Stay or Go

April 2, 2024 0 By Mirm

Today I was having lunch with a friend who was asking me about when is the right time to leave a church. I don’t know, but I have a few thoughts.

Here is what I think about when to go – for what it’s worth – I am not one to jump ship too soon – I feel an aching responsibility to the people I love and it may not be better somewhere else. In fact, when I counsel people in other relationships who are complaining that the grass seems greener in someone else’s yard, I remind them that the green means one of 2 things –

  1. The other people are caring for their lawn
  2. It’s astroturf

Things may seem better in another place but mostly I have found that the names change but people everywhere are fallen and broken and life can be messy – everywhere. And leaving one church for no church is not an option!

I do think that there are valid reasons to leave related to our conversation:

Geography  – I have had a hard time building community and intimacy since I do not live near. It is hard.

Stage of Life – When I had teens and we moved to CA it was important to find a place to worship where they could form community. Additionally, as a widow (who now has gray hair) I have reservations about finding a new community. It is hard to start over anywhere.

Theological Red Flags – this one we talked about and this is a real concern as we move forward in the current places we live and move. I am worried that the integrity of the gospel is being muddied for the sake of cultural amorality or christian nationalism – but isn’t that happening everywhere?

So, The reason to leave, for me, is tricky. I have left several churches and for several reasons. While my gut punch reaction to you is go based on points discussed, upon reflection I would say that purpose is a BIG, if not THE, main reason for me (at east most of the time). Why are we considering going? Is it because we are called away TO something else? I don’t know that God will call us from somewhere without finishing the call to something else!

There are negative and positive reasons for leaving a church and if the main reason is negative, perhaps from personal unhappiness, hurts or discontentment, then no matter where you go you will take that sense of being with you. Further, to leave FROM is different than going TO something else. The purpose of being called TO a new ministry or community is the “right” reason to go rather than just walking away from one place to another. The former can be validated but the latter can be construed as selfish consumerism or at least self-serving. In other words, when in doubt – don’t!

Being at a church has many layers to it and while the teaching needs to be theologically sound, it is also about evidences of grace, relationships and opportunities to build up/edify/prosper others. To grow in our faith we don’t need better teaching – we need to be discipled. To become a spiritually healthy person we need to “get off the proverbial couch” and serve, give and actively participate. To leave because we don’t like change means we will never settle. You get the idea.

No “departure from” or “arrival to” should be anything but bathed in prayer. Further, it should be quiet and without malice or division. I want to tell you to go but I also want to say that we all need to keep being salt and light everywhere God has put us for as long as He has us there.

I will probably have more thoughts as I keep ruminating on this!