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5 Questions To Ask Before Leaving A Church
There are many reasons one may have for leaving a church in search of another. Some are valid and others not so much. Committing to a local church body is a biblical mandate and therefore cannot be taken lightly. If you are considering leaving a church body locally to which you are already committed for another, we recommend you think through these critical questions every Christian should ask themselves before changing churches.
Question 1: What Are Your Reasons For Leaving A Church To Which You Have Committed?
Some people change churches in order to move closer to family or to get a better job. If you are reading this article, however, my guess is that there is more to your desire to change churches than to validate your change in career. Maybe you don't align with your current church theologically, or maybe you have experienced what is referred to as "church hurt."
We have been where you are. We have had to walk through the process of leaving a church body to which we were strongly committed for many years. It is not easy, but there are ways to approach this process biblically and with integrity. You need to determine now that this is the highest priority for you - to look at your personal situation through the lens of Scripture and not through the blinding lens of your emotions. If you do not discipline yourself to do this before you walk down this path, you will indeed take a wrong turn.
Question 2: Is Your Current Church A Legitimate Church?
Being located in a church-styled building, having a church sign, and employing church staff is not what makes a church a church. There are important, biblical guidelines for church planting, structures, and governance. Can you say these things about your current church:
- My church is teaching the whole counsel of God.
- There is biblical church governance in place.
- Church discipline is exercised when needed.
- The ordinances are observed biblically and regularly.
At a minimum, these four factors listed above must be in place for your church to be considered a legitimate church body. However, if your elders are not preaching the Gospel faithfully, if they do not have proper governance like a female pastor, if they are covering up sins instead of holding congregants accountable, or if they are not administering the ordinances in a biblical manner, then there is a legitimate problem.
Question 3: Can You Believe And Practice According To Your Convictions And Remain In Good Standing At Your Local Church?
If you are in a situation where you feel like an outsider in your church because your convictions are different than everyone else around you, we understand your pain and have stood in your shoes. It is a tough place to be, but we want to help you navigate this in a biblical way.
Your first step needs to be to talk to your elders or pastors about the differences you have with what the church teaches. We recommend you approach them with a humble spirit. You might be surprised by what they have to say. They might be completely open to discussion, and where they may not feel convicted in the same way as you do, be affirming concerning your position's place in historic orthodoxy.
On the other hand, if your elders or pastors are not affirming of your position and feel it does not fit with the church's stance, they may give you an ultimatum. You will need to decide if you can remain in proper submission to the church leaders and statement of faith while still believing and practicing according to conviction. If not, your elders might even agree that this church isn't the right place for you. This would help validate your decision in leaving a church to which you are already committed. By approaching the elders/ pastors you have opened the door for a peaceful departure when done in a humble manner.
Question 4: How Does Being At This Church Affect You, Your Spouse, And Your Children?
Where we do not believe that emotions should make your decision, it is important to consider the well-being of your spouse and children. Is your family able to be spiritually nurtured in this local church body? Does this church cause your family considerable emotional strain?
If you have stark differences with the church body in conviction, could this hinder your own children from "catching" the convictions you desire to instill in them? Do you find yourself having to correct what your children were taught from the pulpit or Sunday school often?
Your children are your primary mission field. If attempting to keep fellowship with this local church body is going to hinder the spiritual growth of your family, you may need to consider leaving it.
Question 5: Are There Better Church Options In Your Area?
If your answers to the questions above are pointing you toward a necessary change in churches, then you need to first consider what church options are near you. You might be surprised at what small churches are hiding just around the corner or within a reasonable distance in your region. Check out our directory of online biblical church locators here.
However, if you are unable to find a biblical church in your area, we would recommend you begin to consider some very practical realities such as where can you go to find suitable employment and are there churches in that area that meet the necessary criteria for a biblical church home?
Choosing to Leave
Searching for a biblical church home can feel daunting, but you must trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in this process. In addition to our church locator directory we mentioned above, we also suggest asking for help in locating a biblically faithful church. Great places to ask for recommendations would be families at homeschool conventions, Christian conferences, or even a like-minded online social forum.
Before you make a move, we would suggest that you get in contact with the new church elders to learn more about the church. Share why you are moving and the path you took to make that decision. Ask if your wife can make contact with the pastor’s wife or other women in the church beforehand to build those relationships if possible. Inquire about the educational options in the area for your children: homeschool families, homeschool co-ops, or classical Christian schools. Make an effort to be prepared for and familiar with the church you are moving to join in fellowship with.
Choosing To Stay
If you feel convicted to stay at your current church to try and work things out, we commend you and encourage you to take these steps.
Take time to focus on getting things right in your own life and home before trying to share your personal convictions with others in the church. Reformation starts in the heart, in your own life, and in your home. You do not want to be the hypocrite who tries to get others to bend to a standard that you are not faithfully working to uphold in your own home. Establish a godly home, centered on good practices of family worship, discipleship, and balanced, intentional living.
Utilize outside resources to help you learn and move in the direction you feel called to go convictionally. If you don’t have local examples to follow and be encouraged by, you will need to find motivation and encouragement in Scripture, in books, online groups, and even podcasts.
Determine what level you can try to move others with whom you have relationship with toward your convictions while remaining under the authority and vision of the church’s elders. Do not try and proselytize people into rebellion against legitimate church authority.
Are You Considering Leaving A Church To Which You Are Committed? Check Out Our Latest Podcast Episode!
Podcast Episode 5: Searching for a Solid Church: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Many Christians do not feel at home in their current church. They may feel like outsiders because they do not align theologically with that church, or maybe they haven't found community there. These Christians might see an issue with their current church's government structures or teaching.
In this episode of the Reformed Faith and Family Podcast, Caleb and Lindsey are going to be discussing what makes a church a church, as well as those questions one needs to ask in order to consider whether or not he should leave a church to find a new one or stay and commit to his current church. There are many reasons someone might want to reconsider the church that they are attending, but church membership is a serious commitment and should never be taken lightly. If you have been considering finding a more solid church, this episode is for you.
Like what you see? Read more!
Lindsey Stomberg is wife to Caleb Stomberg and co-author here at Reformed Faith and Family. She is a work-from-home, homeschooling mom of seven children. Lindsey has enjoyed blogging for over a decade. Lindsey is the former owner of The Road to 31 Blog and author of The ABC’s for Godly Children Bible Curriculum. She enjoys reading, writing, and graphic design. Her favorite pass times are family read-aloud time, snuggling with her babies, and going on walks with her family.