Reasons to Leave a Church

Written by M. Ashley Evans

February 21, 2020

The church is an Extension of Your Family 

Your church should be an extension of your own family, for they are your spiritual family. Your church family walks with you during life’s difficult trials and rejoices with you during life’s celebrations. It is a close-knit family from various walks of life and backgrounds, coming together to study God’s word and worship the Creator. We gather to encourage one another in the day-to-day grit-and-grime of walking in faith through this fallen world. Life is hard. We need one another. We need to gather for corporate prayer, singing hymns to our Savior, and taking the Lord’s Supper. A church family should also be working together towards progressing in sanctification, even when it calls for church discipline.

Not all members of a family are exactly alike – we all have our differences. Even in a church family, we may disagree amongst one another on secondary areas of doctrine, but we all come together as one unified body in the primary doctrinal areas. Even some churches will say in their Statement of Faith what they do and do not teach, and ask its members to hold to those truths and not teach anything apart from them. But on areas not listed, areas that are considered adiaphora in scripture, we can agree to disagree.

About Church Membership

The Bible commands us to be a member under the authority of a local church body. This is a very somber and holy act in and of itself. We need to remember that the Church is a family, not an event. It is wrong to go to church just for what you “can get out of it.” The primary focus of the church is not to fill up your spiritual gas tank for the week. You are there to worship. Sometimes, that may mean singing with the congregation. Sometimes that means training young children to sit quietly in the church – even if you don’t get to hear much of the sermon yourself. Worshipping in the church can also be sitting with a church member after the service and crying with them over the loss of a family member. It can also mean meeting a fellow church member for coffee while you offer Biblical counsel on an issue they are facing. Worshipping in the church is so much more than just participating in the church service. This isn’t to say that the church service itself isn’t important – it absolutely is. But worshipping as an active member of a church body is so much more than just walking into the church building on Sundays with a warm smile and keeping the pew warm.

Far too many people leave a church family for petty reasons. Whether it is a disagreement on the new color of the carpet, or because someone didn’t come over to shake their hand. Some people will leave a church so that their kids can attend the “cool youth group.” There are people who will attend a church for a season, and then leave when they no longer feel that it is “doing anything for them anymore” – those people tend to hop from one church to another seeking an emotional rush. This being said, there are times when it is necessary to leave a church family. The decision to leave needs to be carefully considered, with the advice given by those who are more spiritually mature.

 

Reasons to Leave a Church

 

  1. The Church is Teaching False Doctrine

Galatians 1:7-9 “Which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

1 Timothy 6:3-5 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”

Romans 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

This isn’t talking about disagreeing on the secondary theological matters. Secondary issues would be head coverings for women, or whether the Lord’s Supper should be grape juice or wine. Secondary issues can also be matters of Eschatology – Amillennial vs Dispensational reading of Revelation. These tertiary issues are not a reason to break fellowship.

These passages are clearly describing the major theological issues. They have abandoned orthodoxy and are embracing heretical teaching or dangerous false teaching. If a church is denying the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, or adding works to salvation – that could be a legitimate reason to leave.  Frequently, this is a slow and steady decline. Often it comes initially with the acceptance of the secular norms out of a desire to be culturally relevant. 

  1. The Church Is Refuses to Exercise Church Discipline

1 Corinthians 5:1-7 “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,  I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

One such example is a church that is refusing to use church discipline. There is massive unrepentant public sin in the church body, and the church is refusing to address it. A church that is refusing to exercise church discipline isn’t a church at all.  This is an excellent article on reasons that a church refuses to practice church discipline: https://thomrainer.com/2015/04/12-reasons-churches-dont-practice-church-discipline/

  1. The Church Tolerates Unholy Living or is Characterized by Hypocrisy

1 Corinthians 5:9-11 “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

1 Timothy 5:19-20 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”

1 Timothy 3:5 “But if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?”

This form of hypocrisy happens when a church makes great attempts at looking the part but denies the Holy Spirit as the true source of godliness. For the sake of “rubbing elbows” with the “right” people, they will turn a blind eye to sinful living. 

  1. The Church Uses an Attractional Model

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

James 4:4 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.”

2 Thessalonians 3:14 “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.”

When a church reaches out to the secular world in order to find what they want to see in a church, in order to lure them in with bait – it has stepped out of line. Churches that spend more time on entertainment and providing a “wow factor” is not using a Biblical model and should repent. A church is a place where the Word of God should be the focus – not a show on a stage.

  1. The Church Doesn’t Preach the Gospel 

Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Ephesians 5:11 “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”

John 7:7 “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”

Far too frequently the gospel is placed on the backburner in a church service. Many churches are quick to incorporate psychological tips, or to tell you what you need to do to “live your best life now.” But what they should be focusing on is the changing power of the Gospel. The Gospel message is hated by our culture – and many churches will shy away from the Gospel so that they do not offend. They want to be “open and accepting” and not warn sinners of the wrath of God. 

  1. Legitimate Practical Reasons

There are a number of legitimate practical reasons for leaving a church. One of these is you have to move to a new location. Another practical reason is that you want to use your gifts and another church has need of your gifting. Other times someone’s health may decline, and you need to find a closer church home to accommodate your physical needs.

Conclusion

Leaving the church because of preferences in style or music is never a biblical reason. Leaving a church because you are looking to be entertained is never a biblical reason. Even leaving a church because you are a little bored with the preaching there is not a sound biblical reason so long as the preacher is staying true to biblical truths.

So if you are considering leaving a church, please do so carefully and prayerfully. Consult your pastor, and the pastor of the church you are considering. Talk to your spiritual mentors. Seek guidance on this. If you bring this biblical reason before the pastor and elders and it cannot be resolved, you are free to leave for another biblical church.

Please listen to this to learn more about church discipline https://strivingforeternity.org/church-discipline/

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