When is it Time to Leave Your Church?

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” -1 Corinthians 1:10

All Christian churches, sects, or denominations have one thing in common: faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But once we get past this commonality, our shared religion begins to fracture. How then do we follow Paul’s advice that we “all speak the same thing?” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The answer is simple: the Lord has given us numerous congregations, sects, and denominations to choose from. The question isn’t about finding the one that is right, but the right one for you and your family.

Not every church is right for everyone, and that’s okay. While the Fellowship of Christ generally tries to encourage people to stay in their home churches, this isn’t always practical. Hopefully this list will help you and your family see if/when it’s time to seek an new congregation that all may worship as one in Christ.

1. You Dread Going/Have Lost Passion

As a child, church may feel like a chore; but as an adult it should be a place of community. This isn’t to say that worship should be entertaining. Rather, as more mature Christians, we should find services edifying (See Acts 9:31, Ephesians 4:15-16, & 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Edifying here means it helps you to grow spiritually. A good book, conversation, or program can help you to grow intellectually. Worship services should feed your soul. If you and/or your family is attending a congregation where attendance has become more of a duty than a spiritual meal, it may be time to prayerfully look elsewhere for your spiritual needs.

2. You Feel Like You Don’t Belong

It’s okay to feel like a fish out of water in a new church or congregation. But once you’ve found your rhythm, that should go away. If it doesn’t, the question of why should be asked. Is it a cultural difference? A theological difference? People too cliquish? Something else? These may be superficial, yet relevant reasons to find a new church. Maybe it’s something you cannot put your finger on, but it is there. That could be the Holy Spirit telling you that you are needed elsewhere (See Ephesians 2:10, 1 Peter 5:6-7, & 1 Nephi 1:65 RAV, 3:7 OPV). This is a more difficult, but an important question to address none the less. Sometimes we just don’t feel like we fit in anywhere. Be sure to pray on this and see where God needs you.

3. Spiritual Shaming

While it is the job of religious leaders to, well… lead… people to Christ, there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Spiritual shaming is one that hurts both those shamed and those observing the shaming. We can invite people to Christ, but after that we let God tell them what to do. As Joseph Smith Jr. said: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves” (quote traditionally attributed to Joseph Smith Jr.). This doesn’t mean that just anything goes, but churches that openly attack others or groups of others in an open spirit of contention creates “enemies of righteousness” out of God’s children (See Proverbs 13:10, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, & 3 Nephi 5:30-31 RAV, 11:29-30 OPV). While it is recommended that we reach out to leaders of such denominations and share our concerns, if the spirit of contention isn’t withdrawn, then it may be time to leave in peace.

4. Differing Theology

While it is true that we should avoid spiritual shaming, that doesn’t mean that everyone will agree with everyone on everything. In the Latter Day Saint movement marriage, sexuality, revelations, and even the nature of God are very heated and much debated topics. This is where theological differences (or better said, different opinions)  may cause friction in a congregation. If the passion for these topics gets too high, one may be better served in Christ to love their neighbors and move on to another congregation (See Mark 9:38-41, Titus 3:9, & Moroni 7:2-18 RAV, 7:2-19 OPV). This shouldn’t be done out of contempt, in in the spirit of love and unity. It is okay to agree to disagree on theologies.

What Not to Do

These four topics are merely the tip of the iceberg, but they are a good start if you are questioning leaving your current church. Remember what Mormon said to his son, Moroni:

“Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ, that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.” -Moroni 7:18 RAV, 7:19 OPV

If we feel the spiritual prompting to move to another church, we must do so in peace. We shouldn’t bring contention into a denomination as we are leaving it, or take that contention with us into a new denomination. As Christians, we are bridge builders, not wall builders. We have been taught to love our enemies, and our brothers and sisters in Christ should never be seen as such (See Matthew 5:21-26, 43-48, & 3 Nephi 5:69-75, 89-92 RAV; 12:21-26, 43-48 OPV). It we are to love our enemies, then surely we should love our fellow believers in Christ. When the Lord brings us to a new congregation, a new church, we should take the opportunity God has given us to share the good found in the places we have been, that we may all be one in Christ.

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