Changing churches can be a difficult decision for many Christians. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new city, or maybe there are issues in your current church that make you want to look elsewhere. Whatever the reason, it’s natural to have questions about what the Bible says on this topic.
The Bible does not explicitly prohibit changing churches. There are examples of believers gathering in different locations in Acts. The early church met in homes (Acts 2:46) and in the temple courts (Acts 5:12). The body of Christ is composed of many local congregations.
However, Scripture emphasizes unity among believers and commitment to your local church. So while changing churches isn’t forbidden, it’s a decision that should be approached thoughtfully and prayerfully.
Here are some key takeaways on what the Bible teaches about changing churches:
- Pray and seek godly counsel when considering a change.
- Make sure your reasons align with biblical principles.
- Leave graciously if you do switch churches.
- Commit to your new local church.
- Focus on gospel-centered unity with all believers.
The rest of this article will expand on these points and explain what the Bible says about why, when, and how to change churches.
Reasons to Change Churches
What are some biblical reasons to leave a church? Let’s explore a few potential motivations that agree with Scripture:
1. Sound Doctrine
One of the main reasons to leave a church is if it is teaching false doctrine. We are called to find a biblical church home that preaches the true gospel.
Paul warned Timothy to avoid false teaching:
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing…” (1 Timothy 6:3-4 NKJV)
He said to watch out for and avoid those who distort the truth:
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17 NKJV)
If your church leadership strays from orthodox biblical doctrine, it may be time to find one that is grounded in scriptural truth.
2. Unrepentant Sin
Another reason to leave a church is if sin is tolerated or excused. This includes sexual immorality, financial mismanagement, abuse, or other serious ethical issues.
Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for approving of a man’s immoral relationship:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:1,4-5 NKJV)
We are called to address ongoing sin issues through church discipline, not turn a blind eye (Matthew 18:15-17). If the church refuses to confront blatant sin, especially among leadership, it may be wise to seek a congregation that upholds holiness.
3. Spiritual Health
Your spiritual growth may be hindered if your church does not emphasize sound Bible teaching and discipleship. It is reasonable to want to belong to a church that helps you mature in your faith.
The writer of Hebrews said:
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)
A biblical church should stir you to love God and others more. If your current congregation is not facilitating spiritual growth, it could make sense to find one that does.
4. Unresolved Conflict
In some cases, unresolved personal conflict can make it difficult to stay at a church. After making efforts to reconcile (Matt. 18:15-17), it may be appropriate to move on. This should not be done lightly, as schisms should be avoided (1 Cor. 1:10-13). However, certain irreconcilable differences may leave changing churches as the best option.
Paul wrote to the Romans about disagreements over disputable matters:
“I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean…For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:14,17 NKJV)
If a matter of personal conscience is causing major conflict, it may be wise to change churches for the sake of unity and fellowship with other believers.
Prayerfully Consider Your Motivations
As noted in the key takeaways, prayer is essential when considering a church change. Examine your own heart first before looking at flaws in the church (Matthew 7:3-5). Here are some questions to prayerfully ask yourself:
- Is there unresolved sin or conflict I need to address?
- Am I resisting the spiritual authority of church leaders (Hebrews 13:17)?
- Is my standard for “perfect” preaching or programs too high?
- Do I expect special treatment or lack servant-heartedness (Philippians 2:3-4)?
- Am I unwilling to support church leadership prayerfully or financially?
- Have I been inconsistent in attendance or involvement?
- Does my church align with biblical truths on key doctrines?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any wrong motivations. Are you running away due to laziness, bitterness, or resistance to spiritual correction? Or are you pursuing biblical faithfulness in a new congregation?
Pray also for wisdom and direction from God. Changing churches should not be done lightly or in a reactionary way. Seek the Lord through much prayer and scriptural study.
How to Leave Your Current Church
If after prayer and counsel you discern it is time to change churches, aim to leave on the best possible terms. Here are some guidelines for leaving gracefully:
Inform Church Leadership
Let your pastor or elders know you are leaving. Share your reasons openly but gently in love. Make it clear you want to part on good terms. Offer to help make the transition smooth.
Communicate With People
Before vanishing, tell church members you are leaving. Make the news about your new place of worship, not complaints about the old. Focus conversations on blessings received and hopes for the church going forward.
No Proselytizing Allowed
Resist any urges to recruit people from your current church to come with you. Changing churches can be contagious, but don???t cause unnecessary division. Let other families make their own decisions before God.
When it’s time to go, make a quiet exit. Fulfill ministry commitments and say goodbye, but avoid creating an ongoing distraction. Decide on a definite last Sunday and stick to it. Fading out slowly can prolong tension.
Speak Well of Leadership
Refuse to bash the church leadership after you leave. Even if you feel mistreated, take the high road. Focus on praying for unity and health in that congregation. Let go of resentment and bless those who hurt you (Romans 12:14).
By exiting carefully, you can leave on an upbeat note. This preserves relationships with those staying behind. It also testifies to Christian unity in the gospel.
Commit Fully to Your New Church
Joining a church is like a marriage. When you say, ???I do,??? commit your whole heart for better or worse. Here are some ways to engage fully with your new local body:
Make faithful Sunday worship a priority in your schedule. Arrive early to greet newcomers. Stay after the service to fellowship. Set an example for your family and others of consistent involvement.
Volunteer to Serve
Look for ways to use your gifts to build up church ministries. Take initiative to fill needs you see. Don???t wait to be recruited. Offer your time and talents with a joyful, servant-hearted attitude.
Contribute regular financial offerings to support the ministries and staff of the local church. Don’t just take ??? consume resources. Look for ways to generously and faithfully give back as God leads you.
Pray for the Church
Uphold the pastors, leaders, members, ministries, and mission of your new congregation in daily prayer. Ask God to guard the truth and multiply the fruit in this body.
Participate in Community
Foster fellowship with church members outside Sunday mornings. Attend a small group. Meet for meals. Develop friendships. Do life together beyond just gathering for worship on Sundays.
By diving in wholeheartedly, you’ll thrive in ministry and community. This demonstrates the commitment that should mark believers united in Christ.
Pursue Gospel-Centered Unity
Above all, keep the unity and love of the church centered on the gospel of Jesus. Our oneness comes from what He has done for us.
Paul urged the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling in Christ by seeking unity:
“…with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:2-6 NKJV)
While Christians may gather in different local churches, we share the same saving faith in Christ. Keep that gospel foundation central, no matter where you worship.
Changing churches is a major decision that should be approached prayerfully and carefully. The Bible does not prohibit moving between congregations. However, the reasons for leaving one church and joining another should align with scriptural principles.
Pray for wisdom and discernment. Be sure your motivations are pure and biblical. Exit your old church graciously. Commit fully to your new local body. Focus on gospel-centered unity with all believers, regardless of where they worship.
While challenging at times, finding a biblical church home is a worthwhile endeavor. God designed the local church to facilitate our growth in Christlikeness and outreach in the world. By his grace, may we represent Him well in whatever congregation we belong to.