Three things to consider before leaving your church
If you’re leaving because you’re relocating to another area, I understand. If you’re leaving because you’ve tried your best, with God’s help, to reconcile a situation, and haven’t been able to, I sympathize. And if you’re leaving because you want a stronger program for your kids, I would ask what you are doing to train them spiritually.
But if you are leaving your church because you’re not being “spiritually fed” you are like most people I’ve talked with.
As a pastor’s wife for more than 20 years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say they were looking for a new church because they weren’t being “spiritually fed.” I didn’t hear it being said about my husband (at least not directly) but from others about why they were checking out our church, why they hadn’t yet found a church, or why they have nearly given up on church altogether.
I fear what happens when we begin staying in or leaving a church based on the question “what’s in it for me?”
Here are three things to consider the next time you are thinking about leaving your church:
- Church is about more than your pastor.
Your pastor is certainly not capable of being ALL things — a great teacher and expositor of the Word, a top administrator, a superb vision-caster, a gentle and compassionate counselor, a dynamic people person, a detail-oriented leader, and so on. And therefore, he can’t possibly meet all your expectations. It is inevitable that he will eventually disappoint you in one way or another. If the Word of God is not being taught, that’s reason to find a church where it is being taught. But if it’s taught in a different style, or you don’t feel you’re getting enough of the Word to grow spiritually, read the second point.
- Church is about where you serve.
I talked with a couple recently who are considering leaving their church because their longtime pastor just accepted another call to a church across the country.They joined the church based on his preaching and they are concerned his successor will not be as good of a teacher. They are concerned about being spiritually fed.
If our idea of spiritual food is a 40-minute sermon on Sundays, then we need to learn to feed ourselves, not find another church – or pastor – to do our feeding. It isn’t a pastor’s responsibility to keep you spiritually fed and healthy on a weekly sermon. Prayerfully, you are feeding yourself through regular reading and study of the Word of God, discipleship and accountability from someone other than your pastor, and service that is shaping you into the image of Christ.
Also, If you trust that God led your pastor to your church in the first place, can you trust when He leads him out of your church and brings someone else to fill his spot? Instead of asking “Will the next guy feed me?” a better question to ask is “How can I encourage and serve this body while we wait for God’s appointed man to arrive?”
Hebrews 10:24 instructs: “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (NASB). If everyone who comes through the doors of your church merely sits and listens, rather than exhorts and serves, you have a lecture series, a comedy club, or a weekly Bible class. Church is more about where you serve, than where you’re fed.
- Church is about a sense of family
The church is about a sense of family and community. It is about being with those you love and serve because God has called you to a family. When we have problems with a family member, we work it out, instead of leaving the family. When we find other people we like better than our family we don’t just ditch the family. If we are truly functioning as the New Testament commands a church to function, every part of the body is needed and if one part of the body hurts – or leaves – the rest of the body will feel it (1 Corinthians 12:18-20). Do you see your church as your family? Your community? Christ’s extended body through which we can know and serve Him better? If not, chances are you won’t see your next church as a family either.
If you are thinking about leaving your church, I would ask you to consider three questions:
- Is the Word of God still being taught, obeyed, and honored here?
- Is my service, encouragement, and spiritual giftedness needed here?
- How can I most effectively help build up this body where God has placed me?
Sometimes God will call us elsewhere to serve Him because of what we can uniquely offer another body of believers. But God will not call us away from a church for our own personal gain.
When we take the focus off of ourselves by no longer asking “what’s in it for me?” and start asking God “where can I serve You?” we might have a clearer indication of where He is calling and how He wants to use us.
I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts in the comment section below.