When and How to Leave a Church

1. What are acceptable reasons to leave a church?

  • Doctrinal heresy. See “Theological Triage: Unity in Essentials, Charity in Nonessentials.”
  • Blatant sin and abuse are tolerated.
  • You can’t become a member in good conscience, and this is unlikely to change any time in the foreseeable future.
  • Your elders are harsh, spiritually controlling, manipulative, domineering, or abusive (not gentle, open to reason).

2. What are the characteristics of someone who is mature enough to leave a church well?

  • They are patient, so they aren’t leaving on a whim or without giving their church a real opportunity to grow and change (which always takes time).
  • They love the church like Christ loves the church, so aren’t leaving because they don’t really care or aren’t invested in their church.
  • They are willing to sacrifice some of their rights for the sake of the body, so they aren’t leaving simply because their preferences aren’t being met.

3. What steps should be taken before leaving a church?

  • Pray constantly.
  • Seek an abundance of godly counsel, especially from mature Christians outside your local church and context. In many counselors, there is safety.
  • Don’t gossip or sow seeds of discord.
  • Respectfully talk to your pastor/elders about problems. Ask for a sit-down meeting. Be specific when expressing your concerns.
  • Talk to your friends and let them know why you are leaving and how much you love them. Don’t leave them in the dark. Leaving without talking to them will make them feel rejected.
  • Make sure you have a new church to begin attending right away in person. Try it out in person.

4. What should you do after you leave a church?

  • Talk charitably about your previous church if possible. Rehearse your answer to the question, “Why did you leave your previous church?” so that you aren’t bumbling around and end up saying things you don’t intend.
  • Talk to your new church’s pastor about why you felt it was necessary to leave your previous church.
David Fry
David Fry
Senior Pastor at the Frankfort Bible Holiness Church. PhD in Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School). MDiv in New Testament Theology (Wesley Biblical Seminary).