Unmistakable Signs it is Time to Leave a Church
Updated: May 24
12 Signs Trouble is Brewing in Church
Whether Pastor or Saint, we must all be watchful for Satan showing up to destroy the spiritual well-being of the congregation. This means being aware of any potential problems that could arise and taking steps to address them.
Here are 12 signs that trouble is brewing:
1. Declining attendance. If fewer people are attending than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong. There could be a number of reasons for this, such as a lack of relevant preaching, poor leadership, or a conflict within the congregation. As a Pastor myself, it could also be that Holy Ghost preaching is running the “enemy” away as well. “Watch, as well as pray”.
2. Increased conflict. If there is an increase in conflict, it is a sign of issues. Conflict can be caused by any number of things, such as personality clashes, disagreements over church direction, or financial problems.
3. Decreased giving. If people are giving less money, it is a sign of decreased commitment to the ministry. Is this because of lack of trust in church leadership, financial hardship, or as we have learned recently, rampant inflation? Although we cannot control inflation, it is still OUR issue.
4. Increased absenteeism. If people are starting to miss church services more often, there is a reason why. As you and I both know, “sheep sometimes wander off”. This might arise because of a lack of time, interest, or something else. However, the issue can also be with them and their relationship with God. Their issues, nevertheless, are ALWAYS ours, right?
5. Decreased participation in once vibrant ministries If people are starting to participate less in church ministries, something is afoot requiring our attention! Ask the hard question as a church leader or to church leadership.
6. Increased sin. Here is a spiritual formula: increase in sin = increase in trouble. Sin can lead to division, conflict, and a decrease in spiritual vitality.
7. Decreased love. Various church social groups sometimes result in open conflict! This "sits on the spirit" in service and can kill a once vibrant congregation.
8. Increased division. Decreased love results in increased conflict. Division can lead to conflict, a decrease in spiritual vitality, and even a split in the congregation. Churches where congregations split are never, ever the same.
9. Increased apathy. If there is an increase in apathy about mission, vision, and direction, your ministry is dying. There is just no other wat to put it. Apathy will (not can) lead to a decrease in participation, giving, and edification of a once healthy body.
10. Decreased faith. If there is a decrease in visible faith, everything listed above will directly result. Faith is essential and a decrease leads to despair. Life is discouraging enough, and people come to the House of the Lord for hope. When that is gone, why, again, should they continue to show up?
11. Increased anxiety in membership. An anxious congregation is always evident. I can’t speak for others, but this spirit sits on my preaching!
12. Decreased spiritual vitality. Spiritual vitality is essential for a healthy church, and a decrease will damage even once healthy congregations. Spiritual vitality is what carries the body forward (in Jesus Name). It is not a matter of age as some suppose but commitment.
In summary, it is important to take action to address issues immediately. By taking action early, you can help to prevent Satan from running wild in the church. Christians love to pray and are almost always "short on action". Yet, we say: "faith without works is dead".
7 Strategies for Combatting Church Division
The church is a body of believers who are called to love one another in service to God. No service = no love for the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even in the church, there is trouble. It comes in many forms, such as conflict, division, and sin.
The Bible provides us with several strategies for mitigating trouble in the church. First is what Saints, whether in leadership or not, love to avoid - open confrontation of sin. I guess it doesn't matter that Jesus was the most confrontational figure in the New Testament. Please read how Jesus taught us to confront one (1) another in Matthew 18:15-17.
Here are strategies based on the principles of love, forgiveness, and unity:
1. Love one another. Jesus commanded His followers to love one another (John 13:34). This is the foundation for all other strategies for mitigating ongoing messiness. When we love one another, we are more likely to forgive, to be patient, and to work together for the edification of the Body of Christ.
2. Forgive one another. Jesus also commanded us to forgive one another (Matthew 6:14-15). Forgiveness is essential for healing the wounds of conflict and division. When we forgive, we release others from the debt they owe us, and free ourselves from the bitterness and resentment. The world would be a much different place if we were as quick to forgive one (1) another as God does us.
