What would make you leave your church?

Is it time to go? If you need to make a dinner appointment, that’s not a difficult question to answer. But, if you’re thinking about leaving a church, that’s something else entirely. How do you know when it’s time to leave a church?

Some time back, my wife and I struggled with this very question. We’d been members of our church for a while, but several factors had us thinking about leaving. Before then, we’d never wrestled with the criteria one would/should use when thinking about leaving a church? We didn’t want to just walk away for superficial reasons, but what exactly qualifies as a “good” reason for leaving a church?

Before I come back to this story and talk about the reasons that we considered and what we finally decided to do, I’d like to hear from you. What would make you leave your church? Or, if you’ve left a church before, why did you do it and do you still think those were good reasons? Of, if you prefer to think in abstract terms, what do you think are sufficient reasons for leaving a church? Answering any one of those three questions will help us wrestle with: When is it time to go?

Comments

comments

28 Responses to “What would make you leave your church?”

  1. LLM May 28, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Big question! One does not want to be a “church hopper” leaving at every slight or insignificant issue. (I’m “paranoid” of being like that…someone who is always disgruntled about something.) Christians need the maturity to know the difference between essentials and non-essential. A church drifting into outright false doctrine (on a core/orthodox Christian belief) would be a definite reason to leave. But things aren’t always or usually that cut and dry.

    We recently left a church for another reason. In vain, we tried for over 3 years to assimilate into this church. We made many efforts, but even after all that time we were isolated, not “known”, and without any genuine Christian fellowship. I used to think that good teaching was the most important thing for a church…Indeed, one reason we stayed so long was the exceptional expository teaching from the pulpit of this church. Yet, Christian fellowship is critical too. We need each other. The Christian life can not be lived in isolation. Our inability to assimilate and experience fellowship (after 3 plus years and trying hard) is why we finally decided to leave.

  2. Doug May 28, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Oh, FB friend, a very timely topic. My family and I left our church plant last fall, and time has really not this with me. To the point, it wasn’t so much doctrine, rather we realized that the pastor and his wife considered us good enough to set in the pew, but not good enough to socialize with outside of the “four walls” of the church, we knew that it was time to move on. There is far more, but that is the gist of it. We knew many of these people for years, but we realized, no matter how hard we tried, we could not establish a relationship with these people.

  3. LLM May 28, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Hello Doug! I already posted. But essentially for us it was the same- “no matter how hard we tried, we could not establish a relationship with these people.” I have had posts on this issue, some just recently – why is the church often so cliquey?? I recently compared church and bar experiences – the bar, too often, seems a more genuine and friendly place.

  4. Doug May 28, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Frankly, its been years and a number of moves since my wife and I attended a good church. The last church was more extreme in its rejection of us. We weren’t the openly drama queens who lived to suck the attention of church to themselves. Frankly, my wife and I have problems and stresses, openly and private, that were/are far more stressful than the drama queens of the little church we attended. Yet, as I reached out my hand in fellowship, all I got back was the claw of Mordor.

  5. Gordon Vaughan May 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    Hi Marc, looks like you cover some interesting topics on your blog. I gotta say, this one is both interesting and difficult. While I don’t know what the answer is, I certainly think some folks are too quick to just jump from church to church.

    OTOH, how many American Christians have ever been in a church they were really happy with? The best one I was in was probably in college, but it was full of retired pastors and missionaries!

    It does seem that it’s hard to experience true fellowship in many churches. It bothers me that I know so little about folks I go to church with week after week, but then I could say the same thing about the folks that live on my block. Proximity means very little in America these days.

  6. 英国琐记 May 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    2 years ago, I left a church. The main reason was that my son (8 years old) was not happy there. He complained. It was boring to him.

    We had been in the church for about 4-5 years. We were the only Chinese people in the whole church dominated by middle class white people.

    These people were very nice. They said hello and they smiled. They talked to you but nothing developed further.

