Should I Leave My Church? 8 Bad Reasons to Leave
As a brand-new pastor, when I saw John and Kelly come in the door one Sunday morning, I was excited. I was even more elated when they became members and started serving. Anytime a pastor acquires new people, it’s a huge win. It’s even more important when your church is small and sees very few visitors.
In the back of my mind, though, I was a little worried. I knew John and Kelly. They were members at the church I served as a youth pastor prior to becoming the lead at my new church. They left our church then. Since then, they had attended at least two other congregations. Eventually, they left our church, too. They became disgruntled about some decisions I made and decided they needed to find a new church. Altogether, I can count at least six churches they have been members of—and those are just the ones I know about.
There is a church on every corner. Christians have the pick of the litter. That’s a blessing. It’s also a curse because in our consumer driven culture, Christians will leave a church for the silliest reasons. In this article, I will address eight bad reasons Christians leave churches. These reasons are related to leadership. In my next article, I will address several more reasons Christians leave their church related to personal preferences and member relations.
The Pastor Resigned. When I became the lead pastor of my first church, around 13 people left the church before I started simply because the previous pastor resigned. While I understand this to a certain degree, it reveals what those people were committed to. They were committed to the pastor, not the church. I am thrilled when Christians support their pastor, but the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). We are there to serve one another. The church is the household of God (Eph. 2:19). We are brothers and sisters in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50). It’s typically not a healthy reason to leave a church simply because one person resigned.
The Music Style Isn’t Your Preference. If I had a dollar for every time that I heard a Christian express their musical preferences, I could serve in ministry for free. This used to be one of the most divisive topics in the church. Thankfully, that seems to be waning, but not by much. Christians still fight over worship styles. Many Christians will leave a church because of it. This too reveals a lot. Are you there to serve Christ and His people or are you there for your needs and preferences to be met? Leaving a church because they don’t sing your preferred songs is unacceptable.
You’re Mad at the Pastor. I am a pastor, and I have had a lot of people mad at me. Unless the pastor has done something immoral or heretical, it’s not a good idea to leave the church when you’re mad at him. He’s the leader. You’re bound to be mad at him at some point. Give him grace. Don’t put uncommunicated or unrealistic expectations on him. And again, why are you at the church? For the pastor, or to serve the body of Christ?
The Church is Changing. I once had a lady leave the church because she “didn’t fit in anymore.” This puzzled me. What she really meant was, the church was making changes to be more biblical and missional, and she didn’t like it. Another member left the church because new people started attending and the regular members couldn’t sit in their normal seats on Sundays. If your church is changing into a congregation that dishonors the Lord, then leave. But if it is changing because they’re trying to become more biblical and reach people for Christ, that is not a good reason to leave.
You Don’t Agree with the Leadership Direction. Several years ago, my leadership team felt burdened that we could reach more people with the gospel. So, we decided to open a second location in town (we were in the country) and hold evangelistic services on Thursday nights. A member left our church because he didn’t agree with that decision. You don’t have to agree with everything your leadership decides to do. But you are called to prayerfully support them and submit (Hebrews 13:17). You’re certainly not entitled to break fellowship with your church family because you think you know better.
You Disagree with Leadership on Third Tier Issues. I recently had a conversation with a lady who left our church. She said we weren’t filled with the Spirit. What she meant was that we didn’t share her views on spiritual gifts. We believe in spiritual gifts, but we might have a different interpretation than some of our members and attendees. Even some of our staff members don’t agree completely on this topic, and that’s okay, because it’s a third-tier issue.
- First Tier issues determine whether you’re a Christian. This includes the doctrines of Scripture, God, and the Gospel. If we don’t agree about these things, we’re not brothers and sisters in Christ. Second tier issues are important, but they don’t determine our salvation. They do, however, determine if we go to the same church.
- Second Tier issues include matters such as baptism, communion, membership, etc. We can disagree with good brothers about these beliefs, but we will worship in separate congregations. One of the main reasons we have Presbyterians and Baptists: One baptizes babies and the other doesn’t.
Third Tier issues are those matters that we can disagree about and still attend church together. Third tier issues include eschatology (studies of the end times), spiritual gifts, Calvinism and Arminianism, and worship styles, to name a few.
We don’t have to agree on these things. We also don’t have to leave churches over them. In fact, we shouldn’t. It shows a great deal of maturity if you stay in a church where you disagree with your fellow members and even leadership over third tier issues.
Service Time(s) Isn’t Convenient. I just talked with a member of my last church about this. He called upset because the church was going to back one service at 10 am. The previous times were 9 and 11am. He’s an early riser. He would have attended at 6 am if we offered it. 10am was too late for him and he was thinking about leaving the church. I will be honest, he’s my friend, so I did not hold back on him. I said, “I didn’t know the church existed to meet your preferences. Here’s what I want you to do: go to the pastor and tell him exactly why you’re leaving. The church isn’t convenient for you anymore.” He got the message. I can’t think of a more selfish reason to leave a church.
- They Talk Too Much About Money. Some churches do ask for money too much. But even those churches shouldn’t be abandoned if they’re not unbiblical. Churches need money to operate. And Christians are commanded to give (2nd Cor. 9:6-8). Don’t abandon your church because the leaders encourage giving. Give what the Lord has determined in your heart and support your leadership.
I am not saying there aren’t legitimate reasons to leave a church. There are, and I will address those concerns in a future article. But I hope you can see that, in most cases, Christians leave churches for selfish reasons. Before you leave your church, search the Scriptures, seek the Lord in prayer, and talk with your pastors and fellow members. Be honest about your concerns but be ready to do some serious self-reflection, too. Do you want to leave for serious biblical concerns or because of your personal preferences?
- Read Brandon Sutton's next article on 7 More Bad Reasons to Leave a Church
- Read Brandon Sutton's third article on 7 Biblical Reasons To Leave Your Church
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.
- Discipleship, Doctrinal Tiers, Spiritual Disciplines, The Church