Let me start this off by saying I am writing this as a pastor. If you have joined a local church, and you read my other articles (above) and come to the conclusion that your church is not a biblical church, and that it perhaps is a “bad” church, you should first before anything else seek God’s advice and direction on what to do, when to do it, and how to do, especially your attitude. When I was an assistant pastor of a church for a short time in the United States, I felt the pastor was abusive (not to me, but to various members in the church). I left that church because of my convictions. Before I left, I went in and talked for a long time with the pastor over my preoccupations, and I had evidence in hand that he could not deny (even though he did try to deny it).
Steps to leave honorably.
First I think that before anything else is done, a person should be clear on his thoughts. This means that you should study your Bible thoroughly and have a good grasp on the issues over which you want to leave a church. This is where we need to begin. We need to begin not with the church, but with your personal spiritual life. If you have personal spiritual problems, you will probably be blinded to the truth and will not make good decisions.
When you have a “clear head” on the issues, you can begin to take the other steps below.
The next step should be to personally retire from activity and service in the church. Here you need to understand that it is just not right to be out of sync with what the church is doing as ministry and still support them through your service. Ethically, you should agree with their doctrine and generally with their practices if you are going to service God with them.
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Here I have to advise you strongly be wary. Many churches and pastors are masterminds at psychology. This is one of the very heavily identifying marks of an abusive church, they know how to trap and retain their members. See my discussion, psychological traps to get, retain, and punish their members, for more on this subject. It is
3. Go talk with your pastor.
In most cases, the pastor is your main reason for leaving. There are a couple of good points you need to remember through the exit experience.
- You have a responsibility to confront or tell the church leadership why you are leaving. They need to know what people think is wrong with their church. They cannot change what is wrong if nobody brings it to their attention.
- You don’t want to get embroiled in a confrontational argument, debate, that turns into a small war. The man of God is not to be contentious. (See my tract ch30-cox-ministers-are-not-contentious-v1.doc). This principle extents to all of God’s people, but most especially those that lead God’s work. So first of all, you don’t want to get into a fight that is not befitting of a Christian, and is pulling all involved into sin. But at the same time, they need to know your views. Sometimes there are misunderstandings, and sometimes there are not, and the leaders will just cover and try to manipulate you into staying, or into leaving if they cannot control you.
- Make sure of your understandings of what is going on and what God’s principles are, and where your church is not fulfilling God’s Word. Do this in prayer and Bible study. It is best to let things go, and do nothing more than pray until these things are emotionally “cold”, and then decide. Once you decide, make sure you don’t expose your views only to settle for promises that aren’t kept. Stick to what God has shown you until somebody can convince you otherwise.
- Don’t split the church. Your relationship with God and the church is important. Many times other good Christians don’t see things the way you do. But under no circumstances will God approve of you disrupting and destroying His church. If you made the judgment call that it was a good church when you joined, then don’t try to destroy it now. Let God judge what is wrong and who is doing the wrong, and you don’t come under that judgement for how you exit the church. So when you leave, try to make it as quietly as possible. Do not tell everybody your position, or try to smear the church leadership. Just leave. If people ask, tell them if you feel God would have you to do that. It is perfectly okay to just say, “I would rather not talk about it.” Many times people get upset and leave in a huff, and their leaving is just as bad or worse than the things they are leaving the church for.
- If you came into the church as friends, leave likewise. Let others have the soul liberty to live as they feel God would have them to live. You don’t have judge, condemn, and sentence other people. You are at a disagreement with them, leave friendly. Tell them you still think of them as friends, but that you cannot continue in the church under the situations you perceive as improper.
When the pastor is not the problem.
This is sometimes the case, but none-the-less you should talk with the pastor about the reasons for leaving.
After the Exit
Note that it is normal for people to want to not go to any church after having a bad experience. Not all churches are alike. Find a good church, and if you cannot find one, then start one. Whatever you do, do not stop going to church! It is for your spiritual benefit, and staying home is never a replacement for what a church has to offer.