How to Find an Imperfect Church You Will Love
Do I Need a Church Home
Having a church home can provide a sense of community and belonging. It can further provide a place to connect with others who share similar beliefs and values. Church can be a source of spiritual guidance, growth, and provide a sense of purpose and meaning. A family of Believers can also provide support during difficult times, such as through counseling and prayer.
Additionally, many bodies offer opportunities for worship and service, which can be a fulfilling way to give back to the community. Overall, a church home can be an important part of an individual's overall well-being and provides a sense of belonging.
However, you must not be so intent on having a church family, that you chose the wrong one. Yes, Christians can often choose a place God wants them to avoid! For instance, most churches in this city do little in authentic outreach. They have a few members, even less true Saints, and are OK with that. Such a place will kill the enthusiasm of someone whose gifting lies in outreach.
Another church is the most “traditional” in our city. The people there are old school and enjoy the “entertainment” of worship more than discipleship. Someone who requires “cognitive engagement” from the Word of God will quickly become “atrophied”. In all thing pray and let Jesus lead you to that imperfect church which is perfect for you.
What the Holy Bible says about fellowshipping:
Hebrews 10:25 - "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them."
Ephesians 5:19-20 - "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Acts 2:42 - "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
Colossians 3:16 - "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."
Romans 12:5 - "so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 - "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many."
All these verses are about the importance of gathering as a community to worship, learn, and grow in faith.
Reasons for Leaving a Church
There are a variety of reasons why you may need to find a new church home. Some may include a change in location, a change in personal beliefs or values, dissatisfaction with the current church's teachings, or a desire for a different type of worship experience. Additionally, some people may need to find a new church because of a change in their lives. Among these can be marriage, divorce, or a new child, which could impact the type of church that is a best fit. Yes, I did say divorce because it is all too common even in the House of God.
Making the decision to leave a church can be challenging, especially if a longtime member. This distances once close relationships in the community. However, finding a church that aligns with one's beliefs and values is essential for spiritual growth and fulfillment. Let me be clear – I am not suggesting any real Believer in Jesus should leave a church because of selfish reasons. Only that “nuance” and “needs fulfillment” is both biblical and crucial for worship. Even the Apostle Paul pointed out: “I must become all things to all people that I might save some.”
This must then mean that there are various kinds of congregations. Paul never said “diversity” in church types was evil either. For instance, if I were not Pastoring, I would not attend a church where singing, jumping around, and entertainment was more the focus than teaching the Word. If a Pastor sounds like he is “giving advice” more than “rightly dividing the Word of God”, all you will see is the taillights of my car!
It may take time and effort to find a new church home, but ultimately, it can lead to a deeper sense of purpose. It's also worth noting that some people may also want to explore different faith communities, or even different religious traditions, in search of purpose fulfillment (aka the better fit). Do not confuse this with other than Holy Bible teaching and preaching churches!
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, the top six (6) reasons people leave a church are:
Moving to a new location
Dissatisfaction with the pastor or other leaders
Dissatisfaction with the preaching or teaching
Feeling that the church is not meeting their spiritual needs
Disagreement on political or social issues
Disagreement with the theology or doctrine of the church
It's worth noting that this survey was conducted in the United States and reasons may vary in different cultures and/or countries. The survey also found that people who leave a church are more likely to switch to another denomination rather than becoming unaffiliated.
As a Pastor, most who have left our congregation would say I was the issue. I am totally ok with this because it is more of a personality issue than any sin! I praise God that they were so easily “pruned”. There are certain people who come to church for every other reason than the worship of Jesus Christ.
As a church leader, these people are directly confronted and challenged before their “plans of wickedness” ever take form. I am not one of those Preachers who either teaches or follows the false doctrine - “we should not judge.” That is not what Jesus taught in Matthew 7!
Preaching the gospel, itself, is judgment on a wicked world. You cannot even share Jesus with others without “judging” they are in need of a Savior. If not, why witness to others at all?
How Do I Leave a Church Gracefully
The perfect moment to leave a church can vary from person to person, as it depends on individual circumstances. Some people may feel that it is important to stay and try to work through any issues or concerns. Others feel that it is best to leave as soon as they begin to feel disconnected.
For still others, the perfect arrives after a significant event, such as a change in leadership, a church's stance on an issue, or personal crisis. A few others may experience a gradual process after realizing their spiritual needs are being ignored. Or at least they believe this. Ultimately, the perfect moment to leave a church will depend on the individual's values.
If you are thinking about leaving a congregation because the church is not “inclusive” enough, examine your feelings according to the Word of God. For example, there will never come a time when our church will approve of same-sex marriage, must less conduct the ceremony. Additionally, we do not support elimination of precious life as a form of birth control.
