What I saw from the many comments on my previous post – The Church Isn’t Meeting My Needs – Part 1, was that there are a lot of people who have been deeply wounded by unhealthy churches.
I can relate. I’ve been a Christian for over forty years and I’ve had a few painful church experiences myself.
Sadly, this is nothing new. Churches, like every other institution on the planet, are comprised of people and people are sinners. To borrow from a colloquialism, “Sin happens,” and when it does people get hurt. Churches are no exception.
In fact, drawing from the seven churches of Revelation we see that even the first generation of churches had their issues:
Ephesus = lost their first love
Pergamum = derailed doctrinally
Thyatira = struggled with sexual immorality
Sardis = spiritually dead
Laodicea = lukewarm
Only 2 were praised = Smyrna / Philadelphia
That stands as a sober warning to us today.
Churches that start dynamic can drift to death, and Jesus said that if these churches didn’t get their act together, he was leaving (Revelation 2:5).
Drawing on that precedent, there are cases when a believer should find a new church.
6 Examples of When It’s Time To Find a New Church
1) When the leadership is corrupt, incompetent, or absent, it’s time to find a new church (Jeremiah 10:21; 23:1-4)
Everything rises and falls on leadership.
Unhealthy churches are usually led by unhealthy pastors.When the leadership is corrupt, incompetent, or absent, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
The stories of bad shepherds abound. We all know one.
No pastor is perfect. We are a bundle of strengths and weaknesses. Temperament, education, and giftedness can vary, but love, integrity, humility, and authenticity are essential for a shepherd of God’s flock.
When these characteristics are regularly absent, I recommend you find a new church rather than attempting a coup.
2) When the services leave you feeling more joy was drained than gained, it’s time to find a new church (Mark 7:6-8).
Of course, this is highly subjective, but I’m counting on godly believers to use discernment.
We are never called to seek out emotional experiences. We are holistic beings of body, soul, and spirit. Our soul craves a connection with God. Authentic worship should do that.When the services leave you feeling more joy was drained than gained, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
Jesus said, “where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). When Jesus is in the house, joy is in the air and it’s palpable.
The gathering of God’s people should resemble a wedding more than it does a funeral. Our services should be a celebration, not a lamentation. Christians have the greatest reason to celebrate. Our Lord has risen, our sins are forgiven and we have a home waiting for us in heaven. That’s good news!
When the worship services feel more like bad news than good news, it’s time to find a new church.
3) When the spirit of the fellowship is cold, cliquish, and closed, it’s time to find a new church (Matthew 23:1-12).
Churches ought to be the most accepting organization on the planet.
Christians are people who are openly admitting that they are a collection of thieves, murderers, sexually immoral, and liars (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We have no right to look down on anyone. And yet, many of us forget how messed up we were before grace got a hold of us. Pretty soon the clan of the clean becomes the club of the closed, and only the cool kids can get in.When the spirit of the fellowship is cold, cliquish, and closed, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
Some people think that the goal of the local church is to make it pure by excluding the riff-raff. Sift out the sinners lest they corrupt the called. Yet the church should be a place of grace where we are all a work in progress.
I believe our weekly services should resemble the Star Wars cantina, where “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Ok, that may be a bit far-fetched, but you get the picture.
When the church becomes a place where “those people” aren’t welcomed, it’s time to find a new church.
4) When the teaching of the church differs from the teachings of the Bible, it’s time to find a new church (Matthew 28:20).
The founding pastor of The Church set the bylaws and constitution for His organization and we don’t have the right to amend them. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear” (Mark 13:31).
The church is founded on the teachings of the Bible. Our creeds, confessions, and statements are all extensions of the Book. At the end of the day, God gets the final Word on all matters of faith and practice.When the teaching of the church differs from the teachings of the Bible, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
The problem is that God’s perspective on issues isn’t very popular. His views on marriage, sexuality, money, relationships, authority, and sacrifice, to name a few, don’t exactly match our culture.
Churches have a decision to make when it comes to the truth: convey it or convert it.
When your church does the latter it’s time to find a new church.
