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Making Abundant Riches Known In the Name of Christ
Digging Deeper

Ten Bad Reasons for Leaving Your Church

Dr. Chuck Betters

Dr. Chuck BettersThere are many good reasons why people decide to leave a church. But there are some very bad reasons as well that have the great potential for throwing a church family into a pit of discouragement. Consider the following as potentially invalid reasons for leaving a Bible believing evangelical church.

1. The Church is a Volunteer Organization.  I can take it or leave it. Wrong! God calls His church a family, the bride of Christ, the Body of Christ.  When we join a local church, we take vows that move us from volunteer to family member.  Here is God’s view of vow-breakers:
 
When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. [5] It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.  “It is better not to vow and vow than to vow a vow and break it.”  Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
 
To make church membership vows and then to un-biblically break them is a sin. There are valid reasons why one cannot keep their vows. Circumstances do change. But a casual “I can take it or leave it” attitude toward the local church is not one of them.

2. The preacher just doesn’t cut it. He is boring and drones on and on. Is the gift mix of the preacher a good enough reason to leave the church? Not necessarily. Unless that boring man is teaching heresy you can and must learn from him. Jonathan Edwards was a preacher without charisma. Yet, God used him as a channel of revival in the mid-1700’s. Preaching is a “prophetic event.”  In the corporate context of the worship of God the authoritative teaching of the Word must be central. Yes, preaching is fallible. Preachers make mistakes. We at times misinterpret the Word. Our theology matures. (There are some old tapes I would like to burn. They are hidden away in my attic).
But whenever a man prepares his heart to preach and intensely studies the Word of God, insofar as he properly interprets the Word, there is a word from the Lord to you and you must receive it. Preaching is not entertainment. It is holy business. Insofar as a man preaches the truth of the scriptures a prophetic event takes place. There are three elements in the art of preaching. The “logos” is the doctrinal truth of God’s Word. “Ethos” is the practical application of that Word. And, “pathos” is the passion with which that Word is communicated.
“Pathos” or passion is a wonderful means to a greater end – the proclamation of the Word of God. If that flare is not in your preacher that does not mean the Word is absent. People are often attracted to a preacher with strong communication skills with little regard for content.  The preacher’s ability to hold the congregation’s attention with entertaining stories becomes the measuring stick for effectiveness rather than the content of the message. 
Perhaps the leaders should encourage the preacher to spend more time preparing to preach and studying the art of “pathos” preaching by removing other less important responsibilities from him. There is nothing he does more important than the preaching of the Word.
A preacher’s effectiveness is measured by all three. But the weight must be placed upon “logos” and “ethos.” We must allow the man room to develop as an effective communicator.  Do not be a church hopper who constantly looks for the “best show in town.”  Instead, pray, pray, pray for your pastor to effectively communicate God’s Word. And also consider, you may have pulpit block because of sin in your own life or unresolved conflict.  Be slow to blame the preacher.

3. The church is not meeting my needs.  Wait a minute!  What is your definition of the church?  You are the church!  So when you say the church isn’t meeting your needs, you are saying, “I’m not meeting my needs”!  And who is responsible for meeting your needs?  Paul proclaims:

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

Before you leave your local church because your needs are not being met, consider how you can meet the needs of others.  If every member of your local church used their own skills and gifts to meet the needs of others the people of the church and community would be the greatest beneficiaries. I wonder how many early Christians left their local “church” because the programs were weak?  The Biblical model for effective ministry is spelled out in Ephesians 4:11-15. 

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, [12] to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [13] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. [14] Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. [15] Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

In other words, “Grow Up!”

4. I don’t like the way the church is spending our money.   Are tithes and offerings really YOUR money? Or is it God’s money?  When you enter the church building do the lights shine? Is the heat or AC working? Did you hand carry your own pew into the church? Who made sure the bathrooms were clean and there was soap and paper towels available? Who paid for all of this and more? The church – and hopefully that is you.
Instead of using your giving as a power tool (“I will withhold my offering until you do things my way.) make your disagreements known to the right people in the right way. Perhaps you need a better understanding of the vision of the leadership or they could use some help in developing a better, more efficient budget. 

5. I disagree with the direction of the church. Rather than leaving the church try to understand the vision. If you leave with wrong information you leave under false and sinful pretenses. Change is always painful. But to not change is to stagnate. As the vision of the church changes or is modified you may not feel “called” to that vision.  Then it may be the right thing to change churches.  Before you do, be sure you understand the change. Ask questions. But ask them the right way. Respectfully and with an open mind say, “Pastor, I do not understand what is going on with these changes. Can you help me to fill in the blanks?” Before you walk away from your church family, take a year to work side by side with your leadership.  Be sure your disagreement is based in biblical reasons, not personal preference or fear of change (we’ve never done it this way before therefore it must be wrong).

