In yesterday’s post Leaving Church…for Another Church I addressed the reasoning behind most church swapping. As I stated, “the reasons for which we leave one church for another is a luxury that only a culture of affluence, division, and denominations can afford!” Furthermore, these decisions are about ourselves rather than God. Or to put it another way, it reveals how much the American consumer mindset has influence upon us.
Now I want to switch gears and address the flip side of leaving church for another church and share some thoughts about when it seems to be the right decision. While even a decision that is right is likely to be a luxury decision, one that will likely not be afforded to us in other parts of the world, there still seems to be a time when it is right to leave our church for another.
The most obvious reason for a justified exit from a church is when a church no longer seems interested in existing as a witness for the gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:8). What I mean here is a church that has compromised the gospel by its teaching and/or living, such as a church that wants to dismiss the Lordship of Jesus or accept immoral conduct.
In such cases, we need to use extreme caution in making such accusations. My point here is not to discuss when and what sort of false teaching or immoral conduct would warrant leaving the church for another. In the Churches of Christ, there has been a history of accusing other churches of false teaching over almost every issue. Yet if the Apostle Paul could still speak of the Corinthian church, with all of their problems, as saints and have fellowship with them (1 Cor 1:2), then we ought to be very cautious in making any accusation of false teaching and such.
The other reason that seems to justify the decision of leaving one church for another church is when our spiritual well-being is in great peril. Again, we need to be cautious. We can justify just about any decision we want to make, if justification of our decisions is what we want. Just because we tell ourselves that something is right doesn’t make it right.
Nevertheless, there are occasions when a church is so unhealthy, complacent, and functionally dead that they are a cancer to the soul. Perhaps a sinking ship is a good metaphor at this point. Some local church’s are sinking ships. For a myriad of reasons, they are sinking in waters and the members have decided to sink with the ship. A different church becomes a life boat provided by God. As a parent, I certainly want my family to slowly perish on a sinking ship when there are life boats in the water.
In other cases, it may also be that a person has recently experienced some terrific suffering (death of a child, divorce, etc…) and another church is better equipped to provide the necessary healing ministry. I have known of a couple of cases where Christians have been a member of one church while participating with another church because that other church has a great divorce recovery ministry or a grief support group.
Sometimes, it is right to leave on church for another. There is no easy way to make such decisions. However, I will say that I have learned that such decisions are best made only in the community of other trusted Christians who will listen and offer counsel we need to hear rather than want to hear. I hope this helps and if we do leave one church for another, I hope that our decision will result in greater maturity as disciples that bears much fruit.