“When is it okay to leave one church to go to another?” Although there are not any passages in the Bible that specifically say “You should change churches when…” there are plenty of truth principles in Scripture to guide us in this matter. So that’s where we’ll start to find some answers!
God calls every Christian into a local church where he or she can serve. First Corinthians 12:18 teaches that God puts each church together as He sees fit. He calls every Christian to a specific place of service in a specific church. God works to fully equip each local church to meet the needs of its members and to fulfill His purposes for that church in His world.
Although we personally benefit from the spiritual nourishment and fellowship we receive from the church, God’s specific placement of us is first and foremost for the benefit of that body and its members, not for us! According to Romans 12:5, “each member belongs to all the others.”
Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God so we can serve the body and help it grow in unity and spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13).
So, these biblical truths will help us tackle our question:
- God calls every Christian to be a part of a local church.
- God builds each local church, as He sees fit, to prepare them for His purposes.
- God places each of us in a specific church for a specific place of service.
- God gifts every Christian for the purpose of serving the members of their church in which He has placed them.
Application of Biblical Principles
The biblical truths about God’s design for the church can guide us as we make decisions about church membership.
Seek God diligently:
The choice of what church to serve in is God’s, not ours. We must diligently seek God’s will and obey His direction. A move should never be based on our feelings or desires. That decision is always rightfully God’s alone.
We must depend on God and trust His direction.
Carefully weed out any selfish motives:
God’s placement of us in a church is primarily to benefit others. We must be very cautious about leaving one church for another if our reasons have anything to do with “our needs.” I know from personal experience that this is a tough one. My husband and I once struggled over staying in a church we believed God had called us to because our kids were having a difficult time finding their place.
On the other hand, I’ve seen countless Christians change churches as casually as they change grocery stores. They leave and go down the street because they like the music better or they have a stronger youth program. These reasons are all about us – what we want, what we like, what we can get out of it. That’s consumer Christianity. We’re called to serve, not to be served.
Ask God to show you if your desire to leave your church is based on selfish reasons or His direction.
Look for your place of service:
Remember, God places us in a body based on how He wants us to serve in it. If it’s obvious that God is still using the gifts He gave you in the body you’re in, then He probably wants you to stay put. However, if God makes you aware of a specific need in another church body that He has uniquely gifted you to meet, then He may be calling you to serve there. Again, seek God’s guidance to determine if He is calling you to serve in a specific way in another body.
According to both Martin Luther and John Calvin, a true church will preach the Word of God accurately and rightly administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper as acts of obedience rather than acts of salvation. If false doctrines are being taught and you’ve exerted every effort to see it corrected, then it may be time to leave.
Choosing a church in a new city or changing churches in the same town is serious, spiritual business. We must never make the decision lightly or without God’s direction. Take the time to seek Him diligently.