I was originally going to title this post, “How to Leave Your Church.” However, the title fell far short of what I wanted this post to convey. While this post will address the right way to leave a church, this post is much bigger than that. I want to speak to our western world view and how it plays into our actions within the church and as a body of believers.

Take that phrase, “body of believers,” and think on it.

Paul refers to the “body” often in his various epistles. But can we understand what he means? Is our frame of reference able to comprehend the gravity of that word?

Living in a Constitutional Republic, each of us is accustomed to knowing and exercising our rights. Even those ignorant of the Constitutional specifics know that they have rights. Those rights don’t belong to certain groups, but to the people. They are individual rights that each member of society is capable of exercising without seeking permission or blessing. And while this has been a political blessing, it has also served as a spiritual curse.

As a result, we feel entitled even in the church setting to seek comfort, to go after what pleases us, and to find our own happiness. Just think of how many times you’ve heard the phrase, “How can I grow in Christ” compared with the phrase, “How can we grow together in Christ.” Sadly, church has become an individual exercise of weekly attendance. Where is submission? Where is sacrifice? Where are the shared burdens?

To make matters worse we use or freedom to avoid growth.

Too often, as members of the church we take offense, and instead of confronting our brother, we simply move on to another congregation. Instead of letting these kind of conflicts lead to stronger bonds of brotherhood and friendship, we seek the immediate comfort of avoidance. But in doing such you haven’t solved a problem, you have merely carried your own problem to another church- where it is destined to arise again at some point.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-26, 31-32.

Why do you take such deep offense when someone forgets to thank you for some kind act you’ve done? Why do you get angry when someone neglects to speak to you one Sunday morning? There is a universe of slights and affronts that enter our conscience and cloud our thought process. Once they find a way in, they often end up pushing us out- out of the church, out of the body, and away from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The right frame of mind

It is often (although not often enough) well understood that when we marry, the married couple becomes a new organic whole. The marriage of husband and wife alters those two individuals’ decision making process for the rest of their lives. But what of joining the church? What if we viewed our church membership with the same commitment as our marriage? If so, doesn’t it deserve more commitment?

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

Seemingly harsh words (and words in red print no less) from Christ himself. These words are hyperbole at their best. They grab your attention, shaking you by the collar, and demanding to know, “What are your priorities?” Is your commitment to Christ (and His body) less that your commitment to your mother, wife, children, or yourself?

So you still think you should leave your church

How invested are you? As a church member you should pray long and hard about the situation. But if you are in leadership, well brother, that is a big decision. In my humble opinion there is no easy way to leave the church, but there is a best way…

  1. Pray alone and with your family. Spend time in prayer over this choice. Don’t come to this with a preconceived outcome in mind, just pray for God’s will and His guidance.
  2. Pray with your pastor. Assuming your pastor is a man of God (and not a sleaze ball) come to him with an open mind and tell him that you are thinking of leaving the church. Remember Paul’s admonition, “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to [your] neighbor.” Don’t offer red herrings and other reasons designed to make yourself look good at the expense of the truth. If you took offense at some comment or action be honest and admit to it.
  3. Ask the pastor to pray with at least one other elder about the situation. All three (or more) of you should pray over the next few weeks to see if God is really leading you to leave the church.
  4. Don’t treat the church in a way you wouldn’t treat the world. Especially if you are in a leadership position, don’t just walk out. People, your brothers and sisters, look up to you for guidance. Many of them might be new in the faith and easily shaken. If you leave suddenly it could be devastating. If you would give your worldly boss two weeks notice, you owe at least that much to the church.
  5. Don’t badmouth your old church. You’ve split from the church, let that be final with regards to any negative feelings you might have. Don’t tell everyone at your new church how Joe Deacon at your old church was a horrible deacon because of X, Y, and Z.

A final bit of advice…

Do all you can to avoid rationalization. As humans we are prone to rationalize our decisions. As Christians we often make matters worse by claiming that God lead us to decisions that, if we stepped back and examined them from afar, would seem contradictory to God’s will and His word.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5.

The “God card” makes matters all the worse because it makes us afraid to question our brother’s decision. Who are we to say what God has led him to do? As a result many brothers walk off pursuing their own desires, some even fully convinced that God is leading them, and we do nothing to offer loving and gentle counsel.

