Tuesday, March 4, 2014

5 Really Good Reasons To Leave Your Church

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 totally disagreed with pretty much all the points decided now might be the time to take you with us on our church journey.

As a little background, the husband and I moved to California almost 6 years ago WHAT?! and immediately began looking for a church. Not only did we want to attend church for all the normal reasons, we were looking for community. All of our family lives a good 3000 miles away and sometimes it can get lonely. And tough.

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!

16 comments:

  1. As someone who has been church shopping for A YEAR, thank you! Could not agree more. I am SO discouraged by the options we have in Vegas. This place is so desolate, literally and spiritually. The churches we feel that would really work for us are like 45 minutes away. But we want to be plugged into a church in our own community. That's so hard to find. We have visited and/or invested in just about every church this side of town.

    We've finally landed on a church, for now. We agree with them biblically, appreciate their small groups (although I'm not sure we'll stick with the one we're in because it was advertised as "young families" and there isn't a single child in it younger than 10- disappointing), and it just works for us. BUT, like you talk about, the sermons don't really dig deep enough for us. Part of me has to remember that I can't compare it to previous churches we attended (THE VILLAGE!) and others that were super fantastic-awesome as far as teaching goes, because they're not the same church. Every church is different. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but the other part of me struggles with it too. I NEED to be challenged. All that to say, we're here for now and we'll give them a good go at it.

    And to your last point. YES- church discipline is a MUST. Resolving conflict has to happen. It's in the Bible people! (1 Cor 5). Our church in San Diego was super serious about it and I appreciated it so much. The church used to attend here and got married in, horrible, horrible at it which was the number one reason we left to search. Anyways, I totally agree with you and totally disagree with Aaron, although I get the angle he's coming from, I just don't agree with the conclusions he landed on.

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    1. The church we're at now has a pastor who is new to preaching and not the best public speaker. BUT he is an amazing pastor meaning he challenges us each and has really cultivated a community. I can see such potential in the ministries he is putting into motion. Its very exciting.

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  2. Amen!! The first two reasons are words that have literally come out of my mouth in regards to our church shopping journey. And community is HUGE....still working on finding our just right young couples group!

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  3. I read this awhile back and didn't completely agree with them, either. Amen to ALL of your comments and I truly thank you for taking the time to write out your experiences- extremely helpful in inderstanding your views and actually helping to hash out my own.

    Community is HUGE for me and in this season we are in, it's rare to have people willing to jump in our 'mess'/beautiful chaos. It's really opening my eyes to what community and compassion really look like.

    I think we (you + I) like and appreciate and more importantly 'grow' in the same kind of church.

    Blessings! Bree from BreeLoverly.blogspot.com

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  4. I read this awhile back and didn't completely agree with them, either. Amen to ALL of your comments and I truly thank you for taking the time to write out your experiences- extremely helpful in inderstanding your views and actually helping to hash out my own.

    Community is HUGE for me and in this season we are in, it's rare to have people willing to jump in our 'mess'/beautiful chaos. It's really opening my eyes to what community and compassion really look like.

    I think we (you + I) like and appreciate and more importantly 'grow' in the same kind of church.

    Blessings! Bree from BreeLoverly.blogspot.com

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  5. AMEN!! I think this is AMAZING! My mom is looking for a different church right now and they have been at their current one for at least ten years! So it is so hard! But they mainly feel the issues of not being fed. Too much to unbelievers and just not enough meat type sermons. And I have encouraged them that that is super important and should totally be taken seriously. So they have been looking around. I think this is great post! I am sending it to my mom now! :)

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  6. I also didn't agree with the article. We decided to leave our church for some of the reason above plus a few more. Ive been so discouraged searching for a new one. When I read his article I felt as if I should just forget about finding the right church for us and instead stay where we were at. Thank you for writing this! I will continue searching and have faith that we will find one that will feed us in each way we need!

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  7. i think the relevant article is aimed at the group of people who bounce from church to church, or just sit in church on sundays and DO NOTHING. who don't get involved. so in that light, i agree with some of his stuff... it's like grow up. community groups will not be perfect, your pastor may not always bring you to tears but also, there's a time to know what is a big thing and what is a little thing.

    Also, you know my church story and why we left the church-that-shall-not-be-named and we found a smaller, awesome church however it's now booming! and while the growth makes it hard to get a seat (hello getting to church 15 minutes early) they're also doing some awesome community growth that shows that it's not about just getting butts in a seat. (which i am SOO thankful for)

    but your reasons for leaving your church(es) sound SUPER valid. paid worship pastors?! super bizarro.

