Turnover is an inevitable but difficult aspect of church life. It is never easy to watch a dearly loved member leave for another pasture. I share this blog written by Brett McCracken to help us all evaluate and encourage ourselves and others who are considering or changing pastures.
Discerning the Good from the Bad
In our consumer society, where prevailing wisdom says we should be loyal to products or brands only insofar as our needs and tastes are satisfied, it can be easy for churchgoers to have a very low threshold for leaving a church. The preaching loses some luster. The children’s ministry isn’t as fun as it could be. The worship leader’s hairstyle becomes bothersome. There are lots of bad reasons for leaving a church. But what are some legitimate reasons for leaving a church? Here are seven:
1. The church abandons orthodoxy.
If your church begins to fudge on matters of orthodoxy, placing cultural relevance or social gospel initiatives above sound doctrine and biblical authority, look for another church. Sometimes a church outright embraces heresy and it is loud and clear, but more often the march away from orthodoxy is a slow and hard-to-discern series of small compromises. If you see your church headed in that direction and your alarm bells go unheeded, get out sooner rather than later.
A church should be a living, growing organism.
2. The church becomes more about politics than Jesus.
If you’re in a church that succumbs to the broader culture's current “politics is everything” orientation, placing political activism above Jesus worship and gospel proclamation, you should look for another church. A church that is more interested in advancing a political party’s agenda than in advancing God’s mission is not a church where you should stay.
3. Transformation is absent.
Churches are not meant to be inert institutions where nothing and no one is ever changed. On the contrary, a church should be a living, growing organism where the Holy Spirit is sanctifying believers, changing lives, and transforming communities. If your church never sees people being saved or baptized, if church members never grow, and if nothing in the surrounding city is changing for the better because of the church, it might be time to find a new church.
4. You live too far away.
Perhaps you’ve moved a bit farther away from your church and the distance begins to pose challenges to your connection there. You find yourself going to fewer church events and meeting fewer people in your neighborhood who know about your church. When it comes to church, proximity is important. If there is no overlap between the people you worship alongside and the people who live in your neighborhood or city, it might be a good reason to find another church.
5. You have no opportunity to serve.
Every church member should be serving in their church in some capacity, whether it be welcoming guests at the door, taking up the offering, teaching Sunday School classes, or helping out in some other way. If you are in a church where there are literally no opportunities to serve (and this would be a very rare church indeed!), it might be a good reason to find a church where you can serve.
6. You cannot submit to the leaders.
If you find yourself unable to defer to the authority of your church's appointed leaders, and you’ve tried but can't seem to resolve your issues with the leadership, it might be time to look for another church. Churchgoers who are chronically subverting leaders, or at loggerheads with them on everything from music style to preaching topics, are not happy or helpful churchgoers.
7. The church is homogenous and insular.
This is a common problem, because humans are naturally prone to group together in like-minded communities that will naturally start to look inward and exist for themselves more than anything. But this is not healthy for a church. If everyone in your church looks the same (same life stage, same socioeconomic status, same culture, same ethnicity, etc.) and if your church feels more like a country club community than an outward-minded community on mission, look for another church.
Brett McCracken is a senior editor for the Gospel Coalition and the author of Hipster Christianity and Gray Matters. He also writes regularly for Christianity Today and his website, BrettMcCracken.com. He lives with his wife in Southern California where he serves as an elder at Southlands Church.