Stop treating your local church like your high school girlfriend, and start treating it like the bride of Christ.
You don’t leave the church when it doesn’t share the same musical interests, when it hurts your feelings or when a newer, more popular one catches your eye.
The people of God, the church around the world, is the bride of Christ, and the bride of Christ deserves the faithfulness of a bride, not the summer crush you bailed on when you were a jerk in college.
Your church is broken because it’s made up of broken people, including yourself. Abandoning the local church is only acceptable under a few extreme circumstances we’ll address on Friday. Other than in certain circumstances, the people of God have the responsibility to sacrificially love their local churches as Jesus has.
If anyone has the right to abandon the adulterous, idolatrous bride called “church,” it’s God, and he hasn’t, so we need to be careful how quick we are to bail when the going gets tough.
Here are three bad reasons to leave the local church:
1. You don’t like the music.
This is one of the most common complaints I hear when people tell me what they don’t like about their churches. Full disclosure from me here: I have a very particular kind of music that I prefer to sing in church, and only one of the churches I’ve ever regularly attended fulfilled my preferred style and set of songs. I’m as picky as anyone when it comes to my preferred worship music, but it’s never been a decision-maker for me in church.
Bob Kauflin, a well-respected worship leader, once wrote:
We sing, not for our own glory, preferences or pleasure, but for the pleasure of the One who gave us a song in the first place. The great Redeemer has given us the song of the redeemed, so that in endlessly varied interpretations of that one glorious song, we might remember his words, respond fully to him and reflect his glory.
When you make worship style a decision-maker in your church selection process, or even as you’re attending a church you have for a long time, you make the worship experience about yourself and not the God you’re worshiping.
2. Someone hurt your feelings.
This is a big one, isn’t it? Being hurt by someone in the church is probably a more common reason for leaving than not liking the music, and that’s good because it’s a little less fickle, but it still isn’t really a good reason.
The local church is made up of a bunch of sinners, you and me included. Being hurt by the church really stinks, because we’re called to the highest standard of love in the universe, the sacrificial love of Jesus.
But here’s the thing:
The local church is a hospital for the broken, not a museum of the perfect.
The church is full of a bunch of people trying to become more like Jesus—some people think they’re already there, and some people recognize they have a long way to go. This is where a lot of the conflict lies. Life change is messy. You’re going to get hurt, and you’re going to hurt others.
I’ve had my feelings hurt in the church dozens of times. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because someone in the church is just downright mean. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because someone stabs me in the back. Sometimes my feelings get hurt because a brother lovingly shows me my sin (and someone I think it’s his fault I feel bad).
If you leave Church A because you’re feelings were hurt and you flee to Church B as a refugee of sorts, feeling victimized and angry, you’re just going to be disappointed when your feelings are inevitably hurt again by someone else. All churches are full of sinners. If you find a perfect church, don’t go. You’ll just mess it up.
If your feelings are hurt, work through the conflict with maturity and grace, giving the aggressor the benefit of the doubt. Your local church isn’t perfect because the people who make it up aren’t perfect. Do your part by loving others and turning the other cheek when you’ve been hurt.