    The interesting fact was: after we left, for over 6 months, no one ever phoned us; no one ever visited; no one ever asked why a child had stopped attending the church, since the kids going to the church were only a few.

    It made me realise now that it was the right decision that we had left the church. No one ever missed us. No one missed the child. No one stayed in touch.

    It is very sad to feel that we had simply ‘evaporated’ and no one cared.

    We’re now in a little local church. I am pleased that my son is now happy. They give him chocolate and cake each week in the junior church.

  7. tyson May 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    If you can confidently say that what you’re leaving is not, in fact, a church, then you should leave. If you are being commissioned to minister elsewhere you should leave. Also any other scenario in which you’ve recognized the church’s authority over you and not the reverse.

  8. Doug May 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    i can echo previous comments. When we left the last church we regularly attended, the site pastor wanted an exit interview, we also asked an elder be present. They were both clueless and could not understand our problems. and concerned.

  9. Renee Davies May 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    My husband and I had been attending a Baptist church for a few years under the leadership and teaching of a Godly pastor. He kept himself in the Word and taught the congregation well. When he left for personal reasons, our church found a replacement just a few months later.

    Amongst the members in our congregation, The Shack was being passed around as an incredible book with an incredible Christian message. After a painstaken reading, my husband and I were concerned with the warped theology, to say the least. We approached our new pastor with these concern, but he responded that it was merely a fictional book and that we should not worry ourselves with its poor theology, as this was to be expected from fictional books. It was obvious to us that he did not see the importance of safeguarding the truth of God…at least as far as his ministry would allow him. It was because of this that we did not stay with this church. We could not sit under the teaching of a man who felt it unnecessary to teach his congregation the difference between the character of God in The Shack and the character of God in scripture.

    Having said that, I do sometimes feel that perhaps we should have considered how our leaving would affect other members. Not that we are special in any way, but rather that we don’t go to church “merely” to be fed, but to serve and to assist others. In any case, sitting under that pastor’s laisser-faire attitude in matters of theology was more than we could take.

  10. Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor May 28, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    Church is a command. My reason number one for being a part of a local church is because God told me to.

    Church is a fellowship. I have no problem connecting with the people at any of the various churches I’ve been too. I go because of the network of friends I have there.

    I yearn for a third reason. I wish I went because the teaching was so strong, the worship so true, the prayers so meaningful, the mission so effective, the discipleship so evident. I’ve never found a place that did this that much better than the next. (But then again, I was never a part of a liturgical church. I may have to try that someday.)

    Since I only have two reasons, I leave if I lose my network of friends, or have to move away. I can always satisfy my first reason at another local fellowship.

    Yes, the first and second reasons are based on that particular church being a true church, but I’ve never had a struggle finding that. All the churches I have been to are filled with tons of problems and wicked people. (This is the result of having people gather together.) But they have also striven (strove?) in their own ways to teach the word, discipleship, etc.

  11. Marc Cortez May 29, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    Great comments, everyone. So far it sounds like the two main reasons people have left a church are inadequate fellowship or doctrinal concerns.

    On the latter issue, I’m always curious about what kinds of doctrinal concerns might cause someone to leave a church. (Renee, thanks for your explanation of the specific issue.)If anyone else has left a church over doctrinal issues, I’d love to hear what those were.

  12. Doug May 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Well, it was a little more than just lack of fellowship, yet not really doctrine. Both the pastor at the mother church and the site pastor at the church plant said that God gave us a special needs daughter, we need to care for here, even at church. It was too much for their church. Very unfriendly attitude. Well, thanks for letting me vent, FB friend. We are still looking for a church and realize that God uses his imperfect creatures.

  13. J June 6, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    I throw another issue in there Marc-leaving because a church body can’t address it’s problems without marginalizing or demonizing individuals, doesn’t follow the church constitution (which helps guide how the group is going to govern itself), has no process in place to address grievances nor aid in reconciliation, does not seem to believe in disciplining pastors…I left that church and will never attend a church that does not have a source of accountability.

