People leave churches for all kinds of reasons. Some of the reasons are good and other times…not so good. Sometimes the reasoning stems from a disagreement in doctrine, other times it stems from a ministry philosophy, and others it simply comes from a preference of style.
As Americans, we are likely shaped by our consumerism when it comes to the way we approach churches. Our culture has certainly shaped the language that I despise when people look for a new church home, "Church shopping."
Imagine the early church talking about “church shopping.”
And I’ll be the first to admit that things like musical style, preaching style, the design of the facilities, and ministry strategy all matter to me. But none of these things are the main things. The musical style, the preaching style, and ministry strategy all must be servants to right teaching and right living.
"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” - 1 Timothy 4:16
Life and doctrine.
This is what matters most. For us personally and for us corporately, we must guard our right teaching and our living. While all that within us might want to have a church that sings cool songs and have entertaining sermons (which aren’t bad), these desires should be servant to the desire for our churches to have right teaching and right living.
Orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
And so style certainly matters, but it should be shaped by right teaching. There is teaching that simply desires to say what itching ears what to hear and there is teaching that wants to speak ancient truth in a language that people can understand. Both might be engaging when listening to a preacher, but only one comes from an understanding of what matters most.
When you should absolutely leave your church...
If your church teaches the scriptures wrong, that's a great reason to leave. There are lots of churches that are growing in size but also compromise what they teach when it comes to the Word of God. The church that does not teach the Bible is emasculated. It may find strategies for growth numerically, but the people will dwindle spiritually.
Does this mean you will perfectly agree with the way every single thing is said? Probably not.
But when you question the teachings, ask questions of the leaders. Our churches do not need congregants who blindly follow what their pastor teaches. Instead we need congregants who ask, “Well, what does the Bible say about that?”
Congregnants like the Bereans: "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)"
If you go to a church that is not teaching what the Bible teaches, leave.
This one can be a bit harder to find. And that’s not because it happens less often, but it is more difficult to discern because churches are filled with sinful, hypocritical people who do not live the way God calls us to.
Right teaching should always lead to right living.
Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are linked to one another. And so if you encounter a congregation who doesn’t take seriously following Jesus, that’s a good reason to leave. If you are at a congregation that teaches rightly the Bible, but in practice doesn’t follow the teaching, something has gone wrong.
When the church as a whole fails at living out what they believe, you have to ask, “Do they really believe what they say they believe?”
If you are considering leaving because of a failure in “Right Living,” I highly suggest that this be done carefully, respectfully, and filled with conversations. Because our churches are filled with sinful people, it must also be considered that a congregation is repentant of their failures and seeking to correct where they have gone wrong.
What other reasons might you find to leave a church? Do they fit within these categories?
Photo Credit: Kate