By Lisa Harp Hinds
Thinking seriously about leaving your church? Maybe you’re tired of other members’ attitudes or you don’t connect with the pastor. Perhaps you feel neglected, like you simply don’t belong. As someone who left my church because of my own issues but later returned, I suggest asking yourself these 7 questions before deciding to leave your church:
1. DOES MY CHURCH FOLLOW BIBLICAL STRUCTURE?
Each member of the church has an important role to play. Acts 6 gives us an example of members of the church having different functions. I Corinthians 12 addresses the spiritual gifts, specifically recognizing that each member’s separate gift plays a role in the proper functioning of the church. 1 Corinthians 13 eloquently issues a treatise on how we should love one another.
Loving one another within the church is a theme that God has been working deep into my soul lately. Like many others, I’m not quite to the point where He wants me to be yet but I’m beginning to see some issues with spiritual eyes. Love in action is more than a feeling. Often the action of love brings out the feeling. Recognizing our spiritual gifts is excellent, but if we don’t practice love, nothing else matters. Loving each other is the ultimate way in which we show the world we are followers of Christ (John 13:35; I John 2:9-11; 3:10, 15, and 16).
Further, we must obey God’s instructions on the qualifications of elders and deacons (I Timothy 3; Titus 1:5-9; see also Reason #2 in 5 Reasons I Left the Church). Each church should have appropriate leaders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). If your church is not following biblical guidelines for its structure, what can you do to help it reorganize? Are the other members willing to listen? Or are you up against a brick wall?
2. DOES MY CHURCH TEACH BIBLICAL TRUTH?
This issue is big! I mean, what is church if it’s not built on the Holy Bible? Church is not a social club. We, the church, are Christ’s disciples. We belong to Him, not to the world. Therefore, we must accurately teach His Word, sincerely for the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:17). Each of us is a minister of the Lord even if we are not all preachers, and we are not to adulterate the Word of God (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). If your church is not committed to teaching biblical truth and won’t consider your expressed concerns after you’ve prayed and even fasted, it’s possible that they aren’t interested in truth. In this case, I would recommend finding a church that does teach truth, or planting your own congregation if the Lord leads you to do so.
3. HAVE I SPENT TIME PRAYING ABOUT THIS?
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us what we should be doing every day: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So, if you are able to turn from sorrow to rejoicing, to turn from worry to giving thanks, then you will be changing your attitude through your new mindset. Through prayer, you will be able to discern if God is calling you to do something exciting in your current church or if He is leading you elsewhere for His glory. Without spending time in prayer, we cannot recognize His leading.
As Philippians 4:6 teaches: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The Lord has our best in mind and will help us when we seek Him (Lamentations 3:25; Romans 8:28). When I left my church it wasn’t about God – it was about me, which I regret. I encourage you to spend time in prayer so that you don’t make the same mistakes I made.
4. DO I NEED TO CHANGE MY ATTITUDE?
Ponder this: When I’m fed up with others, is the problem them or my own attitude? Often, my attitude is usually the root of my issues with other people or organizations. I am a highly sensitive person, which means that I often pick up on things that other people don’t. I can become frustrated with others as a result, failing to understand why they don’t see things as I do. Since God gives each of us our own gifts and each of those gifts are important, I am reminded to get off my high horse and work on my own attitude (see Reason Number 2 in 5 Reasons I Came Back to the Church which will publish soon).
Perhaps you are further along in some spiritual disciplines than some members of your church, but I suspect that they are further along than you are in other disciplines. Isn’t this a possibility? (See Romans 12:3-8 and I Corinthians 12:7-11.) All children don’t learn and grow at the same rate; neither do the children of God. So, given this fact, perhaps we should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ (Ephesians 6:18), and pray for ourselves as well, that God would give us patience, love, and kindness for our church family. Pray on the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Also note I Thessalonians 5:12-15, which directs us in how to treat each other. Remember, all congregations have their own (likely similar) issues.
5. DO I NEED TO ADDRESS A PERSONAL OFFENSE?
In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus instructs us, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” If we know that a brother or sister in Christ has something against us, we should waste no time in efforts at reconciliation. Likewise, if we have something against someone else, we should go directly to that person, and that person alone (Matthew 18:15) rather than sharing the issue with someone not involved.
After talking with the individual, if things have not been resolved, follow the instruction given in Matthew 18:15-17. This is the process Christ has given us for handling issues when they arise between church members.
6. CAN I HELP MY PASTOR OUT?
The best help we can provide our pastors is lifting them up in prayer. Start a prayer group to specifically pray for your church leaders. Our spiritual leaders face the same issues as the rest of us. We can’t expect our pastors to do everything. They need time and energy for their families, too. What ministry can I be leading that will help relieve the pastor? Ephesians 4:11-13 says that we all have a ministry: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Go for it! Discover your ministry and do it! I began to learn about my ministry after enrolling in Artios Christian College. Enroll today!
7. HOW MUCH EMPHASIS AM I PUTTING ON THE MUSIC?
If you are unhappy with the music at church, what specifically bothers you? Is this an area in which your attitude needs adjusting? Instead of remaining unhappy, volunteer and offer ideas. You could also enroll in a certificate program that focuses on Worship Ministry to better equip yourself for this ministry in your congregation. I enjoy many genres of music, but not all genres appeal to me. Nor do all genres of Christian music feel like holy music to me. We must remember that music in our church services is intended to glorify God rather than meet our varying personal preferences.
LET’S BE DILIGENT IN OUR SERVICE TO THE KING
We have no idea how much time on this earth we have left. Whether we have days or years left, let’s be diligent in our service to the King, selflessly praying for one another, living out the gospel in a community of faith, committed to loving one another, glorifying the Lord in all we do.
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”