But I have digressed. My final advice is this. Since rationalization is perhaps our biggest pitfall, I propose a test. When seeking God’s will, and there are several potential paths before you, look to the paths and see which offers you the easiest travel. If you feel led toward the easy path I would urge to spend more time in prayer and find others to join you.

I have found that most often the easy path is the wrong path. Why? Because it’s ease, comfort, and lack of challenge or hardship provides everything my worldly body desires. Often the way God has in mind for us is the exact opposite. His way is challenging, outside of our comfort zone, and it often involves persecution or ridicule. All of these build us up in faith.

So if you are thinking of leaving the church, take it no less seriously than if you were thinking of leaving your wife. Speak to your pastor with an open mind. Seek reconciliation, and try with all your might to mend whatever has caused this desire to break away.

I would ask you to remember that suffering is part of the Christian walk. I know, it doesn’t seem like a great advertising campaign, but it is true. But in our suffering the Lord has promised us deliverance.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms 34:19

So even if you dislike many of those in your church; even if you find them ungrateful for your actions; however they might offend you, remember that they are family. That you are part of the same body. Each working together for Christ- not for our own growth, but for Christ, that He might increase in this world.

“He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

“Finally, I want all of you to live together in peace. Be understanding. Love one another like members of the same family. Be kind and tender. Don’t be proud.” 1 Peter 3:8

Moreover, remember your brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer real wounds for Christ. Remember the persecuted church throughout the world that doesn’t have the time and luxury to take offense at simple slights. If they can bear bruises and beatings and death for their Lord, can’t we endure so much less for His sake?

“Stand up to him. Stand firm in what you believe. All over the world you know that your brothers and sisters are going through the same kind of suffering.” 1 Peter 5:9

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Comments
  1. stevereenie says:

    “So even if you dislike many of those in your church; even if you find them ungrateful for your actions; however they might offend you, remember that they are family. That you are part of the same body. Each working together for Christ- not for our own growth, but for Christ, that He might increase in this world.”

    Words of Wisdom: . . . . . Next Stop Lauderdale

  2. satisfiedhousewife says:

    (Okay, TT, you asked for it – you put out so many thoughts that my comments are going to be LONG, so please bare with me!! LOL)

    “Why do you take such deep offense when someone forgets to thank you for some kind act you’ve done? Why do you get angry when someone neglects to speak to you one Sunday morning?”

    Because they have done “a kind act” with impure motives – for the praise of men. If they did it with the right motives, they wouldn’t care less who noticed. It is a person who is self-willed and easily offended that can get angry over such TRIVIAL things. They need to grow up in Christ and be a man or a woman instead of a baby! A little harsh, I know, but it’s the truth said in love!

    “What if we viewed our church membership with the same commitment as our marriage? If so, doesn’t it deserve more commitment?”

    This is a hard one to answer…in some degrees I agree, but we also have to remember that in today’s modern western world of “churches”, how many people are TRULY saved, in the Body of Christ? Sometimes you won’t know for awhile, until you get more invested in fellowship with them to see if they are still in darkness or are truly born again. More importantly, we are married to CHRIST – he is our supreme authority, and sometimes people make their own choices on which church to attend, without consulting with Him about it first. They make wrong choices, based on fleshly interests, such as type of music, “programs”, or other such carnal enjoyments, that have no basis in Scripture. Our number one priority is doing the Father’s will. Everything else comes under that authority. If God hasn’t truly directed you to the church you are in, I would question if it’s God’s will that you are there. We MUST be led of the Spirit. On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where my husband feels led to be in a church, (as we are in now) and we have to “suffer” through it, not understanding or seeing the “whys” of the reason we are there. I stick out like a sore thumb, but then on the other hand, if we are surrounded with people who are shallow in their knowledge of scripture and in their walk with God, we can be a light to them and help them to grow. It’s not TOTALLY about us. Sometimes God will call you to be a “puritan”, so-to-speak. But we tend to say, “But I’M not being fed!” This is when we have to trust that God will sustain us in our own private times with Him at home, and that is where we “are fed”. We have to rely on God alone for our spiritual “bread”. (we should do that anyway!) I’m only saying this if you know for a FACT that God has called you to be a part of a certain assembly. If not, I would say get out! Go find some place where you are TAUGHT the Word in depth, and able to thrive, grow and serve in that church. We grow the most when we are serving and being used by God in the church. When we only go to church for ourselves, it is a twisted, unbalanced approach and we need to anylize why we are really there – “to serve, or to be served?”

