Recently I posted an article on my blog titled 7 Reasons to Quit Attending Church. I was totally unprepared for how quickly it would end up spreading across the internet. Over 25,000 people read the article, which, for my blog, is a gigantic number.
As I’ve tried to analyze why so many people were struck by the article, I began to be concerned that some might see it as a blanket statement that one should never quit attending their church, thus keeping people in very unhealthy situations. The truth is I believe there can come a time when you need to find another church to worship with. Here are five reasons to consider leaving:
- You feel yourself surrounded by a hypercritical attitude in both the pews and the pulpit. Individual churches have distinct personalities (and here I’m not referring to any specific religious group, but rather to churches/congregations within those groups). People of similar attitudes tend to gravitate toward each other and find each other and band together. And they generally choose an evangelist/minister/pastor who mirrors their attitude. The result of this phenomenon is that there are what I call many “flavors” of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Church of God, etc. One of the most dangerous “flavors” is a group made up of fault finders who are always looking for opportunities to criticize and tear people down. Worshipping in that environment will poison your heart, skewing your view of others and yourself.
- If the only tool used to get members to respond is guilt. Let me be quick to say that a measure of healthy, appropriate guilt is a good thing. We all have a built in “guilt meter” that is there to convict us when we engage in wrongdoing. Unfortunately some churches have developed a culture where everyone is made to feel guilty all the time, and if you don’t feel guilty, you should feel guilty about not feeling guilty. In that atmosphere there is no joy of heart and no peace of mind. Keeping yourself in that kind of setting runs the risk of subjecting yourself to chronic discouragement, hopelessness, and depression.
- It is hard to find the Cross. Every Christian group will say that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the pivotal moment in the history of mankind. However, in our current culture of “entertain me,” it is easy to become so enamored with the pictures and videos of the powerpoint, the personality of the worship leader or speaker, the volume and energy of the praise band that the message of the cross becomes lost or unimportant. In those churches people and personalities are more prominent than the Christ.
- The leaders have become more interested in money and power than in reaching out to the lost. If you frequently hear the phrase “because I said so” coming from the mouths of your leaders, you can rest assured that they have succumbed to the temptation that power brings, the temptation to believe that what they say is more important than what God says. And if there are more announcements about and lessons preached on money than reaching the lost, then it is very possible that the leaders have made money their God.
- Traditions have become more important than Truth. During Christ’s brief three year ministry he was constantly upbraiding the religious leaders for emphasizing their traditions. They emphasized form over substance and outside appearances over attitudes of the heart. The phrase “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is a telltale sign that “our way” has become more important than “God’s way.” Traditions come from mankind while truth comes from God’s word. If you are a truth seeker, you need to be sure you have surrounded yourself with other truth seekers, not with tradition keepers.
Leaving a church is not something that should be taken lightly. Much prayer needs to be engaged in, seeking God’s guidance. And finding another church is not easy. The biggest problem with churches is that they have people like you and me in them, people who are flawed and struggling to do the right thing. That’s why there is no such thing as a perfect church. But if you search with an open and sincere heart, you will find a group of people where you will clearly see the Cross, where Truth is emphasized and respected, and where you will feel encouraged and built up.
May God bless you in your search.