Yesterday I began to answer a question from a reader (and friend who attended our church before she moved far away!) about when it would be okay to "give up" on a church. I mentioned a time when John and I really wanted to leave the place we attended (pre-ministry days).
So how did it resolve for us? Well, we stuck it out for three years. We had an honest conversation with the pastor about halfway into that time, and expressed our dissatisfaction. Again, none of our concerns were in and of themselves great reasons to leave; we just wanted to get back to the place we had left. So, even while our pastor "released" us and made it clear that we could move on without hard feelings, we stuck around for another 18 months. I think we just had a sense that our time there wasn't really over, for some reason.
How did we know that? Simply through prayer, and asking God to show us. Was it always clear and easy? Not at all. We questioned much in those months, and didn't actually move on until we both felt a peace about doing so. While the time leading up to the decision seemed fraught with confusion, once the decision was made, a deep peace about it descended on us both.
So, back to the question. When would it be okay to "give up" on a church?
Clearly, if a church is not teaching the Bible, and does not have gospel-centered preaching, I would strongly consider moving on. I do think that the church's view and treatment of the Word of God will be reflected throughout the community; it is important to find a church that is faithful to teach the gospel as found in the Scriptures.
I'm not referring here to "interesting" preaching, or "cool" preaching. Is the preaching faithful to the gospel but kind of boring? That's okay. We don't need our ears to be tickled; we need to hear the gospel as much as we possibly can.
On a less definitive note, I recommend that you pray A LOT before you leave a church. Get wise counsel from others, either inside or outside that particular congregation. This must be done with humility and discretion. Ask God where he would have you. Ask if you can be of service to the church you wish to leave. Are you considering leaving for consumerist reasons? Remember that the church is not a cafeteria, there to serve your changing whims. More importantly, remember that the church ultimately belongs to Jesus. He LOVES that church, as dissatisfied as you may be, and he wants to see his church flourish and grow in beauty.
Tomorrow I will wrap up this topic with some ideas on how to leave a church with humility and grace.
This is the 19th part in a series. Go here to read the series from the beginning. Go here to read over 700 other 31 Day series on all kinds of topics.