The subject of whether to look for a different congregation or not is on the mind of many people. This is an issue that comes up as God leads people into a deeper Christian walk and they receive more light and understanding. They have to address the following question: “Do I stay in this congregation, or do I find one that is more in line with what God is showing me?”
This issue must be considered carefully and prayerfully. You must not lean on your own understanding, but acknowledge God by asking him to guide you and direct you. I do not think there is any ‘across the board’ answer for this question, but there are guidelines that can help you with your decision.
The most important issues are going to be:
- Can you grow and thrive in your Christian walk where you are?
- Are you being fed by the preaching and Bible studies? Or have church meetings become a source of battle where you leave discouraged about the standards and doctrines that are being upheld and taught?
- Are people moving forward for God and growing in the knowledge and grace of God, or are things pretty well stagnant?
- When is the last time you got challenged in your soul by the Sunday message?
- Are you being exhorted and held accountable by the other brethren in the congregation?
- Are you being challenged by the lives of the brethren?
Further issues that need to be addressed for those who are married include:
- How is your family doing where you are attending?
- Is your wife being challenged and is she growing?
- Are there sisters in the congregation whose Christian lives are being an encouragement to her soul?
- Are your children being properly influenced for the good?
- Is the fellowship going beyond just having two meetings a week, where the other members are a part of your lives on other days also?
The issue of inviting people to church meetings needs to be considered also. As we are all called to missional living, this is a very important issue. As you reach out in your daily life to those people that God has placed in your life, you need to be able to feel comfortable with inviting them to the fellowship you are attending. Will the other members be a good influence on them, or will the good work you are trying to do for the Lord be torn down?
Our devotion and commitment is first and foremost to God. This commitment is higher than any commitment we make to a group or congregation. If there are things going on that you disagree with, you need to address them with the leaders of the congregation and see if things can be worked out.
You will need to be able to discern the cause of the problems you see, and deal with the root instead of dealing with the bad fruit. If there is worldliness and sin in the congregation among professing Christians, the problem is often a lack of church discipline and a lack of clear teaching that true conversion delivers from committing sin.
If the ministry is rude, overbearing, and carnal in their manner of dealing with members that disagree with them, the concept of ministers leading by example, instead of by authority and control, is missing. If a large number of the members are falling into sin and cannot seem to break the sinning and repenting cycle, then there is probably a lack of a system of accountability or discipleship.
I could go on with this list but you get the idea.
If you do decide the Lord wants you to leave, the next big question is “where will you go?”. In some cases, it is wise to move slowly and test the waters. The idea of just ‘upping and leaving’ and not knowing what you are going to do or where you are going to go, can leave you in a state of confusion and discouragement.
It is wisdom to visit prospective congregations and see what their meetings are like. Is there a strong core of spiritual families that are moving forward in the things of God? Are the people warm and hospitable, and did you get invited out for a meal and fellowship after meeting? Is there regular outreach and street-witnessing? Is there a spiritual ministry that is bearing a burden for the congregation and teaching the people to live the Bible instead of expounding on a system of dead doctrine?
Of course, you want to check and see what they are teaching. Do they have any unorthodox teachings? Are they sectarian and think they are the only church? Are they clear that salvation saves from committing sin?
Leaving a congregation can be a very difficult thing to do, and it can cause turmoil and stress in your home. I strongly suggest that you get up earlier and spend extra time in prayer and reading of the word of God, seeking God for extra grace. Make an extra effort to be graceful with your family and realize that this will be a difficult time for them too.
Life is very short and there is much to do for the Lord. The congregation we attend, and the instruction and fellowship we receive there, will -in many ways – effect our spiritual growth one way or the other. Lean heavily on the Lord, and let the trials of this life build in you patience and a greater desire for heaven. Amen.