It’s no secret that there is no perfect church. As Spirit-filled and life-giving as churches can be, each one is filled with imperfect humans who will make mistakes. Church is an incredible place to build community, learn, serve, and reach those outside of our walls but within our neighborhood. It’s hard to grow in our relationships, establishing a connection with those who can help sharpen us, if we are inconsistent with where we attend church. We invite more impact and can offer more impact when we find a church home and serve zealously and regularly within that community.
There are, however, circumstances when we find it is time to leave the church we’ve been attending. Doing so is no small decision; in fact, it is one that should be made over time, after much prayer and honest discussions with others.
Because there is no perfect church, I don’t believe we should pack up and leave our church community the minute things get difficult. There are plenty of reasons to stay at your current church, even (or especially) during trying times. Here, however, are six reasons why it is okay to leave your church:
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1. God is calling you elsewhere.
It’s true that God can use us anywhere, but there might be a specific church community where our particular gifts are needed. Maybe the call to a different church is strong, but the reasons why are not immediately clear. God doesn’t make mistakes; if He is calling you and your family to a new church, it is no accident. Be sure to invite others to pray about this with you as you listen for where He is leading you.
2. Scripture is being twisted.
God’s purpose for the church is missed when His Word is being spun in ways that are incorrect and unbiblical. Sometimes truth can be hard to hear, and that is no reason to flee from your church. When it is untruth being preached, however, is when it’s time to find somewhere else to worship. It is a good idea to speak with your pastor and those in leadership before leaving the church; if your convictions about the untruth coming from the pulpit are dismissed, it’s certainly high time to find a new church home.
3. The Good News is only reserved for certain people groups.
If the Gospel isn’t for everyone, then the true Gospel is not being shared. Is your church welcoming “the least of these?” Are they embracing those who may not look like them, or who walk through the door without the nicest clothes or most impressive hygiene? Church should not be an elite club, but a place where all are welcome, just as they are. If your church feels more like the former, then it is time to wonder about how your church is welcoming those from all backgrounds into your building. This is a great time to have conversations with those in leadership about what your church body can do to be a safe place where all people from all walks of life are not only welcome, but wanted. If your concerns fall on deaf ears, then a different version of the Gospel is being glorified at your church.
4. People in leadership are choosing to live in sin.
Those in a leadership role at church (or elsewhere!) are never to be held to a standard of perfection. If and when a leader at your church is found behaving in an ungodly manner and they are unrepentant, it is a cause for alarm. One reason why leadership roles are so important is because leaders can serve as a model for grace, repentance, and Godliness. If one or more person in leadership at your church is choosing to live in sin, unresponsive to calls to repentance, the health of the church will quickly deteriorate. When leaders are apathetic to Godliness and repentance, there are no standards for anyone in the church and chaos will ensue. (Or there are still standards for church members and the leaders are practicing hypocrisy, which is also detrimental to the health of the church body.)
5. You’re staying for relational reasons, not spiritual reasons.
As mentioned, church is an awesome place to find a great community of people to walk through life with. We need friends with us on our faith journey! It can get tricky, however, when the only fulfilling part about church is the friendships we have. While church is a fantastic place to make friends, it is not only for socializing. If you’re not being “spiritually fed” at your church, first ask why. Is there something happening within you that is blocking you from getting something from the message? At the end of the day, if you aren’t growing in your relationship with God, then it could be time to try a different church. This, of course, doesn’t mean you cannot keep the friends you made at your previous church, but deepening your relationship with God should take precedence.
6. Your church is far from home.
If your church is not close to home, it shouldn’t be an immediate deal-breaker. Consider, however, the reasons why you are traveling so far to a church when there are probably several right in your hometown. If you feel a strong conviction that God wants you at the church you’re traveling to, that’s great! If you’re not so sure, know that there is something to be said for worshiping and serving right in our own community. Attending church in your hometown further opens the door for you to get to know and love your neighbors, and to be an active participant in your own community.
The above reasons are not hard and fast rules for leaving your current church. Every circumstance is unique, so every scenario should be prayerfully considered, both individually and communally.
Once again, there is no perfect church. If you’re experiencing relational conflict in your church, reconciliation needs to be pursued before leaving the church is even a faint idea. Some seasons in our church community may be more trying than others, but our churches can also provide holy doses of love, support, encouragement, and kindness. Church is a worthwhile community to maintain; may you who are searching soon find one to call home.
I am Mallory—a wife, a writer, and a dog mom to Roger. I love dry humor, clean sheets, sunny days, and frequent reminders of grace. These days, I hang out at malloryredmond.com, where I tell my stories with the hope of uncovering places of connection in our humanity. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Originally published Friday, 10 November 2017.