How do you know when it’s time to leave your church?
That’s a tough question. And it can be really difficult to know what the right answer is. Now every situation is different, but I want to give you some general guidelines and tips that will help you know when it’s time to leave your church.
We will start by looking at 7 signs that it might be time to leave your church. And then we will end by looking at how to leave your church well.
How Do You Know When It’s Time To Leave Your Church?
As we look at this question I would encourage you before you do anything to pray. This shouldn’t be a decision you make on your own, rather one that you seek God’s wisdom in. You and me, we aren’t as wise as we like to think. We need God’s wisdom when discerning if we should leave our church.
With that in mind, let’s jump in. How do you know when it’s time to leave your church? Here’s 7 signs it might be time to leave.
1. You Haven’t Found Community (But You’ve Tried)
One of the biggest reasons that church is important for Christians is that we have people to do life together with. If you aren’t finding that in your church, it might be time to look for a different church.
But hear me on this, you have to TRY first.
As a pastor I often encounter people who complain about not being able to connect with others at their church. But when I dig a little deeper what I typically find is they haven’t even tried. Often they haven’t attended any community events, been to a small group, or even tried talking with people on a Sunday.
Community is a two-way street. It takes effort on both parts. Of course the church has responsibility in this. But you do too, so do your part.
How do you know when it’s time to leave your church? If you’ve tried to find community at your church, but haven’t then it might be time to leave your church.
2. The Church Isn’t Doing Anything For People Outside The Church
Churches should have a balance between growing the spiritual depth of those in the church and loving those outside the church. But often that balance is lost and churches become concerned with only what’s happening within their walls.
If your church has become all internal and has no focus on what’s happening outside the walls, it’s time to go.
Any church that only focuses on those inside the walls inevitably becomes sick and dies. The church was never meant to be exclusive, but rather inclusive.
That responsibility lies not only on the church but on you as well. The church should be training those inside to go and love those outside. Find a place that puts an emphasis on loving people outside the church.
When is it time to leave a church? When the church isn’t focused on reaching those in their community.
3. There Is Abuse Of Power In The Church Leadership
The church is messy. It’s messy because they allow people like you and me in the doors. And the leaders of the church aren’t immune to the mess. They are broken people just like everybody else.
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for the leadership of a church to get consumed in their pursuit of power that they end up abusing the position God has put them in.
I have heard many heartbreaking stories of spiritual, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse that have taken place inside churches. If the leadership in your church is making demands, twisting the Gospel to give them power, or is using the Bible to put others down, get out. If there’s even a hint of that in your church, RUN.
Let me just add one caveat to this. In some cases it’s one pastor that’s become abusive and once the church leadership becomes aware they take appropriate steps to handle the problem. In that case you might consider staying if you weren’t the one directly involved.
How do you know when it’s time to leave your church? When the church leadership is abusing its power and refuses to be held accountable.
4. You Don’t Agree With The Vision
While the mission of every church is the same, how that mission is played out will look different for each church. I think that is one of the most beautiful parts of the church. Together we make up the body of Christ. But each individual part plays a different role.
Each church will look and feel different. Each church plays a different role in the overarching mission of the church. And that’s okay, in fact, that’s a good thing. Churches are different.
Most of these differences aren’t right or wrong; they are just preference. If you don’t agree with the direction your church is going, that’s fine; go find one you can get behind. That’s the beauty of having so many unique churches; each one will make an impact in a different way. Find a church that has a vision that fits the gifts God has given you.
When is it time to leave a church? When their vision and direction doesn’t align with how God has gifted and wired you.
5. You Don’t Trust The Church With Your Money
If you cannot trust the church with your money, you shouldn’t give them your time.
Some churches keep their books closed and will not share where the money that comes in goes. That is a red flag. As a member of a church you should know how and where the money is going.
Now, in some areas, you don’t need all the details. For example, salaries of all the staff are often lumped into one. You can see how much in total is being given to salaries but not what an individual makes.
Giving to a church is like making an investment. If you shifted your 401k to a new broker and they wouldn’t show you where your money was, you would pull it fast! If you regularly give and attend a church you should know exactly how your money is being used and you should see “returns” on your investment.
If your church isn’t willing to show where the money is going or if you don’t trust the church to use what you give for the benefit of God’s Kingdom it’s time to leave.