  14. Betty Clinton January 9, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    My reason for desiring to leave my church is the concern about the steady transition of people. There is a constant revolving door of people/families. No accountability of church finances, no one knows where Pastors live. The main reason is the steady feelings of spiritual stagnation,frustration, stifleness I have encountered at this church

  15. Lisa January 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    My husband and I are contemplating leaving our current church. It seems complicated to describe. We love most of the fellowship and friendships we have developed, which is why we find it difficult to leave. We are very involved: teaching, music/worship team, study groups, and an outreach ministry. With that said, our ‘problem’ is with the pastor. I will say that he is a very likeable man, approachable, seems to have a genuine concern for some people, and is kind of ‘happy go lucky’…in his mid-forties, married with 4 children (12-20yoa),one of which has learning disabilities. He is a full time pastor, his wife is an RN at the local hospital.
    The problem?
    The pastor can’t preach. Plain and simple. The common ‘complaint’ among church members is “We love the pastor, but his sermons are seriously lacking.” I make notes during the sermon, hoping to make sense of the sermon. I ask “Did I miss something?” “How are these ‘ideas’ connected in a way for me to apply it to my life?” I even went so far as to record the sermons so I could listen to them again later. Every effort has been exhausted. The church brought in a mediator for this purpose. The congregation was told that the Pastor needs encouragement. We encouraged, we discussed things with the Pastor…etc. A year later nothing has changed. It sounds like I’m complaining, but I truly want to see change – I’ve been praying, seeking the Lord, asking the Lord “Am I wrong to feel this way?” I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
    This problem has created other problems – the church is having trouble retaining membership, to the point it can no longer afford to pay into the pastor’s retirement. It is having difficulty paying the pastor his salary. This is directly related to the sparse attendance we are seeing. There are 4 core families…all others have left the church. Many former members refuse to come back until the current pastor is gone. This is the reputation of this church. It has been severely damaged, I believe, by his continued pastorate. (nearly 11yrs)
    Yet, I understand that I was not the person called, he was. Is there something else, as a church member, that is required of me?
    Is it wrong to feel this way about a pastor?
    Most men have quit attending, my husband may be one of those soon…the men find that they have lost respect for the pastor – he seems aloof, lazy, not diligent/determined.
    I don’t mean to write a book. But, an example is last Sunday:
    A short historical video clip/presentation on the History of the Church at Smyrna. Very interesting video (I love history) – I thought it was a great start. Then the pastor mentioned the state Bible camp and how it needs money to survive or it needs to be sold. He went on to discuss that if you have money and you don’t give to those in need, then he wouldn’t want to be you. He went so far as to imply that those who ‘have money’ need to be saved – which puzzled me – Why, if you earn a ‘good living’ – would you assume the person isn’t saved? He then attempted to compare the 7 churches of our ‘brand’ in our State, to the 7 churches mentioned in the Bible, with Smyrna. No TRUE connection was made from one ‘subject’ to another. No point was ever made. The most interesting part was the video clip in the first 3min of the ‘sermon’. This is how it is every week. (we had 3 visitors who will probably not return)
    There have been 2 baptisms in the last 1.5yrs. There is no growth going on. It seems that the elders (or more aptly stated “the establishment”) Decided that pastors are ‘hard to come by’ and this pastor is better than no pastor. I don’t even know how to respond to that answer.
    Suggestions?
    This is one of those ‘ugly split’ situations that most Christians hope to avoid, but can’t seem to…only the split has already happened (several years ago) and the church has never bounced back from it. I attended this church 20+yrs ago. Moved away, and came back again. We’ve been attending for about 1.5yrs now. Any help out there?

