Monday, July 26, 2010

Leaving a Local Church

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19)

Jason Helopoulos
provides some good counsel for the oft-pondered issue of when it is acceptable to break fellowship with a local church. He helpfully divides the reasons between good, potential, and bad. It is unfortunate, and to the shame of our generation, that we encounter people leaving churches for the bad reasons more than any other.

Good Reasons for Leaving a Church ("The Four P's")

1. Providential moving—It is right and good to belong to a local church and covenant with brothers and sisters in my own “backyard.”

2. Planting another church— I am being sent out by my church, not leaving with a group of people because I am disgruntled or think it is a good idea.

3. Purity has been lost— ]It could be that heresy is being taught, the Bible is never read or preached, or a much more prominent manifestation these days is that the Word is no longer seen as sufficient; it is used as a seasoning for the message of the week rather than the diet by which the congregation is fed and nourished upon.

4. Peace of the church is in jeopardy due to my presence— There are cases where an individual/family can personally become a hindrance to the ministry of the local church and it is best for that person/family to move-on.

Possible Reasons Leaving a Church ("The Three S’s")

1. Spouse—An unbelieving or non-church will attend another church with you.

2. Special Needs— A possible example may be that my family has a disabled child and another faithful church in the area has a wonderful ministry to disabled people which can help us.

3. Special Gifts—Another faithful church in the area may have asked for you to use your special gifts in their midst for the building up of the body.

Insufficient Reasons for Leaving a Church

1. Children’s Ministry— This cannot be a reason for changing churches. It is rather an opportunity for you to get involved in the children’s ministry of your church.

2. Buzz— Many people will flow to whatever church in town has the current “buzz.” But buzzes come and go. And so do the people that follow them.

3. Youth Group— The unhappiness of our teenage children in the current Youth Group, because of activities, other youth, etc. is not a reason for leaving the church we have covenanted with. They should not be choosing the church we attend based upon their social status and network.

4. Church has changed—Churches always change. Unless the changes are unbiblical than we don’t have a reason to move on. We don’t move on when our wife or husband changes!

5. New Pastor—A new pastor is not a sufficient reason to change churches. You haven’t covenanted with a man, but with this body.

6. I’m Not Being Ministered to— Start ministering to others and you will find that you are being ministered to.

7. Music— Not a reason—whether it is slow, fast, traditional, contemporary, Psalms, hymns, or gospel choruses. Stop using it as an excuse!

8. There are others…we haven’t even mentioned the service is too early, the coffee is terrible, the pastor doesn’t know how to shuck corn (Yep…those are all true ones I have heard).

Read the whole thing here.


  1. Good things to think about in the post. Not sure about the verse selection leading into it.

    Seems a stretch to link a choice about which Christian church to attend and manifesting antichrist by denying Jesus.

  2. What about a church that is absent of fruit? Should fruit be included in the definition of a Church? Many churches have wonderful doctrinal statements, strong mission statement, absent of outward sin... but are perhaps out of "step" with what the Spirit desires for them? Is a church still a church if it hasn't baptized anyone in a decade? Is a church still a church if there is no discipleship, nobody growing in the Lord, nor following the Great Commission? Many churches continues to look to the past to defend their existence ... but I wonder, is is still a church because it "used" to do Biblical things? What about simply asking the question.. "Is it worth leaving a church when the Spirit has clearly left the church"?

  3. Good point, Russell, but I think the relationship with "church-hopping" and "they are all not of us" may be stronger than we often think.

    BK, had the Spirit left carnal Corinth? What about the "foolish" and "bewitched" Galatians? We must take care not to confuse a disobedient church with a non-church. Jesus is the One who makes a church a church (cf. Eph 2:11-23), not their fruitfulness. I think Calvin is helpful here (which would surprise many). See Institutes IV.1.10ff.