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Helopoulos on Good Reasons for Moving On

POST from Jason Helopoulos

“What right do you ever have
to leave a church?” I can remember that question being asked by my
ecclesiology professor in seminary. It is a good question and one that
would benefit us all to wrestle with. As Kevin has recently pointed out
on this blog, there is biblical warrant and there are practical reasons
for entering into covenant through local church membership. Having
entered into that covenant our breaking of it should never be done
lightly. Clearly, there are reasons to leave a local church. But what
are they? I have been thinking about this for the past ten years and
this is my attempt at answering the question:

Good Reasons
for Moving On—The Four P’s

1. Providential moving—If my
job, family, or life has moved me from Dallas to Austin then I should
probably find a local church in Austin, let alone if I moved from
Michigan to North Carolina. It is right and good to belong to a local
church and covenant with brothers and sisters in my own “backyard.”

Planting another church—It may be that I haven’t left my home town, but
the church I belong to has decided to send me out with others to plant
another church in the area. Notice though, that I am being sent out by
my church, not leaving with a group of people because I am disgruntled
or think it is a good idea.

3. Purity has been lost— It may take
different forms, but primarily this occurs when the Word is no longer
proclaimed. It could be that heresy is being taught, the Bible is never
read or preached, or a much more prominent manifestation these days is
that the Word is no longer seen as sufficient; it is used as a seasoning
for the message of the week rather than the diet by which the
congregation is fed and nourished upon. However, we must be careful
here; patience should always be exercised and I must always test my own
heart to see if I am “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Peace of the church is in jeopardy due to my presence— This “reason” is
hard to suggest for fear of it being abused, as it is by far the most
subjective “reason.” However, there are cases where an individual/family
can personally become a hindrance to the ministry of the local church
and it is best for that person/family to move-on. If this is the reason I
am contemplating leaving the church, then I must first test myself and
discern whether it is because of sin on my own part. If that is the case
then I must be quick to repent rather than move-on. This “reason”
should always be approached with trepidation,

Reasons for Moving On – The Three S’s

1. Spouse—An
unbelieving or non-church attending spouse is not willing to attend this
church, but will attend another with you.

2. Special Needs—Every
family has special needs, so this one needs to be handled with care. A
possible example may be that my family has a disabled child and another
faithful church in the area has a wonderful ministry to disabled people
which can help us.

3. Special Gifts—Another faithful church in the
area may have asked for you to use your special gifts in their midst
for the building up of the body (i.e. organist). Never decide this one
on your own. If it is a possible reason, then it is too easy to think
too highly of oneself and go running to the greener pastures. This is
always something that should be taken to the leadership of your current
church and wrestled through.

Reasons Often Used Which are

1. Children’s Ministry—The Children’s
ministry at another church is better. This cannot be a reason for
changing churches. It is rather an opportunity for you to get involved
in the children’s ministry of your church.

2. Buzz—Many people
will flow to whatever church in town has the current “buzz.” The
argument will be that the Spirit is at work there and we want to be part
of it. But buzzes come and go. And so do the people that follow them.

Youth Group—The unhappiness of our teenage children in the current
Youth Group, because of activities, other youth, etc. is not a reason
for leaving the church we have covenanted with. I know this one will be
controversial. Believe me, I have empathy as a parent and a former Youth
Pastor. But our children are not the spiritual directors of our home.
They should not be choosing the church we attend based upon their social
status and network.

4. Church has changed—Churches always change.
Unless the changes are unbiblical than we don’t have a reason to move
on. We don’t move on when our wife or husband changes! We are we so
quick to do so with the church we have covenanted with.

5. New
Pastor—A new pastor is not a sufficient reason to change churches. It
doesn’t matter how stiff, impersonal, unfunny, etc. he is. The list is
endless. It doesn’t even matter if he is not the most interesting
preacher. He is the man God called to this church for this time. And
this is your church. Again, unless he is unbiblical why move on? You
haven’t covenanted with a man, but with this body.

6. I’m Not
Being Ministered to—I tell every one of our new member classes, “If we
all walked into church each week and had a list of people we were going
to try and ‘touch,’ encourage, or minister to, do you know how dynamic
this church would be? Just on Sunday mornings, let alone if we did it
during the week. If we each were concerned about the other person and
walked in each Sunday with that in the forefront of our mind instead of,
“Why didn’t he talk to me?,” “Why doesn’t anyone care about me?,” “Why
isn’t anyone ministering to me?” Start ministering to others and you
will find that you are being ministered to.

7. Music—Not a
reason—whether it is slow, fast, traditional, contemporary, Psalms,
hymns, or gospel choruses. Stop using it as an excuse!

8. There
are others…we haven’t even mentioned the service is too early, the
coffee is terrible, the pastor doesn’t know how to shuck corn (Yep…those
are all true ones I have heard).