Should I Leave My Church? 7 Biblical Reasons to Leave

by Brandon Sutton

In my last two articles Should I Leave My Church? 8 Bad Reasons To Leave and Should I Leave My Church? 7 More Bad Reasons To Leave, I listed several unbiblical reasons Christians give for leaving their churches. I’d be willing to guess, in most cases, people who leave their church, do so for wrong (unbiblical) reasons. 

There are, however, legitimate reasons to leave a church. Not every pastor and/or congregation deserves your loyalty. In fact, faithfulness to Christ might actually necessitate you leaving your church. But it needs to be for the right reasons. Here are seven biblical reasons to leave a church. 

  1. The church teaches false doctrine. Be careful here. If your church doesn’t teach your accepted views on eschatology or spiritual gifts, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have left the reservation of orthodoxy. By false teaching, I am referring primarily to first-tier issues (Doctrinal Tiers). First-tier issues include the Bible, God, and the Gospel. Does the church teach that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God? Do your leaders still affirm the Trinity—that God is one in essence and three in persons—that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man? Do the elders maintain that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? These are the core doctrinal issues. This is not to say other matters aren’t important, and, of course, space won’t permit to cover every theological topic. That said, be wise and seek counsel before you leave a church over its doctrine. Also, don’t stay if they are teaching heresy. If the teaching undermines, diminishes or contradicts any of the above-mentioned first-tier doctrines, it may be time to make a break. 
  2. The church begins to embrace the LGTBQ movement. Unfortunately, this has become all too common. The sexual revolution has taken the world by storm, and the church is not exempt. If your church leaders are now openly embracing and celebrating any aspect of the LGBTQ agenda, it is time to leave. This is a first-tier, Gospel issue. You cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven if you are a practicing homosexual (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Telling people otherwise damns their souls to Hell. 
  3. You’ve moved. People relocate to new cities and states more today than at any time in our country’s history. New jobs and better living situations are readily available and appealing. Leaving your church because you’re moving is understandable, but two things need to be kept in mind. One, make sure you don’t continue to rely on your home church for weekly content and spiritual edification. What I mean is, don’t neglect to find a new church because you’re still watching sermons from your old pastor. Watching sermons online does not equate to church membership and fellowship and gathering with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Second, before you move, make sure that you can find a biblical church to join. You might have found a great job, a good school for your kids, and a new house, but is there a biblically faithful church you can join? If not, are you sure you should move? 
  4. The church begins to support abortion. Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). In Him is life itself (John 1:4). You cannot, then, be a part of a church that supports death. Abortion is the murder of an unborn human being. It is the slaughter of an image bearer of God (Psalm 139). If your church begins to support this, you can no longer support or have any association with that church (Proverbs 8:36). 
  5. The pastors have stopped preaching the word of God. I am convinced that the regular diet for every congregation should be consistent, verse-by-verse, preaching through books of the Bible (1st Timothy 4:2). Topical sermons can be edifying but only if the topic is influenced primarily by the exposition, guidance and instruction of Bible passages in their proper context.  However, if a pastor has completely veered away from biblical preaching, and by that, I mean reading, explaining, and applying the text of Scripture in a way that is unfaithful to the biblical author’s original intent, then it is time to leave that church. The word of God must be central to the life of every local church. 
  6. Members are not being disciplined for blatant sin. When Paul addressed the Corinthians concerning the man who had “his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1), his concern was not just for man’s soul (5:5). He was also concerned for the church’s health (5:6-13). When open, blatant sin is not dealt with biblically (see Matthew 18:15-18), the church suffers. The old adage stands true: one bad apple spoils the bunch. If unrepentant church members are not properly disciplined, the whole church will be infected by their sin. Or, to state it like Paul did, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6). If church members are committing obvious, public sins, and the leadership looks the other way, it’s time to leave that church.  
  7. You can no longer submit to the elders. This happened to me at a church I served on staff. We called a new pastor, and, at first, I was excited. But over time, it became clear he was not a man of integrity or committed to hard work. We also did not share the same values. For several months, I tried to readjust my attitude through prayer and confession and even talking with the man. But in the end, my wife and I had to make the decision to leave because we could no longer submit to his leadership. If you cannot, in good conscience, submit to the leadership of the church, it’s time to leave. Staying will only cause further harm to you and the church. 

Leaving a church should be hard. It’s not a decision we ought to make in haste. The church is God’s family (Eph. 2:19). It’s the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). None of us would consider leaving our own family unless it was the most extreme of circumstances and all other measures of reconciliation have been exhausted. In those circumstances, only the most serious reasons justify separation. The same should be true of church membership. Most Christians should err on the side of staying too long instead of leaving too quickly. That said, there are times when it is right to leave. In these cases, my primary advice to any believer would be that you seek the Lord, examine His word, and solicit wise counsel before making such a big decision. 

Brandon is the Associate Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and leads the TJC RE:GENERATION ministry for the church. Brandon is married to Sherrie and has a daugher, Emma.


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