow the now poorly performing youth pastor to stay, his refusal to allow me to start a disabilty ministry despite his agreement the church needed one then his setting me up to look vindictive with the church Board this was the final straw.
    Angry at him and his drone disciples I left the church. (I actually heard one man announce to the church he would follow the pastor anywhere. Seriously??) I church shopped for awhile but nowhere felt right. That was 8 years ago. I am still struggling with my faith. This new pastor severely damaged my faith.

  • Lmizu

    Christine: No no no no. It is not the job of the church to teach your children about God. It is your husband’s responsibility first, and secondly yours. This is a terrible terrible reason to leave a church. Your children do NOT need a church sponsored children’s program. They need parents who purposefully plan and execute their own teaching at home, daily and weekly. In fact, if you are in a church with no kids program, your children are often better off..they ar surrounded by mature examples of what it means to love God…they are more likely to become grown-up believers. Most church kids programs are just the blind leading the blind, or playtime. Churches are terrible at raising men and women of God. That is not their function..that role belongs to a father and mother.

  • Brian Jones

    Yeah, you needed to leave that place.

  • Brian Jones

    Yeah that’s a thorny one Rob. I guess my only answer is that the Biblical writers wouldn’t have exhorted us to teach the truth, and then to combat false doctrine if knowing what’s the truth, and what isn’t, isn’t possible. Know what I mean? I certainly get the hesitancy though. I’ve had every person under the sun leave because of tiny, obscure, theological issues. Communion is too serious. Not serious enough. We teach immersion. We don’t teach immersion strong enough. I wear shorts during the summer (actually nobody complains about that because I have sexy legs). :)

  • Christine Henson

    I commented previously through FB – but inadvertently deleted, pardon the repeat: In a nutshell: I do mostly agree, but think that as churches grow in one direction, parents need to find a fit that will support their parenting efforts.

    Another example, again along the same lines; as a young married couple we joined a church whose make up didn’t consist of those with young kids. Hence there was NO children’s program in place, and there were no supporting efforts in that direction (and of course yes, I offered to start one).

    How could we have stayed at that church without a support system for our children? So we didn’t and found one with a children’s program. We love our K – 5 program, and our children have gained much through our decision to leave that church 9 years ago.

    Church hopping vs. church researching, I think is the key. Agree with another post, that taking your children from church to church doesn’t have much benefit – but I think parents are wise to consider where there church is, in their journey and where their family values fit, and research (not hop), their options.

  • Aimeef

    I hate to say it, but I disagree. I approached the minister of the church we were attending because my children fought me about going and making services stressful and I was asking him for his advise/help. He, first of all, said that my husband should be the one leading our family in our “religious” decisions. I explained that he wasn’t so it fell to me. Then he said we should probably go somewhere else that is maybe closer to our house instead of there. How can a person worship where I was basically told that I needed to go somewhere else?

  • Rob Petersen

    One of the problems with “the Bible isn’t being taught” is that in our movement so much of what’s “biblical” or “unbiblical” boils down to a matter of individual hermeneutics derived from biblical ignorance. For example, I had someone leave our fellowship because I preached “too often” from the Old Testament. I’ve had others leave because I wasn’t preaching from a certain version of the Bible.

    I think if someone is having issues with what’s being taught at their church, they should be careful to investigate why they’re having the issue. Is it really unbiblical, or is it God’s truth challenging some long-held conviction of mine? Is it really false teaching, or is the teacher holding up a Christian principle that makes me aware of my sinfulness? Am I humble enough to dialogue with the source of my misgivings (and with others) about those misgivings, or is my pride too big to question my personal reaction to the offensive teaching?

    One of the biggest strengths of our movement has been its stand on Scripture as the only authority, and that anyone can understand God’s will. But given our fractious history (the three-way split into Disciples, Independents, and A Capellas being the biggest example), it has also been one of our biggest weaknesses. Exactly whose interpretation is the right one?