Is There Ever a Good Reason to Leave Your Church?

Is There Ever a Good Reason to Leave Your Church?

I was reading this article on the reasons people leave, titled 5 Rather Startling Reasons People Leave Your Church, and while it is by no means the worst offender, it reminded me of an interesting characteristic of church growth/health books and articles.

The problem is this: We, as leaders in the church, tend to assume that the leadership (of which we’re a part) is right, and the departing members are wrong.

I think that’s frequently not the case. I’ve discussed before my reasons for changing denominations. I grew up Seventh-day Adventist and am now a member of a United Methodist congregation. When I last changed church membership, I assumed it would not be to another United Methodist congregation. The accuracy of my assumption did not quite make it into “true” on the meter.

I actually agree with much of what this article says. Don’t get discouraged because someone leaves. People don’t always leave because you’re doing something wrong.

The inverse of the problem is this: We, as leaders in the church, tend in our darker moments to assume that the leadership (of which we’re a part) must be wrong because members are departing.

Neither of the two assumptions is correct.

So let me look at it from the point of view of the member. What is a good reason to leave your church?

Here, I think, there is a clear, but difficult answer. Ask yourself this: Am I leaving this church to answer a call of God to be somewhere else, or am I leaving it because of my own complaints?

I consider this a good question even if you’re complaining about inappropriate or just plain wrong teachings or policies in the church you’re leaving. The question is always: Where does God want me to be?

That question doesn’t have to be answered by a voice from heaven. It’s an application of wisdom. Where are you best able to serve God? Is God perhaps calling you to be a voice for reformation where you are? Is God looking for you to be a witness elsewhere? Are you needing to learn from someone?

I wouldn’t get too worried about it as long as you’re searching for the best way to serve. If you are looking for a way to get your own way, you’re going to be dissatisfied wherever you go.

Always be on the lookout for where God wants you. Follow that. It may be hard, but it will also be satisfying.

(Featured image credit: Openclipart.org.)

3 thoughts on “Is There Ever a Good Reason to Leave Your Church?

  1. I think you’re remark, “We, as leaders in the church, tend in our darker moments to assume that the leadership … must be wrong because members are departing,” nudges toward another dynamic that pastors are reluctant to discuss.

    Like everyone to whom we minister, pastors have a very fragile sense of worth-of-self. This brokenness is, I believe, one of many results of the Curse and is evidence of a corrupt sin nature. And, like everyone else, pastors seek affirmation and worth from others or from our performance rather than from our identity in Christ.

    Pastors have an enormous amount at stake when it comes to how well the church is functioning. It ought not to be that way, of course, but that’s the reality in which approximately 80% of them live (not based on any solid research, but on my experience in 15 years of training and mentoring pastors).

    This is why it hurts when people leave. Inside we take it as evidence that our performance is sub-standard. This, in turn, means that we are deficient or defective in some way.

    Of course it is silly. Of course it is naive. Of course we should find our sufficiency in Christ. But getting there is a long, hard road marked with a lot of suffering. Many are not willing to make that journey.

    Sorry for going off there…

    1. Oh, don’t be sorry for going off! You’re right on target. I find it massively easier to preach that we should “find our sufficiency in Christ” than it is to practice it. You make excellent points. Thanks!

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