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  8. I think that those are all very valid points. I have been going to the same church since I was a kid, and I just don't feel a connection with it anymore. It's too big and I don't feel any community and I don't feel that I really get much out of the sermons, though I'm not sure why. But I haven't yet taken the leap to try out new churches!

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  9. I completely agree with you! From looking at the other article, I get what he's saying about you go to church to contribute and you can look up sermons or "feed" yourself. However, I feel that very often if something is not being preached it's possibly a "cop out" for the pastor because it's a controversial topic, it's hard to preach on, it might upset people, etc. I want a pastor who will preach the full word of God even when it's uncomfortable or not popular.

    I also am honestly not sure how I feel about big churches. If a church is growing because the people are being lights for Jesus and people's lives are being changed, that's awesome. However, church is supposed to be a family. You are supposed to have community and that's hard to do when you go to a large church. At our church we have growth groups that are supposed to be that family unit and be your community and that's great, but I still feel awkward walking in on Sunday morning and not knowing anyone I see. (We are in a large city going to a newer church plant and I know you might not have those problems in a small town or a more established church.) I know there's not perfect solution and I'm not saying you should cut off membership and build a new church once the congregation reaches 500 or anything like that. I'm just saying that size can affect that community feel and I think it's something to consider.

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  10. I am so glad you wrote this. The Relevant article didn't sit well with me. My husband and I are now torn between the mentality that "This is our church. We're invested. We're here. We're not leaving." And the realization that it's really not a good fit for us. It's a long drive (we met there before we moved, my entire family attends there), there are many young couples/newborns (we don't have kids), and zero sense of community. Many of the people our age aren't that committed/invested. It's probably one of the biggest stressors in my life right now. Just figuring out where God wants us. Thanks for writing this!

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  11. I believe that when you (you being people, not "you" specifically.) decide to go to a church more than a few times, you're making a commitment to that church. That being said, I do believe that you should be going to a church which is feeding you. If you really aren't getting fed at all, then I think you should probably pray about whether it's time to move on.

    Unless you don't agree with a LARGE part of what's being preached, then I really don't think that's any reason to leave a church. Churches are lead my humans. There will be mistakes. It's our job as the congregation to check everything we learn, with what the Bible says. If it's not Biblical, then don't believe it.

    If your needs aren't being met, than do whatever you can to change that. Maybe God wants *you* to do something about it.

    In the instances that you stated, I agree, you should definitely pray about whether God wants you somewhere else. But conflict itself, in most cases, is no good reason to leave a church.

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  12. Sigh. At the same point too and quite frustrated. My husband and I live in a small town and have attended our church for the last 7 years or so. There are some wonderful people there but we just don't believe in the direction it's headed as a whole. I also worked at the church for 6 of those years and know the conflicts and resistance to change that has a stronghold there. We were very invested at one point but feel like that investment made no difference at all. Sadly, there just aren't many other options for us to choose from. We're sensing the call to move on -- but to what -- we just don't know. Sort of feeling like we're sticking around because it's the best option out of all the mediocre churches but that's a terrible reason to stay somewhere. Of course there are life-giving churches an hour away but that's too far of a drive to be invested each Sunday and in the community.

    Any advice on what next steps we could take?

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  13. Yes! I would also add no opportunity to serve. We attended a church for almost a year and the only opportunity to serve was in the nursery, which is not a place I'm called to. Once we started to really evaluate that particular church, we saw many other things like what you mention above. Our new church is very different and we truly feel at home.

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  14. I think that Aaron is seriously mislead. I can understand sorta where he coming from but those are all issues that really need to be prayed about before staying or leaving. I kinda sounds to me as if he is trying to get people from his church to stay where they are growing in God or not. Also sounds like there is alot more there then is written but that is just my option.

    As for your reasons, I think they are justified. I had to leave my church that I was attending for all the same reasons and I don't think it's a bad thing. I think if I stayed in the church, it would create another issue that would take away from God. Anyways, I think that only God can tell you when your ready to move churches Jesus did it all the time, whose to say we can't. I am glad that you have found a new church. Now it's my turn.

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  15. Good stuff Ashley.. As a pastors daughter, its nice to hear the 'congregation' point of view... <3

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