If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you’ve probably faced the hard decision on whether or not to leave your current church and find a new place to worship. This can happen for all kinds of reasons, good or bad. Maybe the doctrine changed or they hired a pastor who no longer delivers the kind of hard-hitting messages you’re used to. Perhaps you got in a disagreement with another member or the church itself split because of a vote or a scandal.
Whatever the case may be, there are lots of Christians dropping one church for another or, unfortunately, leaving the church altogether. The question remains, at what point do you have a Biblical basis for leaving your current church?
Several members over at eBible.com had the same question. eBible is an interactive platform for reading and studying the Bible. Users ask questions and spark discussions on all kinds of topics, including church attendance, conflicts, and when to walk away. Below is a summary from one of our top contributors on eBible. I found it fascinating and I hope it helps answer this question for you!
What is the purpose of church?
Perhaps the best way to discern whether one has grounds to leave a church is to go back to the basics. What, after all, is the purpose of the church? The Bible is clear that the church is to be the “pillar and ground [foundation] of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Everything in the church structure, teaching, worship, programs, and activities are to be centered upon this fact. In addition, the church should recognize Jesus Christ as its one and only head (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18) and submit to Him in all things. Clearly, these things can only be done when the church clings to the Bible as its standard and authority. It’s hard to see how anyone would want to leave a church such as described above, but few churches today fit this description.
To Stay or Go
Believers who feel a desire to leave a church should be clear on their reasons. If the church does not proclaim the truth or does not teach the Bible and revere Christ, and there is another church in the area that does, then there are grounds to leave.
A case can be made, however, for staying and working to bring about changes for the better. We are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). If one is strongly convicted of the need to move the church in a more Bible-based, Christ-honoring direction and can do that in a loving manner, then staying would seem to be the better course of action.
How to Leave a Church
The Bible does not outline a procedure on how to leave a church. In the early days of the church, a believer would have to move to another town to find a different church. In some places today, a church sits on seemingly every corner, and, sadly, many believers leave one church for another down the street instead of working through whatever problem they faced. Forgiveness, love, and unity are to characterize believers (John 13:34-35; Colossians 3:13; John 17:21-23), not bitterness and division (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Should a believer feel led to leave a church, it is crucial for him/her to do so in such a way that does not cause unnecessary division or controversy (Proverbs 6:19; 1 Corinthians 1:10). Faced with a lack of biblical teaching, then the course is clear, and a new church should be sought. However, many people’s dissatisfaction with their church is due to their own lack of involvement in the ministries of the church. It is far easier to be spiritually fed by the church when one takes an active part in “feeding” others. The purpose of the church is clearly outlined in Ephesians 4:11-14. Allow this passage to be the guide in choosing and finding a church.