An article from Relevant Magazine written by Aaron Loy is currently trending across social media. I love the article. There is such a need for a ‘gospel focus’ in the modern America church. Too much in the church has been relayed to corporation tactics, generating man-made monuments for an exciting Christian country club. That is not the church. The church is the body of Christ, which is more than a weekly meeting; and Sunday gatherings consist in communal worship for the glory of God. Loy’s article has helped reinforce this truth – that the church is not about me; it is about God. Here are the five ‘really bad reasons to leave your church’ noted by Loy:
- I’m not being fed
- It’s getting too big
- I don’t agree with everything that is being preached
- My needs aren’t being met
- Unresolved conflict
When Loy says “your church,” he is speaking of the local church. This is the localized gathering of God’s children. Fortunately and unfortunately, modern America has the opportunity to choose between local gatherings. Fortunately, this allows for many members of the body to utilize their gifts simultaneously. Unfortunately, it promotes the individual Christian’s motive for self-satisfaction in gauging their local gathering choice by their own preferences. Screwtape writes to Wormwood:
Don’t you realize that staying at one church is a very bad thing! – unless it is, of course, due to indifference!!! Surely you know that if a man cannot be cured of churchgoing – the next best thing is to get him to consider leaving! Start this very carefully however! Have him look for a church that suits him. Teach him to become a taster or connoisseur of churches. Have the patient do a little “church shopping.” (C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, Letter 16)
For one, we cannot be apathetic or “indifferent” in regards to our church. This attitude reflects that we have not thought long and biblically about what the church is and how we ought to be apart of it. It shows us that we have yet again delegated our thinking and allowed our upbringing to determine where we are on Sunday mornings. Therefore, let us truly examine ourselves and our church. Let us ask hard questions and work hard, pray hard, to find the answers in Scripture.
Secondly, we must not ‘up and hop’ from our church simply because we have a taste for a new sweetness. We cannot afford to jump ship at the first sign of leftovers. Let’s struggle a bit. Let’s wrestle through some things. Maybe, just maybe, the church isn’t the problem. Take some time to understand what is happening, and then we can analyze whether a change in location needs to occur.
I have proposed five reasons that may stir some need for relocation. This should not be a quick decision, and it should not be a decision that your pastor (inasmuch as he is reachable) should be ignorant of. Talk to your pastor. See if he is struggling with the same things, and maybe you could be a part of the resolution. What if God stirred this in your soul so that you could be a part of the healing process?
1. The church is not feasting on the gospel. The gospel is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3), and is the continual source of nourishment for the church (‘by which you are being saved, 1 Cor. 15:2). If you are not being fed, it may be a pointer to the church’s lack of gospel. The gospel naturally feeds God’s children. It fills them with joy and moves them to worship God. As long as the gospel is being presented with clarity and boldness, the Christian will be fed. It never grows old, because Christians do not grow further from the gospel; they grow deeper into it. If the gospel is not being proclaimed and delighted in among your local gathering, then your church has lost sight of the ‘main thing.’
2. The church isn’t promoting community. The church is not simply a place where Christians bring their friends to show-off how good their worship band is, or how funny or engaging their pastor is. The church is people doing life together (Acts 2:46), and this must entail relationships. If the church is simply another place that you go where people do karaoke and listen to a life lecture for half an hour (all with a cross in the background), then it is time to build community with other believers elsewhere.
3. The preaching isn’t centered on the word of God. Sunday gatherings are not simply a place for you to grab a free coffee and catch up with your next-door neighbors that you have ignored all week. Sunday gatherings are designed to gather the body of Christ to collectively glorify the God who saved them. How is this accomplished? It is most evident in the declaration of who God is and what He has done as depicted in His word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If Scripture is not the center of preaching, then God is not the center of preaching. If God is not the center of preaching, what is the church glorifying?
4. Needs aren’t being met. Do not get me wrong, the church is not all about my needs being met. The church is not a gas station for the Christian to fill-up for the week. But the church does supply resources for spiritual and physical needs to be met. God has so ordained for His church to be the vessel for His supply in the proclamation of His sufficiency found in the gospel of His grace (Philippians 4:19; James 2:15-16). If the church is not meeting needs, then who is? The church should be mobilized to be an instrument for God to supply needy people with His love and grace.
5. Conflict is being avoided. The church should be real inasmuch as it seeks true relationships and community. Genuine relationships are messy, and they often involve conflict. Conflict is inevitable. Now, if a church dodges conflict, it is actually a sign of the congregation’s pride and lack of humility. Unity is expressed most evidently in the unification of diversity; and unity amidst diversity is only accomplished through humility (Philippians 2:1-4). If the church cannot humble itself as to unite for the mission of the gospel, then it reveals a parasitic pride that exalts personal preference over and above their desire to reach the world with the gospel (John 17:20-23). If the church puts priority over the gospel, then what is its purpose?
Once again, these reasons are not trump-cards to throw down and storm out with your ego inflated. These reasons are thoughtful and honest assessments that ought to be brought before the leadership of the church with humility. If the leaderships hears you and refuses to see these reasons as detrimental to the body of Christ, it is time to prayerfully consider moving forward. No church is perfect, but it would be ignorant to plant yourself where the church is not being what God has called the church to be.