Encouraging, Living, Reaching


Choosing a Church

Choosing a Church

Personally, I have been in fellowship at the same assembly for 22 years and counting. I came there as a new believer at age 20 where I was greeted with firm handshakes and warm smiles. I didn’t know anything about church doctrine at the time. It was only love that kept me coming.

Over the years, I have learned the doctrine, and over the years I have never found reasons to leave. In an attempt to simplify things, I will suggest there are really only three reasons to leave a church and join another.

Doctrinal error

The first and foremost reason to leave a church would be doctrinal error. Since our loyalty to the truth of the Scripture comes first, any deviation from the vital tenets of our faith should result in removing ourselves from the fellowship.

Although some tenets of the faith may be hard to define as vital or non-vital, I think we all would agree that some truths are foundational to salvation – the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone apart from works, the divinity of Jesus Christ, etc. Other doctrines such as the timing of the Second Coming, God’s sovereignty, and the definition of repentance may not be doctrines to leave over.

In reality, however, the reasons we leave churches seem to be arguments over music choices, worship styles and Bible translations. These non-vital issues, especially with regard to our justification for salvation before God, are ones that call for patience, cooperation and grace.

Leaving a fellowship over these issues, and similar ones, tend to uproot these virtues before they even have a chance to grow, taking away the very soil – our differences – in which they grow.

Gross moral failure

The second reason for leaving a fellowship would be moral failure in the leaders of an assembly. Although it is arguable what exactly constitutes moral failure, if you feel strongly that the leaders of your assembly are morally incompetent, then you should leave.

After all, they are your leaders, whose faith [you are to] follow, considering the outcome of their faith (Heb. 13:7). If you do not agree with the outcome of their faith, you should seek leaders whose faith and lives you can follow, as the Scriptures teach.

Stagnation of the body

Similar to moral failure in the leadership of your church would be the moral failure of the whole assembly. If you feel your assembly lacks love, evangelistic fervor or respect for the Scriptures, then maybe it is time for you to find another church.

He who walks with the wise grows wise (Prov.13:20) and it is important to find an assembly whose holiness, family values, evangelism and mission interest infects, in a good way, your entire family.

The fact of the matter is that some churches are thriving, some are dying, and some are already dead (Rev. 2&3). It may actually be a matter of life and death for you and your children to be involved in a thriving assembly during the very formative years of their faith.

The model of the Church: a family

After I have given you three reasons for leaving a church, now I will plead with you to stay. My first reason for you to stay is that the church, your church, is your family. The people you have met with for 3, 7 or 10 plus years are your God given brothers and sisters.

I find it ironic that we call the church a family, but leave it so quickly as if it were a mere acquaintance. The relationships within a family are strong, able to put up with many difficulties, strains, and offences. An acquaintance, on the other hand, is left in a day without thought, without pain, without loss.

By staying, instead of running away the moment we feel offended, we will learn the virtues of forgiveness, grace, patience and forbearance. None of which can be learned if we remove ourselves from fellowship at the first sign of trouble.

A final plea

So stay at your church. Stay as long as possible and fight for, not with, the people of God with whom God has called us to be a family. Love suffers long, love hopes all things and endures all things (1 Cor.13:7) and it is vital for our growth that we stay as long as our conscience allows us.

Lastly, if we must leave, let us leave with tears and by all means find somewhere else to be in fellowship. There should never be such a one as a churchless Christian. And if after long forbearance, you discover that you absolutely must leave a church, then resolve this: to find another church to give yourself to right away, for you follow the One who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Eph.5:25).

Shane Johnson

Shane Johnson has been commended from Bethel-Park Bible Chapel since 1999.  He resides in Brantford, Ontario with his wife Shelly and his five children.  He has his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a minor in History.  His passions are teaching children, inspiring young people, writing, music and playing soccer.

4 Responses to Choosing a Church

  1. D O

    Maybe the best article I read on this issue, explained in truth and grace. Thanks.

  2. Ron Hofman

    Not quite what I was expecting from the title, but a good article none the less. I say that because I’m guilty of “not staying put” in the past and I realize now God teaches us in many different ways. Each one of us is a vital member of “the body,” and the local church (assembly) is simply a training ground for eternity. We are learners primarily while here below, and workers secondarily. And we never stop learning until we see His face.

    The local churches around here (I’m reluctant to call them assemblies) are tough to work with as they are all “one man bands.” My wife and I attended one such church which was about 25 minutes away by car (about 25 miles – we live in a rural community). We were there for over three years trying to show them from the scriptures how a NT church functions. One day the “pastor” said, in response to my position on “clergy and laity,” that he supports the system. He didn’t tell me to my face. I felt that was our cue to leave, already feeling the cold shoulder.

    We have just started attending another similar church only 10 minutes away – it’s brand new, starting up only a few months ago. But we can already tell it’s no different than the last one, where there is one main man who does everything. And I do mean everything, except bring food to the “pot blessings” each week. That’s sisters work. All the various meetings have the same format, whether the “worship service,” where he preaches, or the Sunday School, where he preaches, or the week night Bible study, where he preaches. Not that his preaching is bad, but it is tiresome after a while.

    So we keep praying… and I do so miss the morning worship meetings!

  3. Abiche Egahi

    I think and believe that there is no perfect assembly. A church or assembly of believers is a spiritual hospital for both believers and non-believers. For anyone to leave an assembly or a denomination simply because of doctrinal error instead of praying patiently asking for spiritual sight in areas where they’re blind. Is not encouraging.
    What do you think?

    • Shane Johnson

      Yes, there is no perfect assembly but there can be extremely sick ones. At the end of the article I make a plea to stay at your church as long as you can with good conscience, praying and contributing as much as possible…So stay at your church. Stay as long as possible and fight for, not with, the people of God with whom God has called us to be a family. Love suffers long, love hopes all things and endures all things (1 Cor.13:7) and it is vital for our growth that we stay as long as our conscience allows us.

      “Lastly, if we must leave, let us leave with tears and by all means find somewhere else to be in fellowship. There should never be such a one as a churchless Christian. And if after long forbearance, you discover that you absolutely must leave a church, then resolve this: to find another church to give yourself to right away, for you follow the One who loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Eph.5:25).”

      But if you have to leave, let it be for the three reasons stated above, and only after much prayer, thought and effort

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