Leaving Church…for Another Church

There are many reasons why Christians leave their church to find another church in the same community.  Some good and some bad, I suppose.  Some churches are merely existing, slowly drowning in the sea of traditionalism.  Other churches have exchanged the gospel they were entrusted with for the sake of tolerance and all that.  That’s not a church I would want to be a part of, so I understand if that has been your situation and you have left.

Other people leave for other reasons which may seem valid and may not.  For instance, a family with young children might choose to find another church that has a stronger children’s and student ministry program.  An elderly member living on a fixed income might choose to start attending a church that meets a mile away rather than continue driving a longer distance to church.  A person might choose to start attending a new church in town because they have a dynamic teaching/preaching pastor or because their praise and worship gatherings are really exciting and uplifting.  A young newly-wed couple might choose to find a brand new church all together that they both can be a part of as they begin their new marriage together.

There are many other reasons why people leave church.  While some reasons seem very dubious and consumeristic, other reason seem more noble.  I suppose each reason must be evaluated on it’s own.

However, has this ever occurred to us: the reasons for which we leave one church for another is a luxury that only a culture of affluence, division, and denominations can afford!  This was a point that Rich Atchley, who preaches for The Hills Church of Christ, made during a class at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

So let’s be honest.  Many of the programs that make one church attractive enough for someone to leave their church and join it, are programs fueled more by affluence than the Holy Spirit.  When the switch has been one church for another within a denomination, such as leaving the Smith St. Church of Christ for the 1st Church of Christ, there has often been an element of division behind the decision.  Even more so, such church changing is increasingly becoming a switch from one denomination to another.

Now I have never said that there is never a good reason for withdrawing from one church community and joining another.  But…at least some, probably most, of the reasons do not seem to be grounded in gospel…the working of the Holy Spirit.  As Rich Atchley commented, he has many people call him up inquiring about his church but these inquiries never involve Christians asking how they can use their spiritual gifts to help his church fulfill its mission.

It seems to me that this is a problem…a serious problem.  Whatever solution there might be, it seems that the root of the problem is ourselves.  That is, most decision making when it comes to church is about ourselves rather than God.  Instead of selecting a church to join where we can help serve as witnesses of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:8), we are selecting based on what is best for us.

If that’s the case, we have become duped into a grand illusion by Satan.  To draw upon the book of Philippians, we cannot live for Christ (cf. 1:21) and ourselves.  We must choose one or the other.  We cannot have the mindset of Christ (cf. 2:5ff) and leave one church for another based on what suits us best.

So I’ve done a little thinking out loud on this issue, what are your thoughts now?

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8 responses to “Leaving Church…for Another Church

  1. My wife and I left one congregation where we had been very happy and had many friends and where I had served as an elder. We left primarily because I was having a spiritual crisis in my life and staying where we were was only making it worst. This was likely due to my on problems. We began going to The Hills Church because we felt we were being so richly fed by the worship experience and the lessons from the ministers there, namely Rick Atchley and Jonathan Stirman. I needed spiritual healing before I could be an effective servant. God has blessed us so that we may bless others. With the help we have received from God, I feel we are serving others more richly than we ever have before. We have found some peace and feel the change was critical for us.

    • Jack,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and story. To be clear, as a preacher/pastor there are times when I would counsel a person or family to find a new church for the sake of their own spiritual well-being. It sounds like your situation may be one of those circumstances.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  2. well, here I am Rex; In the Church there is no grounds for schism and the parish is geographical; you attend in the parish where God has planted you, under the Bishop of your diocese; if you leave one congregation for another you do so with the blessing of your current priest; and if you don’t like his decision you can appeal to the Bishop. I just left one congregation for another, because of a move in Atlanta; but I did so with the blessing of my former priest, and with the understanding of my current priest. I still have the same Bishop. Schism is a serious sin and the notion that there are multiple ‘churches’ from which to choose is a partial falling away from the faith, as Cardinal Newman was apt to point out in Pro Vita Sua. The fact of the Incarnation on the one hand and the Resurrection on the other make multiple visible churches an ontological impossibility. The visible unity of the Church is our primary witness to the Oneness of the Godhead, and it is preserved in our primary testimony to the Resurrection of Christ…a Visible Church with roots invisible in heaven, one in Faith, one in Baptism, one in Communion, and one Lord. Protestant ecclesiology is crypto-monophyistism, and is a move in the direction of denying the Resurrection in its temporal, spatial expresssion. “I believe in one holy and catholic Church” is the immediate implications of the outpouring of the Spirit by the Resurrected and Ascended Christ.

  3. mindless traditionalism…. the Church of Christ was and is a movement that purports to supply an answer to the problem of Christian disunity by its non-creedal approach to Scripture, but after more than two hundred years of existence, the principle enunciated (embedded as it was in nominalist philosophy) failed; yet folks who find faith in Jesus Christ in that Tradition continue within it though it has failed. One might further add that the Tradition is built on an essentially flawed premise, that the Church could fail and need to be restored; such a premise belies the very promises of Christ and is an assault on the belief in the Resurrection, for the persistence and faithfulness of the Undivided Church throughout history is the inevitable and necessary conclusion of the Resurrection, and the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost, incorporating men into the resurrected Body of Christ; a Body that is incorruptible by virtue of Christ’s triumph over death on the Cross, as the Incarnate One; an Indestrctible Humanity United Hypostatically to the Triune Divinity.

    Some would suggest that persistence in such a Tradition is traditionalism at its highest. To persist in doing something that has failed , expecting a different outcome, is the hallmark of insanity.

  4. Your post makes me think of John the Baptist in prison looking for reassurance that Jesus is the Messiah before he is beheaded. He sounds like someone who believes he is someplace he shouldn’t be.

    Grace and peace.

  5. Pingback: Leaving Church…When It’s Right to Leave | Kingdom Seeking

  6. Pingback: Leaving Church…To Be The Church | Kingdom Seeking

  7. Pingback: this went thru my mind |

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