If you are asking this, then you might have observed your current church no longer feels like a good fit for you. The majority of Christians will advise against church-hopping, but good reasons exist for wanting to leave a church you are a member of and find a new church.
Before you make the big decision to look for a new church, consider the following reasons. If a majority of these reasons resonate with your current church experience, then it is possibly time for you to change churches.
The church’s foundation doesn’t align with God’s Word
When we talk about the foundation of churches, we are not only pertaining to the sermons preached in worship services. The church’s foundation built upon God’s Word should permeate through every part that makes up the church—from how the staff treats one another to how finances are handled.
Many churches can have great, biblical-supported bylaws and constitutions but fall flat in execution. The opposite is also possible: great execution—churches doing good things for members and outside the congregation—but flawed in their motivation for doing great things.
Let’s dig deeper into this. Look at some signs that your church’s foundation no longer aligns with God’s Word.
Church leadership is driven by their own motives
Church leaders are teach us and guide us through the word of God. God’s wisdom should be upon their lips. However, those called to a place of power can use their position either for its true intent or for their personal gain.
When a majority of decisions carried out by church leaders seem to benefit none but themselves, it’s likely their motives are no longer founded on God’s Word. Rather than caring for God’s church and the church members, they care more for themselves and those close to them.
They may be discreet in doing things that benefit them—such as framing decisions in a way seemingly for the good of the church. But we know God’s Holy Spirit will reveal the truth to us.
Church staff doesn’t walk the talk
Apart from church leaders, the church staff consists of prominent figures in the congregation that facilitate church work and ministry. They are typically also leaders in the ministry they are entrusted with. With that, they are individuals whose conduct should be guided by the church’s foundation.
However, it is entirely possible to find members of the church staff incapable of walking their talk. They may provide instructions and guidance in their ministry that truly reflect God’s wisdom but fail in setting an example through their actions.
This does not mean we should judge others for being incapable of living by God’s teachings. Each of us has our burden to carry and a path laid down for us by our Creator. However, if a majority of your church staff continue in preaching a lifestyle founded on God’s Word yet do the farthest thing from it, then something could be wrong at the church’s core.
Making a relationship with God is no longer the top priority
A church is not just a building where fellow Christians can interact. It should also most importantly be a house of worship driven to help its members make a relationship with God. This may not be written explicitly in the church’s constitution, but it should clearly be seen and felt in how the church is run.
If a majority of church work, teaching, activities, and the like seem to treat making a relationship with our divine Father as an afterthought, then this could be a sign the church is no longer founded on God’s Word.
The church is run by unhealthy leadership
We’ve already mentioned church leadership briefly above. This section is focused on three characteristics that make up unhealthy leadership. No matter how biblical-supported your church’s teachings are, if the leaders fall short in performing their God-given duty, then it can be difficult to remain in the same church. After all, as godly men appointed in such a position, their actions can affect the beauty and integrity of the church.
So, let’s see what characteristics you need to be on the lookout for to identify unhealthy leadership.
Leaders do not admit their faults or weaknesses
No single person in this world is perfect. We all have our faults and weaknesses that make us human. Good leaders are aware of this truth and are honest with themselves and those around them. They never claim to be the ultimate authority on any matter. In their soul, they know only the Almighty who appointed them is devoid of faults and weaknesses.
You can observe this inability to admit to faults in leaders when mishaps they caused are either swept under the rug or blamed on something or someone else. So, if leaders in your church refuse to admit their faults or weaknesses, that’s one step forward to entering an unhealthy leadership.
Leaders fail to see things from other people’s perspectives
Seeing things from other people’s perspectives is a necessary step towards truly being empathic towards others. Empathy allows leaders to enter the church members’ experiences with compassion. Leadership devoid of empathy due to failing to see things from others’ perspectives will lead to church members like yourself feeling uncared for and unheard.
You can see this unhealthy characteristic when a leader seems to consistently fail to consider the feelings and experiences of others with compassion. Their advice and counsel may feel off and disconnected from what you are going through.
Leaders are reluctant to correct their wrongs
Admitting to faults and weaknesses and the mistakes these may cause is one thing. Correcting the wrongs done is another. Good leaders are able to see where they have gone wrong and then actively work towards correcting this wrong. They do not let their mistakes pile up and cause a member to stumble in their faith.
When leaders are reluctant or even outrightly refusing to correct their wrongs, this can create discord among church members, eventually affecting multiple parts of the church. Not to mention if you observe this on top of the two previously mentioned, there is a high chance that it is time for you to look for a new church.
The church services leave you drained of joy
Church services are our avenue to worship and commune with God and form meaningful connections with our church family. A lot of factors can affect how we feel during and after service—such as personal troubles, events leading up to the service, spiritual turmoil, among others. However, if regardless of such factors, you constantly and genuinely feel as though church service leaves you drained of joy, then the problem may lie in the church itself.
Specifics will vary depending on the local church regarding what affects your church service experience. Here are some common examples you can meditate on and observe in your current church.
Discussion is riddled with politics
Whether it be politics in the real world or politics within the church, church service on a Sunday is not the place for a pastor to discuss them. At their core, discussions should involve strengthening our faith in the Almighty and our relationship with Jesus Christ, reviewing the gospel, and providing guidance that will nurture our Christian life.
Gatherings feel more like a funeral
As people who understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, and know and feel God’s love and salvation, we Christians have the greatest reason to celebrate. As such, gatherings should be filled with joy that is evident in the air. That does not mean Sunday service needs to be like a concert every single time, especially since the manner of carrying out a service will vary per local church. A joy evident in the air refers to how each and every part of a service culminates to an experience that lifts up our spirits and leaves us feeling brand-new.
