7 Bad Reasons People Leave Churches.

I wrote a post a few months ago called “5 Good Reasons You Should Leave Your Church.

This post struck a cord with many, but it hit me after publishing that while there ARE many good reasons to leave a church, there are some equally bad reasons, too. My guess (based on experience) is most people leave churches for bad reasons more often than for good ones. So as a counter to the previous post, here are a few terrible reasons to leave a church:

1. I’m not being fed.

Every pastor LOVES this one. If you are leaving a church because you’re not being fed, be prepared to leave the next church you attend, as well. As Christians, we should progress overtime to “self-feeders” and “other-feeders.” If you see feeding as the church’s job, you will always become “full” at any church over time and feel the need to seek out something new.

Just like an infant grows and becomes independent, we as Christians should not rely on the regurgitated food of preachers as our only source of feeding. “I’m not being fed,” is code for “It’s your job to feed me.” And it’s NOT the churches job to feed everyone equally. Most Christians just need to pick up a fork and feed themselves. That’s the best way to learn self-feeding.

2. You like “church shopping.”

If you find yourself bouncing from church to church, you will always struggle to connect and engage. I know people who leave churches every few months. They are seemingly on a lifetime quest to find the perfect church. But until there are perfect people, there will never perfect churches. In fact, the minute any one of us walks in, the church ceases to be perfect.

Quick side bar: Some “church shoppers” shop for fear of engagement. They’ve been burned before, so they are hesitant when they see fire. But shopping isn’t the solution.

3. We don’t go “deep” enough.

This is similar to reason #1, but more specifically focused on the preaching. Here’s my solution to “deep.” That whole “Love your neighbor as yourself,” bit is pretty deep when you think about it. And I’ve yet to meet a Christian who has mastered it. Meaning we’ve still got some depth to go.

I know, super sarcastic (that’s my love language), but true, right? Deep is relative. Deep is different for everyone. But going “deep” is not the goal of the church. Christians are the most over-informed, under-applied people group I’ve ever seen. What we need is application of truth, not deeper truth.

Let’s master “Love your neighbor as yourself,” before we worry about going deeper.

4. They don’t offer ______________ for me.

Men’s ministry. Women’s ministry. MOPs. Awana. Babysitter recommendations. Youth ski trips. Weekly communion. Softball teams. Wednesday night meals. Sunday night services. Saturday night services. Etc., etc.

If there is something not offered at your church, odds are it’s due to one of two reasons:

1) What you want doesn’t fit within the church’s strategy.
2) What you want can’t be offered without straining the church (financially, leadership, staff, etc.).

If the problem is strategy and you can’t live without your pet ministry, then you might be happier elsewhere. But, if the problem is lack of funding and/or leadership, stop asking for something new and offer to help launch something new.

5. I don’t know anyone and nobody knows me.

Well, join a small group. Join a volunteer team. We should never leave a church because it’s too big – especially when engagement solves our tension. Small groups and volunteer teams are what make big churches small.

6. I don’t like how they ______________.

Spend money. Save money. Hire staff. Fire staff. Change ministry offerings. Elect elders. And on and on.

In some cases, what you don’t like might be reason to leave, but most are not. Unless you are deep on the inside, fully engaged with the leadership, seek to understand before you seek out a new church home. The majority of church leaders lead with their churches best interest in mind. And with your best intentions in mind.

Now, if leaders prove untrustworthy, then leaving the church is probably best. I addressed this here. It’s nearly impossible to fully engage in any church with untrustworthy leadership. But before we jump to any conclusions, we should first ask questions, seek to understand, and then make informed decisions.

7. You are the focus of your church experience.

I’ll save the best for last. Every single point above could be summarized by one word: “ME.” If church is about you, you will always be disappointed. Sure, church should help you spiritually. Church should be part of your spiritual growth. Church should be a place that you love and are loved. But church is not about you. It’s about God and His kingdom. It’s about serving, giving, and growing. In short, it’s about other. If you ever consider leaving a church, check first to see if you are your problem.

Of course, this is not to say you should never leave a church. I’ve left two churches in the past for good reasons. But when we leave churches for the wrong reasons, we hurt the church and hamper our next church. No church can succeed with a congregation of “me’s.” So my encouragement is to become part of the “we” before you exit for greener pastures.

What did I miss? Or do you believe some of these ARE good reason to leave your church? I’d love to know by leaving a comment below.

  4 Comments

  1. Jay   •  

    Gavin,
    I agree with Madison girl as well. I have a problem with 1&3 as well. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word. If a church preaches the full counsel of God in season and out of season you are being fed. That is basically the standard shepards and sheep are to adhere to. That is what all churches should be doing. If you still leave a church that does this then I agree they are not feeding themselves, which every Christian should do. I think 1 & 3 are very dangerous to talk about. Jesus is the bread of life and the word. He who feasts on Him will never go hungry. He fed the flock and as undershepards should we do any less. When someone says they are not being fed I am pretty sure it being the exception not the rule that it is the Christian is the problem.