This does not mean that LGBQT people cannot attend. God forbid! It only means they cannot continue in their lifestyle and expect the Word of God to change because society has rejected God. If someone is dissatisfied because of this, and as my little brother used to say, “kick rocks” (walk-away).
Leaving a church gracefully can be difficult depending on “why” you are leaving. For instance, the former Pastor’s son left our church in a most disgraceful way. It was indeed time for him to go, but the ugliness of the situation was sad (for him). However, the wife of a former associate minister left in a most graceful manner.
Here are strategies to leave "descent and in order":
Communicate with the Church Leadership: Before making the decision to leave a church, it is important to communicate any concerns or issues to the church leadership. This allows them the opportunity to address any issues and can help to ensure a smooth transition.
Write a letter of explanation: If you have decided to leave the church, a letter of explanation can help to express your reasons for leaving and to communicate your appreciation for the church and its community.
Do it gracefully and respectfully: When leaving a church, it is important to do so in a graceful and respectful manner. Avoid being confrontational or speaking negatively about the church or its leadership. Just some wisdom for you: church business meetings are the wrong time to announce your departure (depending on the reason).
Give notice: If you have been a regular attendee and involved in the community, it is important to give notice of your departure. Whether leadership agrees with your reasons or not, please do not simply “disappear”. Please.
Keep in touch: Once you leave a church, it's okay to keep in touch with the people you've met and grown close with. In the Kingdom of God, distance in no barrier to relationship.
Be open to the possibility of returning: Leaving a church does not necessarily mean that you will never return. If circumstances change, you may decide to return in the future.
It's worth noting that leaving a church can be a difficult decision and it's important to be mindful of the feelings of the church community. Keeping a respectful and open communication with them can help to ensure a smooth transition.
Finding a New Church
You do not find a new church as much as a new church finds you. I am not trying to be “contrary” either. If you listen to the Holy Spirit, that new ministry assignment will reveal itself. Before you find the “God Spot”, there are certain things to prayerful watch for that are indicative you should “move on”. Before revealing this, “television” ministries are not a substitute for in-person worship. I will write the case against such a non-sensical choice another time.
Here are indicators of a church not suitable to your gifting:
1. Personal beliefs: Your personal beliefs may differ from those taught by the church, making it difficult for you to fully embrace its teachings and practices. However, the Word of God is the final authority! Just because you do not “like” something which was taught, does not make it untrue. 2. Hypocrisy: You may have observed instances of hypocrisy among church leaders or members, which can be off-putting and erode trust in the institution. 3. Past experiences: You may have had negative experiences with the church in the past, such as being ostracized or mistreated. This makes it difficult for you to feel comfortable there now. Remember Jesus’ Words on forgiveness, however. 4. Lack of community: You may not feel a sense of community or connection with the other members of the church. This makes it difficult to find fulfillment. 5. Not being challenged enough: this occurs more than you might believe. You must walk out who God has created you to be. If that is not allowed at your current church, allow God to lead you elsewhere.
This list could be added to Saint, but in all things, PRAY. Something subtle, but from a current Pastor’s perspective, is do not be deceived by the “smiles” at the door! A new church home is a life altering decision so visit the same church multiple weeks for a more discerning view.
Becoming Involved in Your New Church
Now that you have been led to a new church home, it is time to become an active member of the congregation. Here is a tip from a church leader: do not seem over-eager! This speaks of lack of patience and reveals you may be “hasty” which is the opposite of exhibiting “wise patience.”
Here are seven (7) tips for becoming involved in your new congregation:
Attend regular worship service and be actively participating in the service. Of course, I would never suggest “faking praise” but allow the Holy Spirit to move on your heart!
Volunteer for various roles within the church, such as ushering, teaching Sunday school, or serving on a committee. However, and as was said above, be measured in your approach and not seemingly over-eager. Never step outside of your gifting either. You are not assisting the Kingdom of God being “outside of God’s Will”. We Pastors are often “hasty” to get the job done.
Take some months to allow other Saints in the congregation to get to know you. This is relationship building the way God desires.
Pay close attention to everything going on around you and do not become discouraged about “issues” with people. We are still sinful people, even us Pastors, if Believers repent, grow in grace with them.
Attend Bible Studies or other discipleship focused opportunities. Whether on the church webpage or in-person, learn the WORD OF God and thereby, learn more about yourself.
Participate in mission trips or other outreach efforts to share your faith with others and serve those in need.
If it was a personal issue which caused you to leave your last church, grow from it and do not allow “it” to repeat.
This is a faith move, by you, while trusting God to guide each step. Believe him and allow your new church home to help you grow in faith and grace.
Header Image Courtesy of Shelagh Murphy @ Pexels