For months now, I have been wanting to write about our experience in finding our new church. Y'all, we found a church we REALLY love. But I kept putting it off. Then I read the article "5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church" by Aaron G Loy and I
As a little background, the husband and I moved to California almost 6 years ago
Over the last 6 years, we have tried a number of churches, but really invested in 2 before finding our latest church. We volunteered in the high school ministry and were a part of a small group at the first church. We ended up leading a small group at our second church. But, I have to say.. at both churches, after a while we realized that at least 4 of the 5 reasons Aaron mentions in the article above applied to us. And they felt like very good reasons to leave. And if they apply to you, I think they are very good reasons for you to leave your church as well.
For the sake of this post I am going to assume that you aren't church shopping to find a church that you agree with 100% because you don't want to be challenged (or worse yet, called on your sin). I am going to assume that you are a genuinely committed person who is looking for a true church home.
1. We weren't being fed. Both our churches had biblical sermons but they either a) didn't preach the whole bible or b) didn't have enough meat in their sermons. Week after week, we listened in but we were never challenged. We never learned something new (besides a greek word or too). We never even super disagreed with the sermons. They all seemed to be the same super surface-y sermons that seemed more for new believers or unbelievers than for people who were committed to the church, which is good some of the time, but not all of the time. Now, do I expect the pastor to meet everyone's needs every sermon? NO. Obviously not. But I do expecting him to actually teach the congregation, to teach on the entire bible, to speak directly to believers, and to challenge us in our walk with the Lord at least some of the time. If you are not getting this from your church, it's a good reason to look elsewhere.
2. They were getting too big. I am from the south- land of big churches. My husbands church back home had 3 services of 350-400 people each. That's a big church and I have no objection to big churches. The idea of the amount of believers growing so much a church expands seriously fills me with joy. What I do have a problem with (for wording's sake) is a church that's desire is to be a big church without truly making new believers. There is a big difference between filling seats and changing hearts. And if your church is more concerned with filling seats than it is with changing hearts, it's a good reason to look elsewhere.
3. We didn't agree with everything being preached because not everything was being preached. I don't believe that you should ever leave a church just because there is a sermon that points out a sin you don't agree with or a sin you yourself commit. There are obviously non-salvation issues that we as Christians all disagree with. But I think when you hear a sermon you should either agree, feel convicted to explore it further, or go to God with how you disagree and begin praying through that. When we started going to our newest church the very first sermon was on biblical submission (a fairly standard topic). Wives submit to your husbands, husband's submit to the church, church submit to the Lord. Not in a macho domination way but in the "you submit and I love and honor you and we realized we both are looking out for each other" way. And we realized we had not actually heard those words from a pastor in the entire time we lived here. I don't know if its because its a sensitive topic out here or what, but its just one example of how we were missing out on what should have been preached. I'd also submit that if you theologically disagree with what your church is preaching and you have biblical reasoning to back it up, it's a good reason to look elsewhere.
4. Our Needs Weren't Being Met We obviously know the church doesn't revolve around us, but community was one of the big things we were looking for in a church. The church shouldn't be expected to meet your needs but the community within the church should be looking out for and supporting one another. At our second church, we were looking for a community group and found that the young married couples group was "closed" because there were 8 couples in it. The first group we tried was for the 20 somethings and as we were super pregnant with Reese/ just had her we were just plain in a different life stage. The second group was older-than-us married couples whose children were 7 at the youngest, so they too were just in a different life stage then us with a newborn. We finally asked the church if we could start another young married couple's group. We led this group for two sessions but as a whole, attendance wasn't regular enough and with now two children it wasn't always beneficial to have just us and a single other couple consistently in the group. There is no way to build trust and meet each other's needs without a certain level of commitment to the community as a whole- from the church and the members. If you have a church where the commitment to meet each other's needs just isn't there, its a good reason to look elsewhere.
5. Unresolved Conflict The thing I have learned about church is that its full of sinners (because hello.. we are all sinners) so there will at times be conflict. But I think it is important that we are aware of when there is extreme unresolved (or hidden) conflict- not between us and other members (although, yes you should attempt to work that out) but within the church staff itself. Our first church had two separate instances of unresolved conflict (that did not include us) that were instrumental in us deciding to leave. The first was when we learned that the worship band and the new worship leader were not actually believers and were instead paid to perform at church on Sundays. Now, do I think there is a place for unbelievers? Duh. But do I think it is in front of the congregation playing music and singing "to the Lord" when in fact they are atheists and just consider it another paycheck? I don't. And if you do, thats totally ok, but I think we can agree that it shouldn't be a secret. The second was when more than 50% of the church staff stepped down. Now, I don't need to get into everything that happened, but when a large group of elders and staff members leave the church and again, it seems to be in secret, that is a warning flag. If you have multiple warning flags due to unresolved conflict in the church, it's a good reason to look elsewhere.
So what about you? Do you feel like these are good reasons to leave your church? Or do you tend to agree with Aaron Loy? I'd love to have a healthy discussion in the comments!