    I was in a large seeker sensitive Christian church for 10 years of my life, which was a majority of my religious life. By the grace of God he rescued me from my religiosity. Looking back they gave me a different God in my mind, an idol, since things were so watered down and lacking substance. If it were not for God I would have found myself on the broad road in the end and standing before a God I would not recognize. Feed the sheep! John 21:15-17 I am sorry but I cringe and about lose my mind when I hear these things. I had learned so much more about God in my first year at a true church than my 10 years at the other. Once the true regeneration took place by faithful preaching I actually began feeding myself. Satan is the author of lies and if he can give you just enough religion to keep you dead he will. Even masquerading around as an angel of light. He will tell lies that are almost the truth you know. The church has a serious problem that needs to be dealt with by not thinking this is a big deal.

    I have seen “pastors” berating the sheep over this in front of the congregation. Going as far as to sitting in a high chair on stage and crying “feed me!” “Feed me!” Then shortly thereafter telling them to leave their church. Wow! I am not saying you are doing this here but this alway pops into my head when I read this. 🙂

    Finally, we cannot rely greatly on small groups for great spiritual growth. I think they can be a great tool. After being regularly involved in them for many years they are either just as watered down as the church or composed of believers/unbelievers or are under equipped. This mixture of people creates a struggle for revealing truths of God. No wonder we can’t be like the church in Acts. Instead of discussing these great truths so as not to offend we either remain silent or back down. How are we to feed others? We need the echoing of these truths from the overseers, the rich food from the word of God. I have seen even when truths proclaimed from the pulpit and have witnessed Christians downplaying them in these small groups. Imagine what these groups look like when they are not even fed there. I think we have a systemic problem. Pastors lead and feed your flock! It starts there.

    I hope this help someone get a view from the ground level as to what is going on in the church. If a church is not feeding or sheparding you on Biblical grounds alone, not your needs, then you should leave. After much thought and prayer of course. Your soul could be at stake. 1 Tim 4:16. How I love His word and pray this is grounded in truth.
    Truth and Love

    • Gavin Adams   •     Author

      Jay, I appreciate your perspective! And it would take an entire NEW post to address all you’ve brought to light. But here are a few thoughts to continue the conversation.

      1. I agree that part of a church/pastor’s role is to feed the sheep. No question. But churches could preach “love your neighbor as yourself” over and over and many in said churches would begin to cry “I’m not being fed!” while never embracing the most simple of core teachings. Deeper teaching isn’t really the issue in most churches. The lack of application by Christians of biblical teaching is the issue.

      2. The problem with seeker sensitive churches is they can be watered down. I lead a seeker comprehensible church, and there is quite a difference: http://abrupt-chin.flywheelsites.com/church-for-unchurched/

      3. Too many Christians claim “I’m not being fed,” as an excuse for their selfish perspective. That does NOT seem to be the case with your experience. But honestly, you’re in the minority.

      4. I’ve NEVER seen the highchair illustration, and I’d walk right out of any church with that approach. Wow – that’s awful!

      5. I agree with you most around the small group issue. Small groups are wonderful in many respects, but leveraging them as the only discipleship strategy is problematic.

      6. What’s difficult as a church leader is finding a way to be great at both reaching people and growing people. Focusing deeply on one or the other is natural, yet off mission. Seeker sensitive is great for reaching. Deeper teaching is helpful in growing disciples. But both need to be present in a local church, yet executing both with excellence is the real challenge.

      7. Faith isn’t just by hearing.

      Great response, Jay. I love hearing and considering other sides.

  2. Gavin Adams   •     Author

    MadisonGirl, in some cases, I would completely agree with you! But those cases seem very limited. The VAST majority of “I’m not being fed” complainers are not self feeding. They see making and serving up spiritual dinner as the pastor’s job. They are consumers.

    The biggest issue with the “I’m not being fed” complaint is the first part of the statement – “I.” That’s really the issue. It’s point #7. As a lead pastor myself, is the “church” supposed to feed me?

    Eventually, I believe it is a growing Christian’s job to migrate from being fed to feeding themselves to feeding others. If you are maturing spiritually, the next step is to help with other’s maturity (which continues to grow us, too.).

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. MadisonGirl   •  

    This is interesting, but I have to disagree with your #1 and #3…after all shouldn’t church be support? If I’m already self feeding, but I need more spiritual food than what I can feed myself and a particular church isn’t meeting the need…why would I need to remain with that particular congregation? That’s not to say that church is useless, just not a good fit for me–after all that church could be meeting the needs of the people who remain there. What’s wrong with that? I’ve burned out at churches where I wasn’t fed…and that is no way to live the Christian life. So, glad I finally moved on!

Leave a Reply