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I find myself having a disproportionate amount of conversations with friends discussing the benefits and pitfalls of leaving or staying at one’s home church. If you are worried about the divisive nature of this blog, it is actually the follow up to a post I wrote on “How to Choose a Church“. Having recently left a couple of churches and now church planting myself I have, what I hope will be, some helpful musings. I am not in any way trying to advocate people leaving their communities of faith because they are bored or their church isn’t perfect. There is no perfect church! As the maxim goes, if you find the perfect church don’t join…you’ll ruin it. However, the sad reality is that far too often local churches stop functioning as the living body of Christ and they become His corpse; the Bride of Christ can habitually become the harlot. When this happens an exit is usually (though not always) in due order.
There are several helpful blogs out there on why people leave churches, how to leave a church and poor reasons for leaving a church (an odd source, but mostly good advice). If this is something you are considering, please peruse those first as this is not a light matter. However, I have yet to find a blog addressing the excuses we use when staying at a church we should leave. A good practice would be to ask yourself these questions to see if you are still at the church for the right reasons. Following are a few of the reasons given for staying at a dysfunctional church…I’ve tried to rank them from most understandable to least:
There are so many good reasons to stick it out at a church. In our culture we typically devalue commitment, fidelity and longevity. But that doesn’t mean you should continue living with your spouse if they systematically and repeatedly abuse you.
These are a few reasons/rationales I have heard on this subject…there are so many more…what are your stories and experiences?
I think there is always room for self helps in all situations, but one for leaving a church seems like leaving a marriage relationship. Sometimes, there are very just causes; but on the most part, it is because no one wants to change themselves. Without change, there is no growth. Being in a church is a very growing experience, because like you said, no church is perfect and we all deal with each other and imperfections. That GROWS US UP, and if we leave before we see what God can do and WILL do, we will stay stagnant. I think I mainly agree with you, but I have seen too many people walk out for one or two things that happen that make them mad or they don’t agree with. That seems a bit childish, and I would hope more people would stick it out and see how God will work it out. Thanks for your FB post!! Carmy
Carmelita, Yeah I totally agree, many leave for poor, unreasonable reasons…that is why I referenced some of those earlier blogs. I do think a lot of the time people stay where they shouldn’t out of fear, unwillingness to change and stubbornness. I agree with the marriage analogy, though the analogy is between us (as the church) and Christ, not us and the church. We are married and committed to him, usually this is shown throw the church first..but if the church becomes an obstacle to christ instead of a helper then it is time to be faithful to the marriage by leaving the immediate setting. Did that make sense? I have had a long day
This blog seems especially relevant to me right now. We had been feeling a call to join Kairos for more than a year, but we couldn’t make the decision to do that because it interrupted our worship at the Desert Vineyard. When Kairos switched to Sunday evenings, we decided to give it a try because we had been feeeling convicted.
Let me say that we are so very glad we decided to give it a go. The transition to Kairos was easy and quick for us. It was hard to leave the Vineyard, but God has given us such peace for it.
Hey John, so glad to hear there has been peace in the movement for you:)
Hello Pastor Stepro.
When I go to my church sometimes the people are supportive and sometimes not. I’ve been thinking about leaving, but I don’t think it’s the right choice. Since I’ve attended my church I feel a little bit uplifted in a communal sense, and the pastor always preaches a very nice message, however I feel like no one has any time to really talk to me. Many times I leave my church feeling much worse off than when I came. I used to serve on the worship team, but around six months ago our worship leader decided to kick everyone off because it was too “stressful” for him to handle, although he still runs it by himself now. I’m not sure if I should keep attending my church or not because I might have the same problems elsewhere.
Joshua, I yes, most people will have a bad day with the gathered church…I have two questions though: 1. Do you feel bad because there is a challenge that you are unwilling to rise to? Or do you feel bad because you are ignored, snubbed, discouraged? I think that is a big differenciation to make. 2. Make sure you aren’t leave over your feelings being hurt over worship stuff. Though that situation sounds weird, make sure it isn’t a petty grievance (see the other blogs I referenced).
Always make sure if you are leaving a church it is because you are being called somewhere new. I don’t think God would ever want us to take “time off” – that line of thinking comes from assuming we are going to go from one bad church to another. Another word of advice is to make sure you always talk to the sr. leadership before hand…there may be a really good (or really poor) answer to the questions you have. If all else false, pray for a new home and seek:)