Is it time to leave your church?

  • Ian Carmichael
  • 8 October 2015

As we’ve said previously, one of the things we want to do here on is orient you to new resources, particularly, of course, ones that come from our own stable. So in this post, Ian Carmichael introduces another of the four brand new books and resources that have recently come in from the printer…

It’s a word that drives just about any pastor to despair (although not necessarily because he sees it in his own heart and life). 

The word? Consumerism.

I make my purchase decision based on what I want; I pay my money; I receive the object of my desires; I get the satisfaction I was hoping for—or, if not, I complain and/or take my business elsewhere. Roughly speaking, that’s consumerism.

Of course, attacking the consumerism mindset from a Christian point of view is a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel exercise. How we can call ourselves followers of the one who did not come to be served but to serve, and yet continue to adopt a consumer mentality in life? That’s frankly a little hard to fathom. No, seeing the contradiction is not hard at all. It’s fighting it when we have sinful and selfish hearts that presents the daunting challenge. 

For us Christians, church is one of the battlefields of this challenge. As one author explains it:

“My generation especially has a knack for endless opining about what we want the church to be, or more likely want we don’t want it to be. It’s too trendy or not trend-savvy enough. Too cerebral or not intellectual enough. Too masculine or too feminine. Too homogenous or trying too hard to be diverse. We bristle at the music, the preaching, the politics, the pastor. We lament the church’s apathy about the arts or anemic theology of singleness. We complain about the Costco coffee, the way communion isn’t done communally, the awkward “college and career” class, and so on. There’s always something.” —Brett McCracken, Chipotle Church and the Problem of Choice

In a context where most of us have the wealth to be mobile (i.e. we own cars) and there are multiple churches within a 20-minute drive, the easy answer to my disappointment with my church is to move on to another church and see if it suits me better. 

And that’s a problem. Not just because it fails to appreciate the call of Christ to a mindset of service (Phil 2:4-11), but also because it fails to recognize the significance of my church.

That’s why Simon Flinders wrote Time to Go?, a short booklet addressing the question of why and how we might consider leaving a church. In it, Simon helpfully looks at what church is and why it meets, outlines five key reasons why you might leave your church, and sets out how to leave in a God-honouring (and from the pastor’s/church’s point of view, how to help people leave well).

Pastors or Christian friends do sometimes get the opportunity to talk to church members in advance of their decision to leave. And using this booklet to talk and think it through (using the discussion questions and prayer ideas) would definitely be a useful exercise.

But, sadly, often the first we hear of someone’s decision to leave our church is when we realise they haven’t been at church for a few weeks, and on enquiring we find they have decided to move on. For this reason, I want to suggest that having a bunch of copies of this booklet on your church information table may be a helpful approach.

Of course, if the pile of copies keeps disappearing at an alarming rate… further reflection may be required!

Order Time to Go online:

Matthias Media (AUS)          Matthias Media (USA)          10ofThose (UK)