Having the opposite experience—a gathering feeling more like a funeral—can drain you of passion in the long run, which can result in considering leaving a church.
Principles being taught stray from the Bible
Every word coming from the mouth of God is food for our soul. A pastor teaching us during service is a means for our soul to receive this good food, the gospel or good news that then nourishes our soul and enriches our spiritual life. With that, you can then gather how a pastor straying from the Bible (e.g. reading little to no bible verses at all) during preaching in service can leave your soul feeling empty. And when your soul—the inner man—is devoid of joy, then the same will be evident in the outer man.
The church community makes you feel like a fish out of water
The last reason we will be discussing is a matter that can truly drive a person to look for a new church: feeling like a fish out of water in your church community. The sad and unfortunate truth is no matter how deeply rooted in the Bible a church’s constitution is and how well leaders run their congregation—if you feel as though you don’t belong in the church family, it will be difficult to remain in the same church.
We, as humans, are social beings. We naturally crave to belong in a group where we can form meaningful relationships. As Christians, our service to the Lord will not be complete if we will serve alone. The love Jesus Christ taught us cannot exist in a vacuum. We need our brothers and sisters in faith to whom we can express this love as proof of our love for Christ.
With that said, here are some factors that can make a person feel like a fish out of water in their community.
The spirit of fellowship feels cold and closed
The church we belong in is the main avenue for our Christian life to experience fellowship with fellow Christians, a place to find friends of the same faith. However, when the spirit of fellowship in a community feels cold and closed, it becomes difficult to enter any meaningful relationships. This kind of spirit results in the community feeling more cliquish than family-like. In such a situation, you may find it hard to enter any group at all (not even a bible study group) and feel like you truly belong, like you are truly being heard by your fellow children of God.
Finding a community is close to impossible
Of course, you can only observe the spirit of fellowship and the state of the community when you actually put in the effort to find a group within the church. The best-case scenario is when a person naturally falls into a group of people that become their friends, people whose lives welcome each and every new believer in Jesus Christ.
However, we are not guaranteed the best-case scenario. In some cases, even when you try your hardest to search for a group where you will belong, you come out empty-handed. When you have poured your heart and soul into your search to no avail, then it’s possible your church family is elsewhere.
Your skills/gifts are disregarded
Apart from being an avenue for finding friends of the same faith, the community in the church is also a place where we can use our God-given gifts and live fulfilling lives serving the Lord. However, when despite sharing the unique gifts God has given you, you are disregarded and left out of the group, then it can be a sign your church is not the best fit for you.
3 Things To Do Before Deciding To Leave A Church
To leave a church or to look for a new church is a tough and important decision for any Christian. Here at Church Helper, we believe it is not enough to meditate on the reasons above when answering the question that is the topic of our discussion. There are three vital things you need to do before you find the answer to this question and come to the decision to leave a church.
Pray to God for guidance
In everything in our spiritual life and our journey here on earth, God’s guidance is what must foremost seek. We cannot even hope to illustrate the depth of God’s wisdom. So there is no other being more suited to guide us when we lack the wisdom for an incredibly important decision such as leaving a church.
Dedicate a prayer to Him regarding this matter until you feel God’s answer in your heart and soul. In doing so, you can avoid leaving for the wrong reasons. Instead, you can leave with grace knowing He who we worship is supporting your decision.
Think deeply about your motives
To leave with grace, knowing your motives is important. Before you even consider leaving a church, look deep within your heart and soul. Why did the thought to change churches occur in your mind? Do you have good reasons to do so, such as those we discussed above? Or are there just a few things in the church that made your heart heavy for a while?
Leaving a church for the wrong reasons should be avoided. It will be difficult to explain to your pastor, leaders, and fellow church members if you know in your heart you do not have a valid reason for leaving. Worse yet, you might force yourself to leave through the back door, just so you can avoid explaining your motives.
Remember, even when you do end up leaving a church, you should maintain a good relationship with your pastor, leaders, and fellow members.
Talk it over with your leaders and inner circle
God’s kingdom does not consist of you alone. He sends instruments in the form of other people to help us get through challenges in our lives. So, if you are still unsure of your decision, along with prayer, seek the advice of your leaders and those in your inner circle.
If you do not feel comfortable talking to the pastor in charge of your local church for whatever reason, make sure to reach out to other pastors you feel will provide good advice based on the bible. A good pastor will view your plight with compassion and offer unbiased advice.
You can also approach those in your inner circle—your support group—you believe will listen to you and see through your point of view. Sometimes, even just speaking to someone who hears you can help alleviate the pressure weighing on your heart.
Another option you can consider is talking to those who have recently left the church. Find out what made them decide to find a new church. Take note of their answer and compare them to your motives or feelings. Their point of view might be more biased though, so be aware of that.
In this post, we looked at the reasons you can consider when trying to understand when it is time to find a new church. These reasons include: the church’s foundation not aligning with God’s Word; the church being run by unhealthy leadership; the church services leaving you drained of joy; and, the church community making you feel like a fish out of water. If those reasons and the factors affecting them resonate with you, then it could be time to consider looking for a new church home.
When you do reach a decision, keep in mind there is no such thing as a perfect church. Churches will have their flaws, for those that make up these churches are humans, like you and me—capable of making mistakes, having shortcomings, and stumbling in faith.
While you’re here, do take a look at our previous post.