6. We don’t need more buildings. We must focus on missions and outreach.   The local church is your training ground to prepare you to be a redemptive presence in your circles of influence. When you leave the church parking lot, then you have entered into your mission field. As you effectively engage your culture with the Gospel by being that redemptive presence it’s likely your local congregation will grow and space will be at a premium. It should not be an either or proposition but a both and.

7. The church is too focused on numbers.  Be honest with your reasons for being offended by a focus on growth.  Sometimes people are afraid their own needs won’t be met if too many new people come.  Or maybe a visitor sat in “your” pew or it’s hard for you to find a parking place or seat now. The Lord told us to go into the streets and lanes of the cities and the highways and hedges and compel them to come in so that my house may be full.
Stats are critical for planning and adjusting plans. Small churches cannot do some of the things a large church can do. Why would you not want to grow? Ephesians 4:16 expects growth.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 If you believe your family will flourish in a smaller church setting and that you can be more effective in ministering to others in a smaller church, that could be a good reason to change churches.  But be sure you do not condemn your former church for intentionally planning for growth.

8.  The church has wounded me. Someone wise once said, “The church is not a museum for saints. It is a hospital for sinners.” And sinners will hurt each other. Before walking away from your church family, you must attempt to reconcile your conflict Jesus anticipated that we will wound one another when He stated in Matthew 18:15-17.   For more on church discipline, order the The Missing Art of Church Discipline.

Matthew 18:15-17 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. [16] But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Conflict is to be handled at the most private level possible. But if resolution cannot happen then it must be told to the church. Even there the goal is the restoration of the conflicting parties. Sometimes it is not a sin issue but a philosophy of life or relational issue. We do not always have to agree. Sometimes it is wise to part company. But if you must leave, leave in peace, leave quietly, and leave on a positive note. Above all, do not lie about your reasons for leaving or change your tune after you are gone.

9.  The church is trying to be too much like the world. We live in a post-modern and even a post-Christian era. Much of what used to work no longer works. What we defined as “too much like the world” years ago doesn’t always apply today.  Even though it may feel more comfortable!  Be careful of how you define spiritual.  What would the Apostle Paul have done with the Internet? What did he mean when he said “I have become all things to all men… if I might win some…”? How can we reach children who are accustomed to visual imagery and high tech video games? Can we still hold fast to the Gospel AND address our relevance to our culture? Of course we can and of course we must. Creativity and genius is in your church. Don’t keep it in a box because to let it out requires risk.

10. I do not like the music. I want the old hymns. Will the music wars ever end? Years ago, our sixteen-year-old son Mark, who died in a car accident in 1993, came to me and said, “Dad, I want to play my drums in church.” I said no. He asked for a reason and I said “Mark, we just do not do drums in church.” I felt like an idiot when he said, “Then where can I play my drums if I can’t play them in church?” “Because I said so” seemed irrelevant. So, I permitted Mark and his brothers to play a couple of praise songs in church.  In order to help fulfill our vision to reach the rising generation, the Session decided we would have a blend of traditional and contemporary worship music on Sunday mornings. I do not like all of the music in our worship services. But many love it and worship the Lord singing it. Am I so selfish that I cannot give up some of my tastes for the edification of the body? We lost key people who accused us of holding rock concerts on Sunday mornings.  Rather than give up their own preferences in order to use their training to mentor younger believers, they walked out.  But from that meager beginning our music ministry has exploded. Musicians who did not think they could ever use their skills in a worship service now help lead worship with their instruments. What I am saying is this – music is a matter of taste and preference. Every generation has its music wars. It is critical to teach our kids the old hymns that are rich in theology so we must discover ways to repackage them, create new ones, and move on. This war has been fought and has been over for a long time.

 The above reasons for not leaving a church are certainly not exhaustive but I hope they start a debate about the biblical definition of church and how we must take seriously the privilege and responsibility of church membership.

Dr. Chuck Betters has been the Senior Pastor of Glasgow Reformed Presbyterian Church in Bear, Delaware since 1986. He has a daily radio program, airing since 1994, In His Grip, which can be accessed online at www.MARKINC.org.  He can be seen live via streaming video every Sunday at 11:00 AM ET. Visit www.GRPC.org. Along with the development of numerous audio and video resources designed to help heal broken hearts, he is co-author of Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God’s Promises, a Bible study of Hebrews 11. To order these resources visit www.MARKINC.org.

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