5) When the ministry of the church is reserved only for the elite and professionals, it’s time to find a new church (1 Peter 4:10).
Romans 12-14 teaches that every member is a minister and every ministry matters. On God’s team, there is no second string. Some churches are designed where the members are sitting in the stands while the staff are running the plays. Yet, God designed the church to be filled with participators, not spectators.
According to Ephesians 4:11-12, the primary job of church leadership is to equip the people to do their job. What’s their job? Everything else!When the ministry of the church is reserved only for the elite and professionals, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
When the role of the people is simply to pray, pay and stay out the way, it’s time to find a new church.
6) Finally, and for me ultimately, when you feel that bringing a lost friend to your church might be an evangelistic setback, it’s time to find a new church (1 Corinthians 14:23)
I remember working hard for two years to build a friendship with someone at my work. Finally, one day, he became open to a conversation about Jesus. After talking for some time, I remember thinking I should invite him to church, but then immediately realized that my church would likely push him away from Jesus rather than move him closer.
I found a new church.When you feel that bringing a lost friend to your church might be an evangelistic setback, it's time to find a new church Click To Tweet
Leaving a church family is a very painful and difficult transition under any circumstance, but especially tough when you are leaving due to an unhealthy environment. I know because I’ve been there.
But let me encourage you that even if you have to give up on your current church, don’t give up on church altogether. That’s like saying because you had a bad experience at a restaurant you’re never eating out again.
With all of the church’s flaws and weaknesses, it’s still the hope of the world. It is God’s chosen instrument for the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. When it’s working right, healthy churches are a beautiful expression of the hands and feet of Jesus.
Don’t let a painful past turn you into a bitter believer (Hebrews 12:15). Let the lessons serve as an inspiration to be the kind of church you want to attend.
Originally written and published on October 28, 2014
William Graham.Posted at 15:30h, 28 October
This pastor is very professional.
GeriPosted at 16:00h, 28 October
My daughter posted your article on Facebook. Many thoughts ran through my mind as I read both of your posts. My background has been Catholicism until I was 37 years old. How ever, I have been a believer since I was 23. I am 67 years old. My husband is 62, went to Bible school and was a minister and his earlier years. I have many apprehensions with church fellowship after attending many in our city over the last 30 years. I have experienced number of your points to change churches… However, in reading your post I also felt convicted. My husband, being a former pastor, has taught me to be a strong Christian over the 27 years we’ve been married. I am sure I am rambling, but your post brought up many thoughts and past experiences.
DeanPosted at 20:44h, 28 October
I’m split on this. On the one hand, yes, there is something to be said for shaking the dust from your sandals and moving on from a place that is unhealthy and life-draining.
However, I’m also a strong proponent of stepping in even further and changing the culture where you are. If we give up and move on when things aren’t exactly what we want, we’ll eventually end up rootless or simply existing as a “church of one.”
As a pastor, I’d love to see folks who see these things happening (in places and ways that I may not), step up and work for change rather than bailing and saying, “This place isn’t for me.”
Otherwise, any given XYZ church staff members will wear themselves out trying to be everything to everyone completely on their own.
The Body of Christ needs to function as a team. When one part of the Body is struggling, then the rest of the Body needs to work together to restore health. It can’t just walk away.
Brian MossPosted at 22:30h, 28 October
Yes, there needs to be enough commitment to your church family that you don’t run away with things are tough. However, there are also lines that you should be clear on as to when it’s time to go.
Lance RengelPosted at 23:42h, 28 October
Sorry Dean. As a pastor you just aren’t getting it. The only reason I left the church I had been serving at for 12 years was because the pastor decided to never speak to me again. He did not tell me this. He just stopped. I did not know there was anything wrong. I continued attending, teaching, and yes he even allowed me to preach again, even though he wasn’t speaking to me. For 3 months!
I began attending this church plant 6 months after it started. I was the “other” elder. The non-paid one. I taught a Bible Study every week for 10 years. I preached 3-4 times a year when the pastor was on vacation. The situation was so bizarre. Before I finally had to leave I followed Matthew 18. I also sought outside advice from other pastors and godly men.
