11 Weak Reasons to Leave a Church


By Chuck Lawless

I know there are legitimate reasons for leaving a church (e.g., the message is unbiblical, you’ve moved to another city, etc.), but too many people leave a church for the wrong reasons. Realizing that there are always exceptions to any of the reasons listed below, here are 11 “weak” reasons to leave:

  1. You’re angry at somebody. You’ll simply carry your anger elsewhere. Plus, unrepentant anger is ungodly.
  2. Because you don’t like the worship style. Preferences are seldom a good reason to leave a church. Churches change, and so do our preferences over time.
  3. Because your ministry passion is no longer supported. It may be that the program or ministry you’ve grown to love is no longer as relevant as it once was. At least be open to this possibility.
  4. Because you don’t like the pastor. At a minimum, graciously address the issues with the pastor. Leaving without a conversation is unkind, and it could prove hasty.
  5. Because they ask for money. Sure, some churches overemphasize dollars, but every church should be teaching financial stewardship. Be willing to hear them.
  6. Because you don’t like the message. The message might, in fact, be the gospel – and the gospel is often offensive. A church preaching a message that doesn’t make you uncomfortable is likely not preaching the Word.
  7. Because the congregation’s getting too big. Regardless of the size of the church, you’ll still develop genuine relationships with only a few people. Growth doesn’t automatically hinder fellowship.
  8. Because there’s sin in your life. You need to be under the Word of God if you’re living in sin. A strong church should be calling you to repentance.
  9. Because the church is changing. No church stays the same forever. What matters most is that God and His Word don’t change.
  10. Because no one’s asked you to serve. That doesn’t always mean they don’t want you to serve; it might be that they need to improve their assimilation and recruitment process. Don’t wait –  ask somebody about opportunities.
  11. Because you just “know the Lord told me so.” He might direct you to leave, but listen to Him through His Word, His Spirit, and His people. Living according to feelings — especially if you’re really not walking with God — is risky.

What reasons would you add to this list?

Posted on November 20, 2019

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • Gregory Ross says on

    I thank God he gives me the freedom to worship where I please. I have the freedom to move about when I like. I guess I’m not recalling where, in scripture, it says that a believer must stay in a church, except when there are strong reasons for leaving. And, it’s nobody’s business why I might leave. Why the guilt trip? Every pastor’s nightmare and proud of it! May the Luther’s of the world unite! If churches don’t go stupid on me I might stay. They are mostly very silly and anti-intellectual. If I’m going to give two hours of my time on Sunday, I want to actually learn something. I want it to be a worshipful and meditative environment. From all the rock music, mist, and yelling – a more worshipful environment for me is at home. Jeans and spiked heals on the platform. Silly.

    • Hi Gregory Ross
      It’s nice to have the freedom of choosing stuff and moving on if it doesn’t suit. However, the problem with treating church like that is that you avoid commitment to it. If you are moving on on a regular basis, then it is very difficult to serve effectively and get to know your brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore serve them. It is also very difficult for the church to commit to you.

    • Hi Gregory – Your thoughts portray the idea that the local church exists for you, rather than you for her. The local church is an expression of the bride of Christ and she ought not be treated like a cheap date, but rather a body that I am committed to through covenant. Therefore, I don’t attend a worship gathering to hear a sermon. Rather, I attend because I share intimate relationship with these people. We share life together, make disciples together, and hold one another accountable. That cannot be done watching “church” on TV or listening on a podcast. 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 outline these things clearly.

      • Hi Gregory, the local church in the NT is referred to as a family, a flock, stones in a building, etc. There is a commitment that is made to a local body of believers. The vast majority of NT epistles were written to local churches. I would encourage you to do a deeper study on church theology from the NT.

  • A reason not stated, because the church is too small, I want something bigger. We were growing nicely. Some people graduated, got jobs, someone entered ministry, moved away. A handful left under sadder circumstances (itself not unusual). Then people leave because it’s small and they want something bigger. To which we reply, “us too”

  • Russell Hohneck says on

    I know people who have left the church because of the leadership style -one of bulling and lording over people.
    People also leave because of untrustworthy leadership. When leadership lies to its people then it is right to leave.

    • I would agree, but would most on this Blog? Not sure.
      I have seen church after church being run by the Pastor as if he is the chief executive, and it you do not like it, then move on down the road… but make sure to pay your tithe before you leave.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      My experience is that poor leadership is a primary reason folks do leave the church today.

  • Excellent sir! Right on point!

  • Here is the way I share how a person, couple, and/or family should determine which church they should join. First, is the church solid doctrinally and biblically. Are they a Great Commission focused church? Second, is this a church where God can grow me or us and in the process of growing me or us is it a church where God can use me or us in His Kingdom work in the process of growing me or us for His glory? If one can answer yes to all three questions then I believe they are right where God wants and needs them to be.

  • I left a church because I wasn’t able to serve. I asked for over two years. The new church I attended I was serving in a few months.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      Glad you’re getting to serve now, Jim.