  16. LP June 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    I have been for some time considering leaving my church for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons are the lack of accountability. Granted we are nondenominational, but at tithes and offering as any other church and no one knows how much the church has except the first lady & her daughter (pros. of the trustee board. Many feel that the first lady is running the church not the Pastors, meaning she tells him what to do with the exception of preaching. My husband and I were placed into leadership position upon our first month joining. Years later my husband cheated on me & wasn’t held accountable via his position in the ministry. Just recently the keyboard player is cheating with one of the praise team singers & stillborn noconsequences. My pastor even preached that he lets the Lord deal with people, he doesn’t chaise adults. Which brings me to another issue among the members. No feels a sense of responsibility from either him or his wife because most of the time you call/text & get no answer or response……ever. Including me & I’m the Pastors secretary/church administrator. Simply put they are never available when you need them. I have trust issues because the first lady has shared my personal business with a 19yr old member. And last but not least we have tons of services to raise money for the Pastors anniversary at which point we have to pay for everything needed for hospitality for these back to back services or anything we have including events for the children which gets canceled 98% of the time & all the money goes t his wife in the end. I don’t do church for money. It’s a lot of do as I say, not as I do.

  17. LM November 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Feeling alot like Lisa who left a message last January. Our pastor is a grandfatherly type. Great man of God. Humble, but I cannot understand his sermonettes. Even though we have an hour and a half, he gets between 20 and 30 mins. I don’t come to be entertained, or celebrate veteran’s day or the 4th of July, or recognize a nonchurch member for a donation (including a plaque). I just want to know what the God of the Bible is saying. I need a trained man of God to dig out the nuggets for me that I cannot get on my own as I read daily. It is very simple what most folks want out of their churches. We don’t want fluff! We want the whole Bible preached! We have found a place that does that, and that is why we are heading out.

    • Lisa November 8, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      It’s hard to believe it’s been since January that I posted the comment above. So, for an update – My husband decided leaving the church was our only option. We ‘finished’ anything we had obligated ourselves to do for the church and departed on fairly good terms. We immediately started attending another non-denominational church and for now are very happy attending – why? The sermons are REAL – connected, meaningful, applicable. This church understands the need to be the hands and feet of Jesus and they help point us in the right direction to do those things. Most of all, they accept everyone, just as you are, just as Jesus did – no condemnation, just come to Jesus. As a result, this church is growing by leaps and bounds. They are currently looking for a larger place to meet for services, as we’ve outgrown the space we’re in. I believe when the leadership in the church is applying Jesus’ teachings to their lives, then God can and will do great things…the growth of this church is the result of the leadership and the congregation to surrender all to Jesus.
      Unfortunately, after we left the church I mentioned in January, several long time members left as well. The church is in a very crippled state – one church family attending, plus one couple and then the Pastor’s family. Maybe 10-12 people each week. It truly saddens me and many others who left before us…all that is left is for me to pray for the leadership, pray for the church body (what is left), and pray for healing and revival in that church.
      Blessings to you all…especially those trying to decide whether to stay or to go.

      • Marc Cortez November 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

        Lisa, thank you so much for an update. I’m really glad to hear that you’ve found a place, though it’s tragic to hear that things have gotten so difficult for the other church. Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. Mark November 17, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    I’m struggling with this right now. The pastors are Godly men and I have good relationships with both of them. My problem with the church is I am having a very difficult time becoming more involved more deeply. I have reached out to several staff members that head the different outreach programs at the church and have flat out been ignored when I’ve offered to contribute either my time or resources. Emails are ignored and when I speak with them in person they tell me they’ll get back to me during the week, which never happens. At some point I don’t think the onus ought to be on me to keep on top of them considering I was taught it was the church leaderships job to encourage me to use my spiritual gifts and natural talents to forward the work of God. I’ve actively been seeking out charitable opportunities outside of the church to satisfy the longing I have in my heart to help people that have less than me. This has been part of a broader problem of me having a difficult time properly assimilating in the churches congregation despite putting my best effort forward. Now on Sundays, because I feel so discouraged, I just leave after the service and enjoy the day with my fiancee instead of hanging around for fellowship.