Lance RengelPosted at 23:47h, 28 October
Dean – what you and other pastors don’t understand is that most of the time people leave because they cannot talk to the pastor. He will not listen. He merely waits for an opportunity to insert a scripture verse when the hurting person eventually stops talking.
MMPosted at 13:26h, 30 October
Forgive me in advance, this is a long response.
I agree with your wish to see things change instead of people just bailing, but what about people who have voiced their concerns and they go ignored or just frowned upon? For instance, I told my pastor when I was first checking out the church that I was concerned about involvement – everything from group fellowship, to ministries where I could serve – and frankly he just said that he didn’t see a need for things like cell groups or Bible study where men and women are split off, etc.; basically he thought preaching to everyone at once was good enough and there are options to minister by going to a nursing home once a month. There were very little options. My work schedule just wouldn’t allow me to be there for the few things they have.
Now here I am two years later drained because the church functioned on individual families being the core (it’s a family-integrated church) and I got left on the outside hardly ever even being able to visit with other families to have good and healthy fellowship. They have a lunch hour at the church but that’s about it; and it’s not enough to have a good meaningful conversation with anyone when you have to yell over others just to be heard.
While I admit that it may be my duty to reach out, I’ve gotten tired of the rejection (it felt like rejection since every time I tried to connect with others outside church they are all busy). I am a single and lonely young woman with no Christian family members, no Father figure except a pastor who will only preach and go on to his other business.
I don’t know if this is wrong to see it this way, but I believe a pastor should be looking over his flock diligently – especially if it’s a small enough congregation – not just checking in when someone misses church. Personally, I felt hurt that my needs and requests for counsel were forgotten or ignored because they felt it more important apparently to minister to others outside the church for counsel (as they are the only pastor in our area who does Biblical counseling). Is that wrong for me, a member of the church, to expect my pastor or his wife to follow up on my needs they said they would help me with?
So, I guess I’m wondering what you would expect someone like me to do – would you want members to tell you as their pastor that they felt the way I do and wanted to see a change? I wouldn’t even know how to tell my pastor that I want to move on to another church.
Brian MossPosted at 14:58h, 31 October
I’m so sorry you have felt this way. No truly called pastor wants anyone to feel discarded from the body. Every member matters. Of course, we are human and sometimes we simply fail. I know that as a pastor, I always appreciate it when a member comes forward and shares what they’re feeling and gives me an opportunity to respond. Sadly, we cannot fix every situation, but I do want to hear the truth spoken in love.
Penni SauerPosted at 00:01h, 29 October
After reading both parts of your piece, I had a couple of thoughts. First of all, even as a lay person with a love for my church and The Church, I’ve been disappointed by folks who complain about the congregation, but who never bothered to become involved with anyone or any of the ministries. They would have been better served with a drive-through service so they wouldn’t have to interact with any other humans.
Secondly, after being very involved with our church for nearly two decades (both my husband and I and then our children), we did have to leave for several of the reasons you gave above. My husband couldn’t even take communion from the pastor, he was so fed up with him. Leaving was the hardest thing to do because we felt we had friends there, but we couldn’t stay. Funny, but those “friends” turned back to their little groups and never bothered to reach out. It felt like shunning. We are now very happy with our “new” congregation (it’s been 8 years). There’s some turmoil at the moment, but we intend to stay and help mend any hurts and continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community.
LizPosted at 03:10h, 29 October
There’s so much I want to say in response to this blog and to those who posted their comments. I could tell you my story, my testimony. Reading both part one and two of this blog series brought up so much for me and I realize again that God is still seeking to bring healing. What I have come to realize is that people leave churches for the wrong reasons and they stay for the wrong reasons. I’m a person who stays. I am faithful and I was raised to nail my boots to the floor. When faced with having to leave a church that I loved I felt like I betrayed them and God. Leaving can be so hard, but was the right thing to do. This church fit the criteria Pastor Brian shared in this blog. Going through that experience helped me to mature as a Christian and showed me where not to compromise. I would encourage anyone who has been hurt by well meaning or not so well meaning church leadership to seek out biblical counseling. It was a great help to me.