    • I’m leaving my church of over a decade at the moment for the same reason. That, and the fact that I do not feel welcome there. I’m a person “over 55”, and our parish no longer has its 55+ Club, just as I came of age to be able to join. I have been singing in the Choir, was serving as a Cantor, and am part of the Lector ministry. But lately, I haven’t been given any readings. I’m always assigned as a Commentator, which means that I read the opening statement, which basically reminds people to silence cellphones and devices, and to make sure that children 13 years old and younger are accompanied at all times. Any of the “special singing” or solos are always given to the same people, who are the family members of the Music Director now. Our previous Music Director was let go after 27 years due to “cronyism” and false accusations. She was an amazing director, and made efforts to encourage new singers, and to teach skills that would not only build the choir but help the people to become better musicians, which would enhance their joy and skill as musicians in their lives away from the church. The new music director and pastor have done away with the traditional Latin that the previous director was trying so hard to reinstate for at least ONE Mass, and it’s been replaced with contemporary tripe, “Hillsong” Top 40 songs that are harder for the people to sing. If they want that style at one or two Masses, that’s fine. But what about those of us who love the traditional Gregorian chant, classical anthems and the venerable old hymns that we sang since we were children? Many of us find comfort in this style. We have had too many changes, too soon, and it’s not always good or welcome. Then add in a cliquish mindset, where I sing in the Choir, but I don’t really “belong”. I’m never welcomed when the choir or even my voice section all get together for brunch and I am literally not invited. I might be “on the rolls” and it makes them look good… but I’m not really a valued member. I can’t really even name another parishioner after 10 years other than the people who also sing in the choir. Why? Because no one has ever really taken the time to make me feel welcome, or to say hello and introduce themselves. I do my best to introduce myself, or to say hello and offer a smile but I’m often ignored. Ironically, when I read the opening “welcome”, it reads as follows: “Good morning and welcome to ______ Catholic Church. We hope that your experience today is warm, welcoming, prayerful and joyful.” For me, it doesn’t feel that way at all anymore. It feels cold and exclusionary, even though I’ve been involved for so long. I don’t feel like I’m really a part of the “family” This is a huge sign that I don’t belong at this parish and it’s time to move along. I tried for over 10 years. I offered to serve. I tried to be welcoming. I did the very best that I could. But I don’t feel that it was reciprocal. Church should not make me cry every week. It should be an uplifting, spirit-building experience, even if the Scripture message for the week is difficult. No one should feel ostracized, hurt and unwelcome at a church. Yet that’s exactly how I feel

  • We re in the process of setting up a company in a neighboring state, and was involved with bringing a pastor into a dysfunctional church. What I mean by dysfunctional is that there was a group that wanted to take charge, because they were contributing financially, wanted to have a dynamic pastor, which we found, and then proceeded to turn against the pastor, because the church was growing too fast in their opinion, they started to wonder if they could afford to be a full time church. The group also was sitting on a sizable bequest, but after 2 years, has not decided how to stewardly use the funds donated to the church.
    The group of people that joined are nontraditional, because a fair amount of people that joined were working on weekends and Sundays in some instances. The pastor was trying to set up alternative worship services, but that was not acceptable in the eyes of the power group. If the people couldn’t meet during the traditional service time, then that did not count.
    The group also took exception to the fact that the pastor was spending a lot of time trying to build the church of tomorrow, meaning that he was ministering to those in high school who were at risk of suicide, but the group in charge wanted the pastor to hold the hands of the people of yesterday (those retired and in the nursing homes). There were people who were visiting the older members of the congregation, but that was not good enough.
    This rapidly devolved into something ugly, and as a result, all of the progress made during the past 3 years has disappeared, and now the church is back to the 20 to 30 members just holding on, and not wanting to adapt.
    A sad situation to say the least

  • Not disagreeing with your overall premise.

    That being said, church is supposed to be family – family with deep unity, communication, and love. A lot of the issues listed reflect rather unhealthy family. It is natural, then, that some would feel the need to seek healthy family in another place.

    The root problem, in my view, is not discontented Christians church-hopping, but the very manner in which we “do church” rather then truly living together in loving, healthy community.

    • Amen! We assume too many presuppositions of the 20th and 21st century so called church. We do what we do because we have always done them.

    • Chuck Lawless says on

      Thanks, David, for helping us think in this direction.

    • David is right

      • We think there is a ‘strong biblical mandate’ and we want ‘to do things by the book’ but none of this is true. The roots of what we ‘do’ are found in history, where someone decided this was best (or worst as the case may be). Some are a thousand years old, it does not make them biblical.

  • Any excuse will do to warm fish. It’s always nice to have fresh fish

  • Alan McLeod says on

    I would welcome the flip side of this conversation, when is it appropriate to leave a local church? For example, what if there is change in leadership and doctrine that you consider a change in an essential of faith?

  • Not being fed is an interesting excuse. That means their focus is on self. You come to church to worship an Almighty God. If the scripture is opened and if not a word is said except to read a passage then you should have gotten something from it or God’s word failed and that my friend will NEVER happen, because it is always good to hear. Tell me you got nothing out of a service then there are two major issues. First, understand we did not come to worship you but God! Second, there is apparently some sin blocking the path between God and you. So I suggest then you get down on your knees and pray until God shows you what it is.
    As for youth, there is always something you can do in your church. If you have no Youth Pastor/leader then find a spot on your own. Pull weeds, pick up old bulletins, etc. After 42 years serving as a youth pastor my kids will tell you I always found work for them to do for the Lord. You and God can make it happen. Just be open to opportunities He gives you.

  • How about, their only service starts before I get up.
    That sounds pretty weak.

    • Amen to that! Yet many of those same people will get up before daylight to take advantage of a “Black Friday” sale.

      • Beverly Mangone? says on

        I agree, I have asked many people at church. “Were you ill last week I didn’t see you here?” The answer would be “Well the weather wasn’t too good it was raining pretty hard.” Sure I could understand if they had to walk to church, but they have cars, and surely wouldn’t miss a sale at Walmart’s because of rain.