3. Be united. The Bible teaches that the church is one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). This means that we are all connected and are a part of the same family. This assumes salvation! I never assume “church people” are “God’s people”. When we are united in the Spirit, we are stronger and more able to withstand the “wiles of the devil”.
4. Pray for one another. Prayer is powerful and should be used to overcome all our inter-relational troubles in the House of the Lord. When we pray for one (1) another, we are asking God to intervene and to help resolve our problems. Prayer can also help us to grow in love, forgiveness, and unity.
5. Seek wise counsel. If you are facing trouble in the House of the Lord, seek wise counsel. This does not necessarily have to be another “preacher” or church leader. Personally, I have trouble trusting any of them! Those who are regular readers well-understand why. However, the Lord will provide all your needs and that includes a trusted advisor.
6. Be willing to effectively listen. Sometimes, to resolve a conflict, we need to listen effectively. This does not mean that we must give up our convictions, but it does mean a willingness to listen to the concerns of others. As a Pastor, I have found those we think are wrong, simply have come to different conclusions than we think they should. Does that make them wrong?
7. Be patient. It takes time to build a healthy church. There will be times when trouble arises. However, if we are patient and persistent, we can overcome the challenges that come our way.
In summary, we can mitigate trouble in the church by being wise, effectively listening, and being confrontational more than we are comfortable with. When we love one another, the church nurtures a healthy church that blesses the Kingdom of God.
Should I Leave My Church
As a Believer and/or even Church Leader, you often find yourself in a situation where you are struggling with whether to leave a church you love. Too often, however, most confuse “comfort” with “love”. There are many factors to consider when making this decision. It is important to weigh all options before making a final decision. Let me also offer that “discomfort” isn’t necessarily a reason to leave either! (Let those who have an ear hear).
Up to this point, we have reviewed issues which go on in churches. I would never suggest these issues, even collectively, are a reason to leave a congregation. Churches go through issues and challenges. If we left each time things became difficult, the Kingdom of God would never be grow! Even Jesus had conflict within His inner-circle.
Yet, there are more serious issues which, if they occur, should send you to the nearest exit:
1. Is the church teaching false doctrine? One of the most important things to consider when deciding whether to leave is whether sound doctrine is taught or not. If the church is teaching things that are not in line with the Bible, leave immediately. This is far from hearing something you simply did not like. However, the Bible is the foundation of our faith, and we should not attend any fellowship teaching things that are not in line with it. The latest outrage against sound doctrine is the “gospel of a multi-ethnic church healing the wounds of racism in America”. As if there has ever been a “physical answer to a spiritual problem”.
2. Is the church involved in sinful behavior? Another important factor to consider is whether the church is involved in sinful behavior. If the church is condoning or participating in sin, leave if they will not accept correction. The Bible teaches that we are to be holy as God is holy, and we should not be associated with a church that is involved in sin. “Be not associated with the unfruitful works of darkness rather reprove them”. Often, reproving means heading for the exit permanently.
3. Are you growing in faith and knowledge? Finally, you should consider whether you are growing in your faith. If you are not feeling challenged or encouraged, then find a new church. A healthy church should be a place where you are growing in your relationship with God and learning.
If you are struggling with leaving, pray and seek God's guidance. He will help you to make the best decision for your spiritual growth.
Here are some additional things to consider:
What is your relationship with the church leadership? If you are not being heard, especially if your concerns are biblical, then it may be time to leave. Weak leaders enjoy having weak followers and breaking the will of those who would biblically challenge them. I know this sounds outrageous, but I know these men (and women) much better than YOU.
How is the church community? Do you feel like you are part of a family or are you just a number? If you are not feeling spiritually connected, and you have challenged what needs to be, “kick the dust off your sandals” (as Jesus said).
What is the church's mission and vision? Do you believe in what the church is trying to accomplish? If not, then it may be time to find a new church home. The Lord has somewhere to exercise your gifts. It is just a matter of Him guiding you there.
In summary, the decision to leave a church is personal. However, by considering the factors above, you can make an informed decision that is best for your spiritual growth.
Header Image Courtesy of Gerd Altmann @ Pixabay