How do you know when you should leave a church?
I’ve been a pastor for 12+ years and in my time I’ve seen countless people leave for a variety of reasons. Some leave for good reasons, others not so good reasons, and many simply disappear without explanation.
The reality is changing churches is something just about every Christian will all do at some point or another. And it’s typically a good thing; God doesn’t call us to always attend the same church. But knowing when to leave a church is difficult.
So, in this post 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 8 signs that it might be time to leave your church. And then we will end by looking at how to leave your church well.
Table of Contents
How To Know When To Leave A Church
So, how do you know when you should leave your church? Let’s look at 8 legitimate reasons you should consider leaving your church.
Now, some of these are signs that your church is unhealthy, and others are signs your church doesn’t want you/care for you.
As we look through this list 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 8 signs it might be time to leave.
1. The Gospel Isn’t Being Taught
If you are attending a church that is not teaching that salvation is found in Jesus alone, then leave.
Sadly many churches simply aren’t preaching the Gospel. Some center around other things such as money, power, or fame and let those overshadow the Gospel. Others teach heretical teaching that salvation is found apart from Jesus. Either way the Gospel isn’t being taught.
Churches should center around what Jesus has done for us and how we should live in light of what he has done for us.
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 what often happens is that balance can become out of whack, and many churches only concern themselves with what’s happening inside the church.
If your church’s sole focus is on those inside the walls, it’s time to change churches. 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.
This 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.
3. You Haven’t Found Community (But You’ve Tried)
As a pastor I often encounter people who complain about not connecting with the people at church. Sometimes, that’s legitimate, for a variety of reasons they just never connected. But often when I dig a little deeper what I typically find is they haven’t even tried. They never attended any community events, tried a small group, or even put effort into talking with anyone.
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.
If you’ve tried to find community and haven’t, it might be a sign that it’s time to leave your church.
4. There Is Abuse Of Power In The Church Leadership
Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for the leadership within a church to get consumed in their pursuit of power that they end up abusing the position God has put them in.
There are many heartbreaking stories of spiritual, emotional, and sometimes even physical abuse that have taken place inside churches. If you are in a church that is abusing their power, twisting the Gospel to their benefit, making demands, or using the Bible to hold people down, get out.
Now, there is a difference between making a mistake and abusing power. Every church is full of broken people, and there’s bound to be a few messes. And that includes the leaders. Making a mistake is one thing, a pattern of abuse is another.
If there’s abuse in the church leadership, no accountability for the lead pastor, then it’s time time leave your church.
5. You Don’t Agree With The Vision
Every church has (or should have) a vision. It sets the direction they are going and establishes their unique identity. Their vision is what God has specifically called them to do.
One of the most beautiful parts of the church is when each church understands their unique role. And together each church makes up the body of Christ though each plays a different role.
This means each church will look and feel different and play a different role in the overarching mission of the church. And that’s okay; in fact, that’s a good thing.
But that also means that you won’t fit at every church because each church is different. And let me be clear, these differences aren’t right or wrong, they are just different.
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.
6. 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.
Giving to a church is like making an investment. If you shifted your 401k to a new broker and they wouldn’t tell you where you money was and how it was being invested you would pull it out FAST.
When you give to a church you are making a Kingdom investment. If you regularly give and attend a church you should know how your money is being used, and you should see “returns” on your investment.
When a church has closed books and doesn’t want to share how they are using the tithes and offerings that’s a red flag. Now, in some areas, you don’t need all the details. For example, salaries of all the staff are often lumped into one in the budget. You can see how much in total is being given to salaries but not what an individual makes. But as a whole you should know where the money is going.
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 consider changing churches.
Curious about what the Bible says about tithing? Check out: Tithing In The New Testament (and should Christians tithe?)
7. Church Politics Have Overtaken The Pursuit Of Jesus
The church is messy because they let people like you and me in the doors. Wherever two or more people gather, the one thing you can guarantee is there will be issues.
Every church has had or will have issues. There’s no such thing as a perfect church. 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.
Typically this happens when a church abandons their God-given mission and becomes more interested individual preferences. It’s a sign that the church is dying.
If church politics have overtaken the pursuit of Jesus in your church it’s time to leave.
8. There’s No Place For You To Use Your Skills/Gifts
God has given you a unique set of skills and passions. You were created on purpose and for a purpose. And one other way you can use these gifts is by serving the church.
Being a Christian isn’t a spectator sport, and going to church isn’t a consumer activity. It requires participation. That means that you should find ways to use your gifts for the benefit of the church and your community.
If your church doesn’t have a place or isn’t willing to let you use your skills, it might be a sign your church doesn’t want you and God is calling you elsewhere.
How To Leave A Church Well
The above certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully it helped you know when to leave a church. And now I want to shift gears to talk about how to change churches.
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 I think it’ll be better for you and the church in the long run.
1. Check Your Motives
Changing churches should never be something you do on a whim. And the first thing we should do is check our heart and our 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 to know when it’s time to leave your church to help you discern if you should.
2. Ask Someone Outside The Church
Get an outside perspective from a godly person you trust. It can be easy to deceive ourselves, so we need the input of others to help us see our blindspots.
Find someone you trust and tell them why you are considering changing churches and what you plan to do. See what they see; it’s likely they will have a unique perspective that will help you.
Really this is a good life principle; we need others in our life to help us navigate where to go and what to do.
3. Tell Someone Inside The Church
I’ve been a pastor for nearly 12 years. There’s been A LOT of people who have left the church I was at in that time. And the vast majority of people leave without ever sayings a word; they simply disappear. And I get it, it’s awkward. 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.*
* If you are in an abusive church, just leave. You should not have a conversation with the people abusing their power.
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.
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 still 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.
4. Live With Grace
While I’ve seen many people leave the church without saying a word to my face, I’ve also seen many people go online or to friends and bash the church (or someone in the church). They will never say a word to you, but they have no problem highlighting all the church’s faults publicly.
That’s not helpful or edifying for the church or you.
Remember the church is the bride of Christ; treat her with respect and grace. When you insult your church ultimately you are insulting Christ.
I know you might be frustrated, hurt, and disappointed. You probably have a good reason to feel that way. But I want to challenge you to take the high road. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
Ask yourself: in 10 years, what will I wish I had done? Really that’s a great question for most aspects of our lives. 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
The reality is many people get so focused on leaving their church that they never think about 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.
Closing Thoughts On Changing Churches
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 greener pastures.
And 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 this blog post helped you answer the question, how do you know when you should leave a church? I’d love to hear from you, you can email me here: [email protected]
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
- The Real Meaning Of John 3:16 (God So Loved The World) - November 30, 2023
- The Meaning Of Genesis 50:20 (The Story Of Joseph And His Brothers) - November 28, 2023
- The Woman At The Well (the powerful truth you need to know) - November 28, 2023