Now, many years later, I am a member at ORBC. Going to ORBC has been like a breath of fresh air. When we first started attending I cried through many of the services because it had been so long since someone spoke a message that ministered directly to me. The pastors didn’t know this, but I’d go to church thinking about something and dealing with my issues and they would be speaking on the exact topic or say almost the very thoughts I’d had that morning. The message was clarifying and life-giving. I didn’t realize how much I had missed that having put up with stale, broken, and downright unbiblical messages I’d heard for so many years.
When I finally started serving, I was expecting ridicule, put downs, and unrealistic expectations. It was nothing like that. Again serving at ORBC was like finally coming up for air. I didn’t realize how much I had drowned and suppressed the gifts God has given me. Eventually, when I stepped up and began to lead in my area of service, my leaders actually equipped me! No one competed with me or tried to make me into something I was not. Even serving as a leader, though being a leader is always more difficult, I feel that I’ve been able to blossom under the guidance of my leaders.
The truth is that no church is perfect. Every church is filled with people who are hurting, and hurt people hurt others. But, when we keep the main thing the main thing, Christ is lifted up and the lost are found. Though it was tough, one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced, I’m so glad God brought me out of where I was and placed me where I am today. Thank you, Pastor B. for bringing this issue to light.
Brian MossPosted at 07:45h, 29 October
Love you Liz!
TonyPosted at 12:07h, 29 October
Great posts pastor, you can inform some of the people most of the time, but other people will harden their hearts all the time. P.S. I don’t ask many but check my Facebook page out and tell me what you think. Your words made a good impression on me. Be blessed. facebook.com/ FPministry
JamesPosted at 18:48h, 30 October
Point #6: nailed it. Brings us back to the point we discussed on your last blog about a class you wouldn’t recommend to a friend. I’m with you, that one may be one of the most important aspects to determining where you spend your dedicated worship time each week.
Great follow-up post Pastor Brian! Thanks again.
Diane Olive BraunPosted at 09:02h, 02 November
This was excellent! Thank you for speaking the Truth! I remember hearing the story of a person who was sitting on the steps of a church crying. Someone asked him why he was crying and the person said: “They won’t let me in!” Then Jesus said: “Don’t worry! I’ve been trying for years and they won’t let Me in either! “
Patricia BryantPosted at 03:41h, 14 November
I love ORBC, it was very different from the churches I was use to down home (Tennessee) but I have become to feel this is MY church home. I am on the prayer chain wjich I love, I work at Solutions most of the time on Thursdays, when they need me. I felt the Lord led me to become a Lay Counsler and I have completed all the book work, 30 hours, 42 started only 21 was left. I have gone thru the 6 hour training and had my interview…We have a, I think deep book which we read certain chapters and met with the Director every other week. I have been experiencing a lot of health problems, but I can’t believe the Lord would have brought me this far and let these stop me. I believe Satan is behind these and I pray. You, Pastor Brian told me the same thing so did the Solutions Director. I have been out of town for the past 12 days, I got to see my relatives on my Moms side and my one cousin on my Dads side. I went with my daughter and we put flowers on Mom and Dads grave. My grandparents vase was stolen too so we couldn’t put flowers on theirs. My cousin (my age) and her husband took us to the grave yard where my Dad’s Dad is buried. I got a lot of information, which meant a lot to me. It was things I wanted to do and see and they were so good to take us there. I also got to spend time with a dear friend, we have known for 42 years or so. She has a daughter the same age as mine and one older and one my son’s age and one younger…I missed my computer to see everything going on here. I had told my friends I would be gone. I love you Pastor Brian, I thank God often for leading me here. Most of the Pastors are very important to me. I am going to miss “Miss Jan” so much, Tre’ loves her too. I am hoping to come to say goodby although it will be very hard, but I understand why she is going back home. Didn’t mean to leave a page and this is probably not the right place for it but just had to get it all out.
