In Christianity, frequently changing denominations and churches are generally considered unwise because it’s hard on personal relationships, pastors, and congregations. Nevertheless, people occasionally change denominations and churches for various reasons, such as when they relocate for work. Many people wonder if it’s wrong to change denominations and churches.
Usually, changing Protestant denominations isn’t a sin, but why a person decides to leave one for another matters. Some reasons for leaving are better than others. Even if a person decides that they should leave a denomination or church, they should strive to leave on good terms and in a loving way.
What are wise reasons to consider changing denominations? What are unwise reasons to consider changing denominations? If someone decides to leave a denomination or church, what is the best way to do so? Keep reading to learn more.
Also, see What is the United Church of Christ? to learn more.
What Are the Right Reasons to Leave a Denomination?
Leaving one denomination and church for another, especially when a person hasn’t relocated, should only occur after a lot of prayers and Godly counsel. (Also see How to Choose a Church Denomination?)
While there are good reasons to move on from a denomination, a person shouldn’t make the decision lightly. The reasons below are examples of good reasons to leave a denomination and church. However, each situation is unique and often involves multiple factors.
- When there is an absence of biblical teaching: when denominations and churches drift away from teaching the Bible, it’s time for a change. God inspired Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17), so pastors should preach it, Sunday school classes should study it, and small groups should discuss how to apply it. People shouldn’t leave a church because the teaching isn’t as exciting as a preacher they have listened to on television or online, but they should consider leaving a church if the teaching isn’t biblical, even if it’s presented well.
- When something replaces God as the primary focus: God should always be the main subject at church, and the Bible should be the hub around which everything else revolves. Sometimes, social and cultural topics can overwhelm a church and shift people’s focus away from God. Social and cultural issues are important, and Christians should be encouraged to participate in groups and movements that are biblical, but the main subject in the church should always be God.
- When a person has unique needs: some churchgoers require special and concentrated support. A recovering alcoholic may find strong support for their challenges at a church with a ministry specializing in recovery that a former addict leads. A recently divorced person may find strong support for their challenges at a church with a divorce-care ministry led by a trained counselor. People with unique needs should seek the wisdom of a pastor and other Godly counsel to help them make a decision.
Leaving right: even if a person is sure that changing a denomination and church is the right decision, it’s important to leave their previous church in a loving way.
People should make every effort to ensure that relationships aren’t hurt and that their move doesn’t reflect negatively on the body of Christ. (more below)
What Are the Wrong Reasons to Leave a Denomination?
It’s important to understand that every person’s situation is unique and that leaving a denomination often involves multiple factors. The examples below aren’t intended to replace prayer or Godly counsel.
- Unresolved conflict: churches are full of imperfect people. If only perfect people could attend church, Sunday services wouldn’t exist. Churchgoers sometimes experience conflict over disagreements and misunderstandings that result in hurt feelings. The New Testament assumes Christians will experience conflict (e.g., Matt. 18:15-17), so it teaches about forgiveness, not holding grudges, and overlooking offenses. Jesus instructed people to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). Leaving a church over unresolved conflict is generally unwise.
- Wrong priorities: Churchgoers should never leave a denomination or church because it’s not entertaining or fun. Sunday services aren’t for the amusement of those in attendance. Sometimes when a person says a particular church is boring, it reflects their self-centered priorities. Growing as a Christian is joyful but not always “fun.” Sometimes progress comes through conviction, tribulation, and heartache. Prioritizing entertainment will stunt a person’s spiritual maturity and sanctification.
- Chasing trends: in many cities and towns, there is — and always will be — a church that is like the popular kid among a group of teenagers. It’s unwise to continually follow the “in-crowd” and flock to the trendy church in the area. Perhaps a church has a new building, a fashionable pastor, an incredible coffee bar, or a polished worship band. Those are wrong priorities for choosing a denomination or church because those attractions will fade when the next trendy church is established.
Tips for How to Leave a Denomination or Church
Leaving a denomination and church should never happen lightly. If a person is leaving because of a lack of Bible teaching, there should be Godly sorrow and grief. (Also see Do All Denominations Believe in the 10 Commandments?)
If a person is leaving because they are moving to another state, there should be appreciation and thankfulness. In both scenarios, other people are involved, and the departing person should love them as God instructs (e.g., John 13:34). The tips below are general guidelines.
- Leave on good terms: even if a person is leaving a denomination or church because of a lack of biblical teaching, they can still show respect to the leadership and other attendees as they depart.
- Don’t recruit others: leaving a denomination or church isn’t necessarily divisive, especially when a person’s reasons aren’t theological in nature, but encouraging others to do likewise often is. People shouldn’t try and convince others to change churches but leave it up to each person or family to make their own decision. A person should be honest if asked about their departure and provide Godly counsel if someone seeks them for it, but they shouldn’t initiate a massive exodus.
- Communicate with people: it’s unkind to leave the leadership and other attendees unaware of your decision. Having a conversation in-person is best, but an email, letter, or phone call is better than not saying anything.
- Pray for the denomination and church you are leaving: praying shows care and love for those a person will no longer see every week.
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