Despite what the naysayers will tell you, there can be good reasons to leave a church. Sadly, it’s usually a leadership issue. A toxic minister can run a church into the ground and transform a warm congregation into an antagonistic one.
But most congregants won’t realize their leader is destructive until it’s too late. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to tell if you’re going the wrong direction. Just ask yourself…how often is your church pushing people away?
You’ll notice the early church was already having trouble with this.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites… -Romans 6:17
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me…that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? -1 Cor. 1:10-13
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. 3 John 9-10
Sounds like John was dealing with some frustrating stuff. You might even think it sounds familiar.
(Side note. At some point, you’ll be told the early church was full of unity and everyone always got along. You might even be told that persecution strengthened their unity. Don’t believe it. These early churches were full of the same problems; that’s just human nature.)
So, how does your church compare? Are your leaders prone to get along with members of other churches and denominations, or do they give you a new reason, every week, to believe you are the only congregation doing things right?
And while it can seem like we are serving Christian unity to stick with our leaders when they go astray, the Bible’s teaching is quite clear on the matter: get away from these divisive leaders.
Can we find unity with everyone who calls themselves a Christian? Obviously not. The New Testament has plenty of examples of this. But ministers of the Gospel ought to be reaching toward unity as often as possible, only separating from other Christians as a very last resort.