Dorothy KellerPosted at 18:21h, 20 February
In article one, the Pastor is advising church members to take some responsibility. In the second he’s agreeing that there are reasons to leave a church. However the process of leaving a church should not be as easy.
There needs to be self-reflection, forgiveness, attempts to discuss ways to apply biblical wisdom, etc. . . above all prayer, prayer, prayer. What has the church member been missing in his/her responsibilities to the church family? What is God trying to show one that they might be missing? (We search for something when we feel we’re something missing.) Are we sure that God is the leader in this discussion w/ourselves and church? . . . . .
My thanks to Liz and others who gave testimony to just how important a relationship this should be.
jerry clayPosted at 23:58h, 21 February
Hi Brian, I would like to gently point out that Matthew 18:20, which you mentioned in #2 on your list, is in a discipline context. While I agree with your statement that when Jesus is in the house, we should be joyful, I thought it important to point that out. Thank You!
Brian MossPosted at 22:15h, 22 February
Good point Jerry. Perhaps Psalm 22:3 would have been a better reference. Thanks for writing!
MMPosted at 13:03h, 30 October
Thank you for posting this and the first part of the article, it was helpful and clarified some questions I had.
Based on this article I really should find a new church, but I am afraid of the repercussions that would have; I also don’t even know where to begin as there’s churches on every block in the South and knowing which is a good place to call home is difficult. Essentially that is why I ended up at the current church I attend – because of two I visited, that one seemed like better of the two – but I think I need to move on. How does one go about leaving in good terms with the church? My pastor’s family has rarely made themselves available to me to discuss my concerns I’ve been harboring over the last year and I really don’t want to offend anyone even though I’ve been offended by their lack of involvement in my life (or, not getting back to me about any of my concerns I’ve voiced).
Thanks for your wisdom, God bless.
Brian MossPosted at 15:03h, 31 October
There are definitely times when the right thing to do is simply move on. As I stated in my former reply, I would at least try to connect with the pastor first and share honestly your concerns and why you believe you need to find a new church home. You’re not responsible for how he/she might respond, but you will want to know that you have done the right thing. I’m praying God’s blessings on you as you seek to find the right church family.
MMPosted at 07:53h, 02 November
Thank you for your responses, I appreciate your wisdom and prayer.
MIRANDA DAVISPosted at 00:49h, 22 August
WELL THERE ARE PEOPLE LEAVING THECHURCH A FEW MONTHS AFTER THEY HAVE JOIN. SOME ARE CHURCH HURT. THERE ARE MEMBERS THEY TRY TO BRING BACK, AND SOME MEMBERS THEY JUST LET GO. GOD IS WATCHING !!!!!
OthnielforcePosted at 03:48h, 19 November
Do unto others what you want others do unto you 🤔
ConfusedPosted at 10:32h, 23 January
My church has changed pastors. With this change has come a 180 degree change in how the worship service is conducted. This pastor is a screamer. He preaches the bible but is so loud and overpowering that my nerves are frazzled when the service has ended. He is a former addict and criminal and has brought others with similar pasts into the church with him. There is no decorum anymore. Men don’t remove their hats when entering the sanctuary. Mud is tracked in from outside. Getting accustomed to this is too much for me. Is it time for me to move on? I know Christ died for everyone, but I miss the solemnity and quiet of worship.
BrianPosted at 16:34h, 23 January
Dear Confused, I totally understand that the changing of the pastor can often feel like a complete change of the church. However, what should not change are the essentials – worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. Those are the timeless purposes of the church and haven’t changed in 2,000 years. New pastors bring a new expression of those purposes and that can be a positive. I think you might be confusing personal preferences with eternal purposes. The right questions to ask would be: Are people engaging in authentic worship of their Savior? Is there a sense of love among the members? Are people growing in their faith? Are the members using their gifts to humbly serve others? And perhaps most important, are lost people coming to know Christ? If those things are happening then praise God, your church is thriving and I would encourage you to jump on board. If it’s really just that you want your style regardless of whether the church is thriving, then I would encourage you to check your heart.