    “Seemingly harsh words (and words in red print no less) from Christ himself. These words are hyperbole at their best. They grab your attention, shaking you by the collar, and demanding to know, “What are your priorities?” Is your commitment to Christ (and His body) less that your commitment to your mother, wife, children, or yourself?”

    Yes, I agree! I have seen FAR TOO MANY men allowing their wives to dictate their lives. You can clearly see “who wears the pants” in their homes. I’m not saying the wife has no part in the decision, but sometimes wives can dominate and manipulate their husbands which is WRONG! I was in a church before where the women would get so offended at the preaching, (because it targeted a sin in their lives!) and even though the husband was a leader in the church, and was happy there, etc. the wives made it so hard for their husbands, and the husbands didn’t have a spiritual backbone enough to stay put and go through the “fire”, but instead they jumped ship and left. Who is really THEIR priority? Christ, His will, or his wife’s happiness (and thus his own happiness?)

    “Do all you can to avoid rationalization. As humans we are prone to rationalize our decisions. As Christians we often make matters worse by claiming that God lead us to decisions that, if we stepped back and examined them from afar, would seem contradictory to God’s will and His word.”

    You nailed it here. This is EXACTLY what these men did.

    “I have found that most often the easy path is the wrong path. Why? Because it’s ease, comfort, and lack of challenge or hardship provides everything my worldly body desires. Often the way God has in mind for us is the exact opposite. His way is challenging, outside of our comfort zone, and it often involves persecution or ridicule. All of these build us up in faith.”

    Amen to that! This is SO true!! People are often missing out on a growing season God has put them in because they wanted the “easy way out”. So what if you are different? So what if everyone else seems like apostates! Use this time to BE USED by God to make a difference in the lives around you! Don’t be self-centered – be outward focused and you will be more blessed than if you are self-focused (“what’s in it for me? How will I be blessed?)

    ““Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Psalms 34:19

    AMEN! And the Lord has prescribed just this for every believer who will live Godly in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12) for our growth and maturity and refining process. We have to remember that God is trying to get us dependant upon HIM for everything – to be focused on Him, not ourselves! If we never have trials, we will never grow, mature in the faith and thus never be qualified to teach others and be a blessing to them! It is he that “endures to the end” that will be saved, not he who “coasts along the easy path” (that leads to destruction!) that will be saved. We have to remember also that there will never be a perfect church, we are all growing in Christ at different rates, (or not! Some in the church aren’t even born again, but FALSE believers!) and we’re not all on the same level spiritually. We need the mature to help us mature, and we can’t have all the mature ones attending only mature churches, because then the babies will always stay babies! We need a balance of comminity to sharpen, strengthen, refine and encourage each other. I thank God He has taught me this lesson, as I have had to “endure” through some pretty shallow, messed up churches in my past. Neverthless, I have seen some fruit of God using me there and helping those that wanted to grow, grow – even when the Pastor himself wasn’t helping them grow.

    Bottom line for me is this – we must be persuaded that we are in the place God wants us, and when it’s HIS time to leave, He will make it known to us if we seek His will. Usually though, it will only be to go SERVE somewhere else, not just to find a “better” church that WE will feel more “comfortable” in. I thank God for the times I have felt alone in a church and then God used me to make a difference. It is in those times I am more dependent upon my relationship with God, and not with others – not worrying about trying to “fit in” with them – just living an example and using the opportunities that present themselves to be a light and make a difference in those around me.

    God bless you TT!

  3. Let me begin by saying that I love long comments- I wish I wrote them more often.

    “I was in a church before where the women would get so offended at the preaching, (because it targeted a sin in their lives!) and even though the husband was a leader in the church, and was happy there, etc. the wives made it so hard for their husbands, and the husbands didn’t have a spiritual backbone enough to stay put and go through the “fire”, but instead they jumped ship and left.”

