Should I Leave My Church? 7 More Bad Reasons to Leave
Wen woke up early in the morning. His bags were already packed. He gathered his family and quietly made it out of their village in the Xinjiang province of China with plans to travel to the Sichuan province. They didn’t have a car; so, walking was their only option. The trip would be approximately 1400 miles by land. It was expected that the trip would take several weeks. He didn’t know anyone in Sichuan. They had no family or friends there. The trip, besides being long and difficult, would also be extremely dangerous due to police and military along the route who would no doubt stop Wen and his family to question their intentions.
Why was Wen uprooting his family for such a dangerous move? Wen and his family are Christians. But their church wasn’t cutting it for them anymore. The youth group wasn’t engaging enough for his children. Wen felt like he was no longer “being fed” by the sermons and his wife hated the music. Additionally, Wen got into an argument with another member about how to serve communion. The man was a deacon and very unreasonable. They felt like if they moved to another church, they would finally find a place where their needs were met. Unfortunately, Wen only knew about one church in his area. The closest congregation he and his family wanted to visit was located in another province. But it was worth the trouble if he could find something that better met their needs.
I hope by now that you realize this story about Wen and his family is completely made-up (and credit to the Babylon Bee for such a satirical idea). How silly would it be for a man like Wen to risk so much over so little! Yet, American Christians leave their churches every week for far less and over things much less trivial.
In my last article, I described bad reasons to leave a church as they related to leadership. In this article, I will list seven more bad reasons to leave a church as they relate to personal preferences.
- The church down the road has better programs for my family. I remember my first year as lead pastor. I had four young families with kids. The rest of the congregation was made up of elderly members. One afternoon, we gathered in the church basement to discuss the future of the youth ministry and church. The looks on their faces said it all. “You better do something quick, or we’re leaving for the church down the road who has a better program for our kids.” I understood their concern, but I also tried to explain that better programs are not a good reason to leave a church. I attempted to cast a compelling vision of family discipleship, where parents own the teaching of their kids (Deut. 6:4-9). Additionally, I showed them how noble and God-honoring it would be to stick it out and help build our church—that investing rather than leaving would make a bigger impact on their kids’ lives than the latest program.
- Your ministry isn’t prominent. Some people will leave their church because a particular ministry within the church that they are passionate about isn’t offered or isn’t prominently featured. To be dissatisfied with such a situation is understandable. To outright leave your church because of it is unacceptable. Maybe your church doesn’t have the resources to support said ministry or perhaps they have instead chosen to focus on ministries that don’t necessarily support your specific passion. These circumstances do not mean you have to leave your church. Instead, find ways to support your cause elsewhere. Maybe the church would allow you to spearhead such a ministry. Ask and engage church leadership to understand whether there is a practical, if not biblical, reason for the ministry not existing. Regardless, don’t leave just because the leaders aren’t engaged in what you believe is important.
- You’re mad at a church member. This scenario is so frustrating for me as a pastor. It’s one thing for someone to leave when they’re mad at me. At least I had some control in what happened. But when church members get mad at each other and one of them leaves, there’s little a pastor can do! More importantly, that’s not a good reason to leave your church. In fact, such a situation is actually an opportunity to practice the “one another’s” of the New Testament. Why do you think Paul said, “be patient with one another” (Col.3:13) to “forgive one another” (Eph. 4:32) and to “bear with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). Paul knew the members of Christ’s church would have interpersonal conflict. But that’s not the time to run. That’s the time to obey and act like Christ.
- The Lord is leading you elsewhere. This one may come as a surprise, but a lot of times people play the “God-card” as an excuse to leave their church. I recently had a woman email me saying she’s thinking of doing just that. According to her, she “senses the Lord wants her to go elsewhere”, yet, she didn’t know where and she doesn’t have a definitive purpose for why. Come to find out, she was just unsatisfied with her church and looking for something different. She was using “God is leading me elsewhere” as her reason to leave. If this is you, I’d encourage you to do more than pray. Talk to godly friends and be honest about what you’re thinking (Prov. 11:14). Sometimes we don’t realize how silly our reasons are until we’re forced to articulate them out loud. Search the Scriptures to see if God agrees. Most often when we say, “the Lord is leading me”, is really an excuse to follow our own hearts instead of being obedient to God.
- You can’t find a place to serve. This point is similar to #2, but it is different. A lot times, people will say they don’t have a place to serve in the church. What they actually mean is there isn’t a position they can hold, a program they can serve in or some prominent place in the worship service they can hold. If there are people in your church, there is always a place to serve. Making disciples and loving others doesn’t require a program, title, or position. It requires obedience (Matthew 28:18-20). Even if there isn’t an “official” service position for you, you can always find someone in your church and meet weekly with them to read the Bible or a Christian book. Help them follow Christ. That’s the best service you can provide to your local assembly. Find ways to encourage your pastor(s). Serve the elderly. Help in the nursery. Serve in youth ministry. Where there are people, they are opportunities for service. Choosing to leave a local church because you aren’t able to serve in whatever capacity you believe you should be serving in communicates that your preferences take priority over people.
- Services / sermons don’t keep your attention. I once returned home from worship to see a Facebook post from one of our church members: “I didn’t get much out of church today.” A lot of people share this feeling. My question is: do you go to serve or to be served? Let me be clear, you should gain significantly when you go to church. You should receive joy, peace, assurance, and knowledge as you worship. But if you have the mindset that you have nothing to contribute to that process, and that you’re only there to receive, then you will go home feeling like the person I just described. If you want to “get something” out of your worship service, rise early on Sunday morning to read the Scriptures and pray for your leaders. Pray that the songs would be accompanied by the Spirit and filled with the truth. Pray for your pastor that He would preach with the power of God and in faithfulness to the Bible (Hebrews 13:17). Pray for your own heart to be receptive. Many people wake up at 10 am, get ready and go to the 11 am service still sipping their coffee and half awake. They fumble through the songs and listen halfheartedly to the sermon, and when they leave, they’re dissatisfied because they didn’t “get anything” out of the service. Prepare yourself, not only to be a viewer, but also to be an active participant of the worship service and see what happens.
- There aren’t people like me in the church. This may refer to age groups or personal interests, but sometimes people leave the church because there aren’t others in the church like them. However, instead of dwelling on this as a negative, instead embrace that it is actually a beautiful thing put together by God. God has placed you amongst a diverse people, who would never get together otherwise, to join each other for the corporate worship of the Savior. This is a snapshot of what Heaven will look like (Rev. 7). We still stand around the throne with brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
In light of these bad (unbiblical) reasons to leave a church, I fully understand that there are, indeed, good reasons to leave a church. That will be the subject of my next article. But for the most part, Christians more often than not leave churches for bad reasons. It so often boils down to your mindset; Do you think church is about meeting your needs or is it about praising the “Lamb that was slain” (Rev. 5:12)? Is it about seeing what you can “get out of it” or are you seeking to serve others? If you leave your church for a superficial reason, you will probably leave your next church, too. Because the problem most likely isn’t the church. It’s you. We must have the mind of Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Read Brandon's first article on this topic: Should I Leave The Church? 8 Bad Reasons To Leave
Read Brandon's next article on this topic: Should I Leave My Church? 7 Biblical Reasons To Leave
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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