When I was a kid, I liked watching The Jeffersons on T.V. I think the theme song for the show, Movin’ On Up, is one of the catchiest tunes of all time. When I think of George and Weesy, the word “moving” takes on the meaning of changing locations from a place where one presently is, to a place that is better than the place where one presently is.
In the short amount of time that I’ve truly been following Christ (only a short five and a half years now), I’ve seen a lot of people come and go from church.
I’ve seen and talked to a lot of people who have left the church that I’ve also attended, to start attending other churches.
I, myself, have changed churches once over the past few years. At that time, my wife and I decided that it would be better for our family to seek spiritual leadership from another pastor. You are never expected to stay somewhere or support someone who hurts you, intentionally.
There are tons of reasons that people leave churches. Many of these reasons require no explanation. For instance, if you are moving across the country, you may want to think about finding a new church home. It’s probably inconvenient to fly back to the church near your previous home each week.
According to ChurchLeaders.com, there are at least 330,000 churches in the United States!
If you had the time and the gas for your car, you could literally visit a different church every single Sunday morning and Sunday evening for over 452 years and not get to all of them.
So here’s the thing, go to a church where you are happy! Seriously…. GO!
But here’s the other thing, if you’re switching churches just because you don’t like your old church anymore, just say so. Be honest. No one is going to be upset with you if you come right out and say, “You know what, we enjoyed it here for a little while, but we feel like it’s time for us to move on.”
In fact, although some people may (or may not) be sad that you are leaving, they will, more than likely, appreciate your candor.
Here’s what not to do:
- Don’t blame it on the preaching.
- Don’t blame it on the programs.
- Don’t blame it on the service structure.
- Don’t blame it on the music.
- Don’t say “the preaching isn’t deep enough for me.”
- Don’t say “that pastor doesn’t challenge me.”
- Don’t say “this church is just for beginning Christians.”
- Don’t complain that the church is too accepting of sinners or sin (I thank God that I was accepted by the church when my life was overflowing with sin)!
And last but not least….
DON’T TRY TO CONVINCE OTHERS TO LEAVE WITH YOU!
All of these statements are just plain rude. Regardless of whether you intend them to be or not, they are insulting to people who work very hard to make sure that church happens.
All of these statements, although you may actually feel this way, stirs up an air of selfishness and discontent.
You obviously have appreciated the church for some reason at some point in time.
You obviously enjoyed the pastor’s teachings and the music and the sermon structure and the programs before. Or, maybe you tolerated them because your dislike of them was outweighed by other things that you really loved about the church. That’s awesome!
As far as being deep enough, or only catering to “beginning” Christians, I think this makes people sound very conceited and pompous. Don’t try to “out-Christian” all of the other Christians around you. The Bible calls the religious-elite Pharisees! That’s what you sound like. Do you really want to be a Pharisee? No one wants to be one of those guys!
Jesus taught in parables. Parables are easy-to-understand stories, that have practical meaning about the things that are being taught. Jesus always explained the meanings of these parables so that they were easy to understand. None of them were very “deep“.
Jesus didn’t really delve into theology so much during His teachings.
Jesus never taught in such a way that it would be “over the heads” of anyone who was tuning in for the first time.
Jesus never patted anyone on the back because they were scripturally (yes, I made up that word) smarter than someone else.
Jesus never “graduated” people up to higher levels of learning because of their immense ability to comprehend what others could not.
Why do we want our churches to emulate something that Jesus was not?
Jesus certainly was accepting of the company of sinners!
In fact, He taught us to love everyone, especially sinners.
Jesus ate at their houses and drank from their wells. The least we can do is sit beside them in church.
When I say sit beside “them“, what I mean to say is sit beside each other. You are a sinner, too! We all sin every single day. The day that you can’t worship beside someone because
their sin is uncomfortable to you, is the day you probably need to hit your knees and thank God for placing you in a church where you can learn to soften your heart, and accept others with the same grace with which God has accepted you.
Let me be clear: there are no increasing levels of sin. There are no felonies and misdemeanors. A sin is a sin is a sin.
Sin is the willful deviation from living the best life that God has prepared for you by disobeying His commandments and teachings. It is the separation of one’s own heart from the heart of God. The sin of a person having an extra-marital affair is no different than the sin of how you disrespect your own spouse when no one else is around.
When are Christians going to stop building holy walls between themselves and the people they are meant to influence?
When are we going to demonstrate that loving and accepting someone is NOT the same as condoning their behavior?
Lastly, I’m tired of hearing people say that they are leaving a church because they are not being fed!
It’s not your pastor’s responsibility to feed you, or to grow your faith for you. It’s your pastor’s responsibility to teach you, and everyone else, on a level that everyone can understand. When I’m hungry and no one is feeding me, I EAT!
How many books have you read lately? How much time do you spend in prayer seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit? How much time do you spend reading the scriptures?
I think if you want to learn history and theology, you should attend seminary. I’m not trying to be rude, I just want to be clear that church shouldn’t be seminary. I doubt very seriously that your pastor is getting paid what a professor teaching at seminary is getting paid.
Let’s stop jumping from church to church and feeling like we have to tear down the former in favor of the latter to somehow justify our move. Let’s be honest with ourselves and everyone else.
We live in a country that has plenty of everything, including churches. We can try out churches for any selfish reason that we would like.
And that’s OK. It really is.
There is no need to stay at a church where you are unhappy. This only creates a cancer that begins to infect the whole church.
Let’s get back to the understanding that our duty is to reach people for Christ. This is more important than our comfort at the church that we attend on Sundays.
This is more important than the stage-show.
This is more important than the freebies.
This is more important than everyone else having to be bored out of their minds listening to some theological lesson on Sunday morning because you are too smart for a regular sermon.
Maybe, since you are not being challenged by the sermons anymore, it’s time for you to step up as a small-group leader or a youth group leader.
Maybe, since the sermons aren’t deep enough for you anymore, you need to mentor some people who are thirsty to learn, but have not found a teacher.
Maybe we should stop expecting our pastors to teach more scholarly than Jesus did.
In his book Radical, David Platt says:
Now journey with me to a contemporary worship service in the United States. Some people have their Bibles open, while others don’t have a Bible with them. A few people are taking notes, but for the most part they are passively sitting in the audience. While some are probably disengaged, others are intently focused on what the preacher is saying, listening to God’s Word to hear how it applies to their lives. But the reality is, few are listening to reproduce.
We are, by nature, receivers. Even if we have a desire to learn God’s Word, we still listen from a default self-centered mind-set that is always asking, What can I get out of this? But as we have seen, this is unbiblical Christianity. What if we changed the question whenever we gathered to learn God’s Word? What if we began to think, How can I listen to His Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others?
This changes everything. When we realize we have a responsibility to teach the Word, it changes everything about how we hear the Word.
Maybe the problem isn’t your church. Maybe the problem is your heart?
Are you going to church for what you can get out of it?
Or, are you going to church so you can learn what to teach others in an effort to spread the love of Christ?