It’s no secret that church attendance in America has been on the decline in recent years. However, many people are finding themselves “between churches,” seeking to leave one congregation and find another.
While there are some right reasons to leave a church (unbiblical teaching, lack of healthy leadership, you’ve moved far away, etc.), there are some wrong reasons, too.
Pastor Andy Veith says it’s worth taking an honest look at your motivations before making a major move.
“I think a “consumer” mentality has crept in to the church, so to speak. When we talk about leaving one church (location) and going to a new church (location), we’re talking about a new expression of worship or a community of worship. In all honesty, it’s usually preference driven: what do I like/what don’t I like?”
“We just kind of transfer all the things that we do in shopping or restaurants into the church; it’s easy to hop around and just go to the next thing.”
In a customizable culture that proclaims life is all about getting exactly what we want, we can forget that church is not about serving our preferences, but fulfilling the mission of our Father.
“When we talk about when not to leave a church, it’s usually when we’re using the wrong scorecard.
- We don’t have Starbucks coffee but they do, so I’m going to leave.
- I just discovered that our church allows both political parties so I’ve got to find a new church.
- They don’t sing “Good Good Father” every week, and that’s my favorite song, so I’m going to go find a new church.
- My pastor is not a celebrity, so I’m going to go find a church where the pastor is really well known.
“It’s the old saying: if we’re not careful, we can have can get focused on our “tree” in the forest. When we camp there, we lose sight of the forest of the whole church, and what God’s up to. We can get on this “preference horse,” and we ride to a new place of worship.”
God’s Word invites us to see the church as a family, or a human body, one entity that depends on our members working together in unity:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
“For just as the body is one and has many members–and all the members of the body, though many, are one body–so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
If you’ve become disconnected from the church, whether due to preference issues, more major disagreements, or even wounds from other church members, Pastor Veith encourages you to reach out one more time to a local church family.
“Give it another shot. Do some research, ask some people. Look for a good Bible-believing church that’s friendly, that’s welcoming, that loves people, that doesn’t show favoritism. Look for those key things: they’re centered on the Gospel, with good sound theology. And when you walk in, you feel like you’re loved and accepted. Don’t give up on the church. The church is filled with people (and you know people are people).”
Messy, broken, imperfect people…who know the saving grace of a loving God, and are committed to living out His love toward one another, for the whole world to see.
Andy Veith serves as senior pastor for Bethel Church in Fargo, North Dakota, He formerly served for 16 years as a pastor and church planter in Des Moines, Iowa.