Before You Leave Your Church…

Christian Living, The Church

(By: Nick Kennicott)

ExitOne of the realities of life in a local church is that people leave and go elsewhere. Sometimes, the reasons for leaving are obvious like the relocation of a family because of a job or simply wanting to live somewhere new. There’s no way for me to be the pastor of someone living in Texas when I’m in Georgia. They need to find a new church. Other times, the issues may be because to not leave would be a sinful compromise. There are numerous denominations today adopting various positions that are in direct contradiction to Scripture with regard to God’s law and morality, and to stick around is not healthy. If a Christian finds themselves in an unbiblical church (i.e. openly promoting or accepting sinful practices, authoritarianism, innovation in worship, etc.), it’s time to leave.

Sometimes there are issues which are less clear in terms of deciding whether or not to continue with the local body when there are differences. How significant are those differences, and would a change in one area necessarily mean all other areas would still be as biblical as they were in the church one is leaving? Sometimes there are bad reasons for leaving a church like an unwillingness to reconcile differences with another member or a pastor, or wanting to escape accountability. Of course, there are always people who are willing to leave because they like another church’s music or sanctuary design or children’s program better. To many, churches are like making a decision between shopping for religious goods and services at Wal-Mart or Target; if one shop doesn’t have what I need, I’ll find it at the other.

A lot is written about whether or not Christians should leave a local church for another one, but very little is often said about how to work through that decision. In his helpful little book What is a Healthy Church? pastor Mark Dever offers a few short, practical steps to help think through this important issue. If more Christians followed these steps, there would be far more unity in the body of Christ, and far more conflicts would be worked out to bring greater glory to God.

QUICK TIPS: IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT LEAVING A CHURCH …

Before You Decide to Leave

1.Pray.

2.Let your current pastor know about your thinking before you move to another church or make your decision to relocate to another city. Ask for his counsel.

3.Weigh your motives. Is your desire to leave because of sinful, personal conflict or disappointment? If it’s because of doctrinal reasons, are these doctrinal issues significant?

4.Do everything within your power to reconcile any broken relationships.

5.Be sure to consider all the “evidences of grace” you’ve seen in the church’s life—places where God’s work is evident. If you cannot see any evidences of God’s grace, you might want to examine your own heart once more (Matt. 7:3–5).

6.Be humble. Recognize you don’t have all the facts and assess people and circumstances charitably (give them the benefit of the doubt).

7.Don’t divide the body.

8.Take the utmost care not to sow discontent even among your closest friends. Remember, you don’t want anything to hinder their growth in grace in this church. Deny any desire to gossip (sometimes referred to as “venting” or “saying how you feel”).

9.Pray for and bless the congregation and its leadership. Look for ways of doing this practically.

10.If there has been hurt, then forgive—even as you have been forgiven.

Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church?, 9Marks (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 56–57.

The Parable of a Man and a Bride

Christian Living, The Church
(By: Nick Kennicott)
Cat-Reception-CakeToppers-Traditional-tThere was a man who had a growing interest in a young lady, so he patiently, slowly, prayerfully, but excitedly learned all that he could about her. He would visit with her every Sunday, and eventually was even visiting her in the middle of the week for an hour or two. As the weeks went on, he was meeting more and more of her family and began to sense that he was fitting in quite well with all of them. Before he knew it, he was doing everything he could with the young lady and her family, and he couldn’t imagine doing the rest of his life without her. So, he made a covenant with the young lady and they were married.

At first, the marriage was beautiful. The man was always serving his bride, doing everything he could to make sure she was taken care of. He was attentive to her needs, he was listening for ways he could be a blessing, he was even feeling more and more comfortable with finding ways to lead her and take initiative to see that she was doing new, creative, and different things to fulfill all the goals they talked about fulfilling when they first got married.

After a while, the newness wore off. He didn’t always agree with decisions she was making and he was beginning to see that her family wasn’t as perfect as he once thought them to be. In time, she just wasn’t the same beautiful lady that he remembered marrying several years ago. She hadn’t really changed all that much, but his perception and commitment did. First, it was the extra events that they had been engaged in throughout the week that he started setting aside. His bride remained committed to the same routine they had set out on before, but he was losing interest. Her family would lovingly and gently ask him if everything was alright, and if there was any reason why he seemed to be pulling away from his bride; it seemed so unlike him after being so faithful to her in so many ways over the years. Eventually, he was even finding more and more reasons to skip the regular Sunday time together that they kept up from day one.

Soon, the man was setting his eyes on another young lady. In many ways, she looked a lot like his bride did when they first met. This girl was welcoming, encouraging, and eager for him to meet her family. So, over time he spent fewer and fewer Sundays with his bride, and more and more with the new girl. Even when his bride suspected something else was going on, he regularly retorted that he’s just busy with life. But eventually he was spending all of his time with the new girl; It looked a lot like it did when he was first showing interest in his bride. Eventually, he convinced himself to break it off with his bride. This new relationship would be different. The problems he had before would go away because she’s a lot more of what he was looking for in the first place. Her family is better—less judgmental and a lot more loving—and he’s sure to tell everyone that he doesn’t regret, and is even thankful for the time he spent with his bride, but she just wasn’t helping him become what he wanted to become anymore. It was time to move on.

Now that he had found a new girl and entered into a covenant with her, it was all going to be so much better. But it wasn’t. A few years down the road, the newness wore off…