You’ve been with your church for a while now. Something is now urging you to leave the church. We will not get into evaluating your reasons. Let’s just say you have made the decision, or you are close to making that decision.
Let’s assume you are not moving to another location. You are leaving your church because you think you should make this exit.
While I do not want to judge you or argue with you, would you consider reading the rest of this article? Would you look at the following seven considerations before you make the decision final?
1. Make certain you have prayed about the decision. It is not a move to be taken lightly. Ask God to check your heart to see if the prompting is His or your own.
2. Ask yourself if you are making the decision because of personal preferences. Perhaps the sermon seemed too long. Maybe the music is not the perfect blend that you like. Still yet, maybe you have decided “you are not being fed” spiritually. That is a common reason given by exiting members. Please know, though, the next church you attend will not meet all of your preferences and desires either. Church membership in its truest biblical form is self-sacrificing and forgiving (see 1 Corinthians 12 and 13).
3. If you are using the exit as an escape to quit churchgoing altogether, please don’t do it. We have seen church members, elders, and deacons leave churches saying one thing but dropping out of church life completely. Please remember that God gave us the local church as His plan A for His mission, and He did not give us a plan B.
4. Understand that your decision will hurt many people. In fact, such decisions are one of pastors’ greatest hurts. Many take it personally. Others in the church are discouraged and confused when members, particularly active members, leave the church.
5. Please do not leave the church if you haven’t reconciled with those with whom you have conflict. Jesus was clear and unwavering on this matter: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God” (Matthew 5:24, NLT).
6. Don’t leave with complaints and criticisms. Such behavior is not good for the Kingdom, and it certainly reflects poorly on you. And by all means, keep your negativity off social media.
7. If you still decide to leave, give your pastor a good and honest reason why you are doing so. Don’t leave in a huff of silence. Don’t give a reason that is not the true reason. Your pastor has been your shepherd. Your pastor likely has made sacrifices for you of which you are not aware. It would be cruel and unbiblical to walk out with no explanation or a bad explanation.
Obviously, I believe that dropping out of your church should be rare and biblically reasoned. I am not questioning your motive or judging your heart. I am simply asking you to consider the seven points I just made.
Thank you for taking time to read these words. May God bless you. And may you truly be in His will.
Posted on March 13, 2023
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Thank you, Dr. Raiiner, In my experience good people leave their church because they have lost their joy in being there. It has become drudgery. They might be working hard to hold a declining church together and feel like they have received more complaints than appreciation from those who do very little. They might feel like people are not particularly happy to see them when they come. The church might be in a generally low-joy state where members have descended into the habit of blaming one another for their decline–attenders blame leaders–leaders blame attenders. Such a church needs a hefty infusion of grace, even before a new vision can be cast for them. (I probably got this from reading your stuff. 🙂 At any rate, peace!)
Good article Thom. If you have opportunity can you do one on pastors that receive or are looking to receive these persons into their churches? I suppose by then the damage has been done.
Sadly, most who leave a church simply go quietly into the night and are never heard from again.
Another thing to offer the one contemplating departure, “what part might you play in your reason for leaving?” It is tough to hear from someone who only attends once a month to say “I’m not getting fed spiritually/I get nothing from your sermons.” Holding my tongue a little but wanting to reply “if you came more than once a month you might get more out of the church.”
Likewise, a question people departing should ask themselves, “Have I articulated my dissatisfaction to the pastor? Have they been responsive to my critique/criticism?” (I guess this is a combination of #2 and #5) The departing person who has criticism which is unstated does a disservice. to the Pastor and congregation. Even if they depart, the feedback to the pastor can help them hone their skill and do some self-reflecting.
That’s true, Les.
Mr. Rainer, you brought up some very good points. The church I attend has a very high average age, which brings a lot of Biblical knowledge and life experiences. We lose more members due to death than any other reason. I think our biggest issue is bringing in younger members, and the ones with children, to keep the church alive. Even though we have a “junior church” for the few that attend, the kids that actually want to or can go to church, want a bunch more of kids with them. So, to add to excuses, it is an issue, and you can’t blame the parents for wanting to take the kids where they are happy. I just don’t know how to fix it.
Do you have a matching article on when you SHOULD leave? It’s a very normal thing but it’s hard to do well..