When to Leave a Church

Our church’s membership packet (Joining the Mission) makes a strong case for joining a local church and what that entails. For some, the question may arise – “When is it ever right to leave a church?” The following are shared with incoming members as helpful, biblical guidelines:

• Gospel – If a church begins to preach ‘another gospel’ (cf. Gal. 1:6-9) you should first attempt to expose it and remedy the situation for the sake of your other brothers and sisters in the church. But if after trying it doesn’t seem like you could effect change, it might be best to leave. So, doctrinal error that compromises the gospel message (i.e. denial of sin, of justification by faith alone, of Jesus’ full deity and humanity, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, Second Coming, exclusive provision of salvation, etc…) is a legitimate reason to leave a church.
• Vocation – If God calls you away from the geographical location of the church for various reasons (e.g. Acts 8:1), then joining a different church is the right thing to do. For example: if you graduate from college and start a career in a different city, or if your job transfers you, or if a new position opens up somewhere else and it seems wise to move, or if your family needs force you to relocate, etc…
• Mission – It may be advisable to leave a church for the sake of the Name (cf. 3Jn. 7)! If God calls you to leave your church to do International Missions or to be a part of a church plant or to be used strategically somewhere somehow to bring the gospel more rapidly and more effectively to more people through starting more churches, then you should go with bittersweetness (cf. Acts 13:2-3).

The following examples are given of bad reasons to leave a church:

• The musical style (or your taste) changes…
• The sermons aren’t ‘good’ enough, even though the Word is being preached…
• A program you feel like you need isn’t offered…
• You feel like you haven’t made (good) enough friends…
• You don’t think you ‘fit in’…
• The initial excitement wears off…
• Someone there bothers or offends you…
• Another church seems more appealing…
• There’s division and disagreement (you’ll find this everywhere!!)…
• Etc…

We say that God desires your spiritual growth and he designs it to happen through a commitment to a local church. Commitment is serious and it is hard. If you feel like God may be directing you to leave a church body, you should involve the community in the process, seeking discernment, counsel, insight, confirmation, etc…

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