    Exactly! And just like you wouldn’t divorce your wife because she acted in that manner (the proper response would be some form of counseling), so you shouldn’t leave the church.

    And of course I agree that if a church is not doctrinally sound you should go. But you should also be careful to understand the difference between doctrine and preference. Is you pastor denying the trinity? Yeah, it would be a good idea to split in an amicable fashion. Does you pastor favor a contemporary worship service? This is a preference and it shouldn’t form the basis of your termination of the relationship between you and the church.

    The time to find where God wants you to fit in is in the beginning. But once you join the church (and especially once you are in leadership) you have spiritual obligations that you must attend to.

  4. brahnamin says:

    well said

    few enough folk in the church at large feel that way. fewer still act upon it.

    the only church i’ve ever been in where the prevailing thought of the bulk of the congregation was to stick around and work things out rather than just shuffle off to somewhere more comfortable, and that was the church i attended in prison.

    it was the only church we had.

    there was nowhere to run to.

    no other church to take us in

    so i don’t give us any kudos for the mindset, but there is no denying that the end result was a stronger church that ran on commitment rather than on fear. whatever was needed was given, whether it was a sharp word, a kind voice, an ear to listen, or a heart to give, it was there.

    it wasn’t always pretty

    but it was certainly effective.

  5. “and that was the church i attended in prison.”

    And the situation is similar for persecuted believers who are breaking the law simply attending church. They don’t have the luxury of turning and walking away from the body.

  6. Now don’t sprain a finger with all that typing. lol.

  7. wytammic says:

    This is a great post. If someone does find a church where they are never offended, they must be sleeping through the sermons:)

  8. heaintthroughwithmeyet says:

    “Why do you take such deep offense when someone forgets to thank you for some kind act you’ve done? Why do you get angry when someone neglects to speak to you one Sunday morning?”
    In the Beginning I was one of them at times 😦
    I grew up a little bit 😆

    This was a GREAT post TT!!!
    And to your question on my blog. No I didnt pull a “Cumby” on you all 🙂

    Just needed some time to myself. I am having a hard time for unexplained reasons. I am hopeful that the Lord will lead me to be happier and get more back to reading and writing. I do however read in my Blogsurfer, and you are on it! 🙂

    And another thing WOW to Satiesfied Housewife comment….loved it!

    BLessings to all
    Andrea

  9. heaintthroughwithmeyet says:

    My comment doesnt appear 😦

  10. titus2woman says:

    How about when the dynamic of your church changes? i.e. The pastor tells stories from the pulpit rather than preach from the Bible. They show movie clips with bad words, and your children are being more exposed at church than elsewhere. Your family grows and so does the desire to desciple them~only you’re constantly bombarded to put them in the nursery. (((((HUGS))))) sandi~just thinkin’!

  11. T2W, I would still advise the same steps. Pray together, speak with your pastor, ask him and another elder to pray on this issue.

    “They show movie clips with bad words”

    I am curious what word. I have found that we Christians can be rather uptight about language. I was upbraided once for using the word “fart” in front of someone’s child.

    “Your family grows and so does the desire to desciple them~only you’re constantly bombarded to put them in the nursery.”

    Ideally, the nursery should be providing some form of spiritual education. And don’t forget that we (not the church) bear most of the burden for our childrens spiritual upbringing.

    Thanks for your comments.

  12. ashjoshua says:

    Hey!! Can i send a link of your post to people i mean some people who’ve asked me questions about the same?

  13. Ms. Green says:

    Absolutely excellent article. Too many people go to church with the attitude of “What can this church do for me and my family?” instead of “how can my family and I serve the Lord and grow spiritually in this church?”

    The problem with all churches is that they contain human beings. If the church is doctrinally sound, the preacher is preaching the Word and teaching you how to apply it personally to live a victorious Christian life, then deal with the rest of the less than desirable things and people that come along with it. THAT is part of growing spiritually.

  14. Gram Kaiser says:

    Interesting piece. And while I agree with your writing, I do not comment on Religion or Politics.

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