How do you know when it’s time to leave your church? When they hide where the money is going.
6. Church Politics Have Overtaken The Pursuit Of Jesus
Wherever two or more people gather the one thing you can guarantee is there will be issues.
Every church has and will continue to have issues. You cannot expect a group of broken, messed up people to come together and all of a sudden be perfect. Not going to happen. If you want to be a part of a church or any group of people, you will have to have some grace.
However there are some churches where politics have overtaken everything else. If your church is all about the church politics, drama, or he said/she said it might be time to look for a new church.
When is it time to leave a church? When church politics overtake the mission and calling of Jesus.
You might also like: How Christians Should Respond In A Time Of Nationalism
7. There’s No Place For You To Use Your Skills/Gifts
Every single person is different and has a unique set of skills. This means that you were created in a way that you can serve and use your skills to benefit those around you. And I believe that you are in a unique spot to make an impact on someone in a way that no one else can.
If your church doesn’t have a place or isn’t willing to let you use your skills, you need to find a place where you can use your God-given gifts to benefit those around you.
How do you know when it’s time to leave your church? When your gifts are being utilized to benefit the church.
You might also like: The Parable Of The Talents And What It Means
How To Leave A Church Well
When most people leave a church they simply slip out the back door. But I want to encourage you to take a different path. It’s more difficult, but it’s more honoring and better in the long run. I want you to consider this question, “How to tell your pastor you are leaving the church?”
I know it’s easy to just leave. But in the long run it will be better for you and the church if you learn how to leave a church well.
1. Check Your Motives
Why do you want to leave your church? Be honest. Are you leaving for good reasons? Or is there something else going on in your heart?
Sometimes we can deceive ourselves into thinking we are doing the right thing, but in reality we are doing it for selfish reasons. Spend some time checking your motives and asking God for wisdom. Use the above list of signs on how do you know when it’s time to leave your church to help you discern if you should.
How to leave a church well starts with checking your motives.
2. Tell Someone
I’ve been a pastor for 10 years. The vast majority of people leave without ever telling anyone. And I get it, it’s awkward. I know it’s hard, but it’s needed.
Have a healthy, respectful, and constructive conversation. Don’t leave without talking to the pastor or the people you were connected with.
How to tell your pastor you are leaving the church? You be honest. Sugar coating or avoiding the conversation isn’t going to be good for you or them. Be honest and share why you feel it’s best for you to leave.
3. Be Honest With Your Why
Speaking of honesty. When you are telling people you are leaving give them the real reason.
It doesn’t help anyone when you don’t tell the full truth. Now you can say it in a respectful way, but say it.
Again, I know this is difficult. I know it’s hard to speak up about the issues you are facing. But remember the church is the bride of Christ. Treat her respectfully. Be honest.
How to leave a church well means that you are honest with why you are leaving.
4. Leave With Grace
Don’t burn your bridges. Again, remember the church is the bride of Christ, treat her with respect and grace. When you insult your church ultimately you are insulting Christ.
You are probably frustrated with how things are happening and you likely have a good reason to feel that way. Still, take the high road. It’s not easy, but you won’t regret it.
Ask yourself. In 10 years, what will I wish I had done? Really that’s a great question for most aspects of our leave. But when it comes to how to leave a church I think that question will help you do what is best.
5. Find A New Church
When people leave their church and never end up finding another one. If you are leaving your church the top priority should be finding a new church. The reality is the best shot you have of following Jesus is with a few other people in your life.
The Christian life is not meant to be done in isolation. In fact, I would say it’s impossible. Find a place you can plug into and commit to that church.
And remember you don’t go to church, you are the church. So find a place where you can grow, serve, love, give, and experience the transformation that Jesus has for you.
So, how do you know when it’s time to leave your church? Consider the things on this list with lots of prayer. Seek God’s wisdom. Ask those around you. Don’t make this decision on a whim or in search of green pastures. If you do end up leaving consider how to leave a church well. Do what is loving and gracious and not out of malice.
If you are looking for a new church check out: 5 Things To Look For In A New Church (The Gospel Coalition)
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on how do you know when it’s time to leave your church. And I hope that it helped you rethink parts of your life and faith. If you did would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have. And if you are struggling with how to leave a church well I would love to hear your story. You can comment below or email me here: [email protected]
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