When it comes to belonging to a local church sometimes people work too hard to make what is not a fit become a fit.
Don’t get me wrong being a part of any local church has its times of difficulty (see New Testament for plenty of examples), but a lot of what people fight over in churches could be avoided by doing some honest evaluation.
If Paul and Barnabas had to part ways, then even the best of Christians will have to part ways at times.
Here are two evaluations to determine if you should leave a local church:
1. Philosophy of Ministry Differences
There are so many ways to minister to a community, that one church cannot do them all.
If you believe that small groups or a food pantry are the best ways to reach your community, but your church is death on small groups and already supports the local food pantry. Relocate. Don’t stay and fight for a change in ministry philosophy.
Philosophy of Ministry differences are not about one way being right and the other being wrong. They are philosophical differences that lead to differences in approach, and more than one approach can be right.
Just as Paul had his customary approach of ministering in the synagogue, he was also open to other approaches such as, going to lecture halls (Acts 19:9) and marketplaces (Acts 17:17). Which way was the right way? All of them.
If you cannot align with a church’s philosophy of ministry, it’s OK to leave and find a church that shares your approach.
2. Church Operational Differences
There are so many ways to operate a church that “one size cannot fit all.”
An area of operations that often creates tension in churches is the schedule of services.
Some people like two separate church services on Sunday, others like one service repeated at different times.
It is a waste of time to argue over which schedule is “more spiritual”.
I’ve heard people who go to church twice on Sunday say, “We need more church, not less.” But the church down the street has a Saturday night service in addition to their Sunday services. Are they more spiritual?”
I’ve heard people who go to church once on Sunday say, “Multiple services create cliques.” But the church across town has a Sunday evening service effectively reaching singles and young professionals. Are they less spiritual?
I attended one of the mega-churches recently that some people criticize for being too consumer driven. I had to ride the shuttle to get from my car to the auditorium. While riding I heard two ladies talking, one of them said, “I go to the 9:45 service and then volunteer during the 11 o’clock service.” A mega-church offered her a time to worship and a time to serve. Is she more spiritual?
The point is, measuring spiritually by a church schedule is a waste of time. If a church’s operations do not work for you, it’s OK to leave and find a church where you share better operational alignment. Don’t stay and fight for a new schedule.
If you shouldn’t fight, why flight?
I realize it is possible to read these points and think, “If these differences are not worth fighting over, then why leave?”
I think much less damage is done when people and churches part ways because they are honest about fundamental differences.
Usually when people ignore fundamental differences long-term, a culture of coping develops to manage the mis-alignment. A culture of coping leads to dysfunctional behaviors like smiling on the outside but disagreeing on the inside or talking about people and not to people.
Just as Paul and Barnabas had to “part company”, it is healthier for people and churches to “part company” rather than fight it out or go-along-to-get-along when their differences are philosophical or operational.