    • Marc Cortez November 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t know if this is what’s happening at your church, but I know a lot of pastors have a really hard time letting other people do things. For some it’s a control issue, but for many it stems from the “it’s easier to do it myself” syndrome. Tragic, but common.

  19. Gail November 29, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Hi there. I happened upon your blog which was very informative. I read all 21 responses and was eager to see the answer to your reply, “Before I come back to this story and talk about the reasons that we considered and what we finally decided to do, I’d like to hear from you.”

    I am considering writing a blog on this topic and just wondering what would be your reason for contemplating leaving your church. Were you considering it at the time you wrote the blog? If so, after hearing these comments, did it assist in you making the final decision to stay or to leave?

    Thank you.

    -Letstalkchurch

  20. Ali December 23, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    I left a church of 10 years with my two children last year. I had good friendships there but left because of the teaching and the lack of organisation in the church. The pastors children were neglected which resulted in them doing what ever they liked. They swore, stole (even from the offering) and were beginning to dabble in drugs. With my husband not being a Christian I wanted my children to experience a strong, healthy church and so chose a local church with a large youth group. Initially people were welcoming and the teaching and organisation of the church are great. My children attended the New Day festival and both made commitments to the Lord. The church is made up of lots of middle class families whose children have grown up in the church. Although we all get lots of hello’s and smiles each week it doesn’t really progress more than that. We have now being in the church a year and each week I feel awkward sitting there while everyone else sit in their groups and basically ignore us. The Pastor has only spoke to me once in the whole year. There are a couple of people I make a point of going and chatting to each week but it feels very one sided and a huge effort on my part. We did not attend church for three weeks due to illness but on our return I felt no one even noticed or cared that we were not there. My son is now refusing to attend and my daughter does so but reluctantly. She says the other teens are nice and obviously strong Christians but she still feels like an outsider and would rather not go. So do we stay or leave?

    • elder henry adams May 28, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      well i feel my answer is pure from my heart. If you are not happy and do not feel welcomed it is not your church home the lord has a plce better for you…When you walk in the door you will feel it and know it,,, LEAVE LEAVE

  21. elder henry adams May 28, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    I have been considering leaving my church here lately.The pastor is a well devoted christian and I do believe he is close to GOD. I have been a member now for ten years and he told me he was installing anotherer minister as the pastor. I do know the lord knows what he is doing but i do not have to remain there under this new leadership. I had told the lord i would stay until he instructs me to leave. This is my cue to levave i have been the assistant pastor there for four years. F b family pray i make the correct decision on taking my leave

  22. Harold C. Soriano May 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    To me, I think of three reasons why one should leave a local church. One reason is when the biblical and historical Jesus Christ is not the center of the sermons during preaching and teaching. Secondly, when church discipline is not exercised by the elders to erring members. And thirdly, when the two sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) are not practiced.

    No local church is perfect since all of its leaders and members are still prone to sin. No local church is without a problem or conflict for the same reason given. However, this should not be a reason for one to leave a church immediately. The three reasons above in the first paragraph, I believe, should be the primary reasons for considering leaving a local church.

  23. Mike August 11, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    I left because all church is the same across the board. Some hide sin and others exposé it. Some serve while others are lazy. All are control freaks who seeks to make people submissive to them while egnoring their true call for help. The heart of every man is evil. And we use Christianity to hide our evil. Therefore the church is full of evil people pretending to be good. This is from the Pastor down to the bottom. Christianity died with the Apostles. Name one church that is doing grater works then Christ. Name on pastor or ministry who can perform a Merical. Not one! Therefore all is vanity. All I see is self righteous Pharisees who seek the glory of man rather then God. The church has hurt more people then it has healed and destroyed more life’s then it has fixed. That’s why I left.

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