For better or for worse, people leave their church all the time.
Did you see what I did there? I said 'for better or for worse', deliberately invoking the marital covenant, because that is what church membership is. It is a covenant with fellow believers. You you promise to love them, honor them, cherish them, in sickness and in health, bearing each other's burdens, (Gal 6:2), admonishing and encouraging, (Col 3:16), sharing lives in vulnerability and intimacy, and worshiping Jesus- together. (James 5:13). It's a close relationship and one not to be thrown away on petty squabbles.
Taking a biblical example, the church at Corinth. These people were fighting, getting drunk at the Lord's table, allowing incest, having chaotic services, dividing into factions and cliques, and debating over meats. Phew! Yet Paul wrote that he gave thanks for the people at the church at Corinth. (1 Corinthians 1:4-5). There was no church down the road to move their letter to. Corinth. That was IT.
How about the folks at the church at Sardis? Jesus pronounced them dead, and their works were dead, and what wasn't dead was about to die! (Revelation 3:1-3). Yet a few remained alive and pleasing to the Lord. How terrible did they feel being surround by dead believers?! It must have been rough.
What if you had been one of the few members of the church at Sardis that had not soiled their clothes and remained righteous? It must have been hard for those members watching their church die! (Revelation 3:4). But what comfort. Jesus sees them and is not only pleased, but He commends them personally.
Or the folks at Thyatira, suffering by seeing a false prophetess prosper, teaching false doctrines (which is an agony to endure, believe me), tempting the members for so long she birthed spiritual daughters. A few did not hold to her teaching, and are commended.
Would "the few" at Sardis and "the rest" at Thyatira have left for another church, if there had been one? Its purely speculative. They didn't have the choice so they stuck it out. Were some that fell under the sway of the false prophetess Jezebel children or slaves of the members at Thyatira? No doubt. It is a heartbreaker.
It doesn't help that pastors these days display a craven ambition, using smaller churches as a ladder to bigger and mega, or as a stopping/resting place as they write their next book. Some pastors church-hop themselves, pastoring as many as 6 churches in 9 years. They do not provide a good example of shepherding commitment and staying power.
On the other hand, leaving the marriage metaphor alone for a moment, there are times people can and should leave a church. Perhaps the Lord has legitimately led you to serve elsewhere. The Spirit gives gifts as He wills, so perhaps He wants move you to use you and His gifts at another location as a better puzzle piece fit. Maybe your pastor is teaching heresy. Or maybe not heresy but has drifted too far for your comfort zone, and you don't want to expose your children. There maybe practical matters- employment transfer, moving closer to aging parents, a road that has become too dangerous to travel. What then? Moving your membership to another church would be a legitimate thing to do.
Here are a variety of links exploring reasons to leave and reasons to stay, and if deciding to go, how to leave successfully and graciously. Just some food for thought. Apostasy is gripping all churches to an alarming degree. If a person leaves for a trivial reason, or impatiently, he or she may wind up in a worse condition at a church down the road where a worse apostasy is discovered. Apostasy is everywhere, even in that bustling church down the road. No church is perfect.
When do you leave a church?
It is the conversation with church members every pastor dreads but inevitably comes to every man who has shepherded a local flock: “Pastor, we need to meet with you and discuss our future at the church. We have been praying about transferring our membership to another church.” Naturally, you ask the inevitable question, “Why?”When Should People Leave Their Church?
Leaving a church is not something that should be done lightly. Too many people abandon churches for petty reasons. Disagreements over simple matters of preference are never a good reason to withdraw from a sound, Bible-believing church. Christians are commanded to respect, honor, and obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church (Heb. 13:7, 17). However, there are times when it becomes necessary to leave a church for the sake of one's own conscience, or out of a duty to obey God rather than men. Such circumstances would include:When is it right to leave a church?
Believers who feel a desire to leave a church should be clear on their reasons. If the church does not proclaim truth, cling to the Bible and revere Christ as its head, and there is another church in the area that does, then there are grounds to leave. A case can be made, however, for staying and working to bring about changes for the better. We are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). If one is strongly convicted of the need to move the church in a more Bible-based, Christ-honoring direction, and feels he/she can do that in a loving and non-divisive manner, then that would seem to be the better course of action.Good reasons for moving on
“What right do you ever have to leave a church?” I can remember that question being asked by my ecclesiology professor in seminary. It is a good question and one that would benefit us all to wrestle with. As Kevin has recently pointed out on this blog, there is biblical warrant and there are practical reasons for entering into covenant through local church membership. Having entered into that covenant our breaking of it should never be done lightly. Clearly, there are reasons to leave a local church. But what are they?5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church
Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door. If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:5 Tips on Leaving a Church the Right Way
I met yesterday with a friend who is leaving our church. We had a good conversation about his reasons for leaving (they are legitimate) and then some discussion about how he can “leave well.” I told him that, based on my experience with people leaving our church or coming to our church after leaving another one, most people don’t leave well.