When to Leave a Church
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2013 Nov 11
There is a perfect time to leave a church:
…it’s not when you get disgruntled.
…it’s not when you get offended.
…it’s not when it gets too big.
…it’s not when a decision is made you disagree with.
It’s long before.
The best time to leave a church is,
… before you join.
Think about a plane. You board, and over the loudspeaker, you hear, “Welcome to US Airways Flight #142, heading to Orlando.” If Orlando is not your destination, that would be the time to deplane. Why would you stay on board knowing its going somewhere you do not want to go?
Yet that is precisely what so many do. They know they are out of sync with the church’s vision and values, mission and structure. They know that they have a profound and substantive disagreement.
Yet they join, and then begin to cause conflict.
That’s not healthy.
In fact, I’ll go further.
I think it’s sin.
Hear me: Disagreeing isn’t the sin; purposefully joining with an agenda to create division and dissension is. It reminds me of the brouhaha in the Southern Baptist Convention where Calvinists were presenting themselves as anything but to church search committees, only to get the job and then seek to divide and recreate the church in their theological image.
As my sons would say, “Not cool.”
Now, if you join a church that is heading to Orlando, and mid-flight, they change course to, say, Toledo, I can understand needing to rethink involvement at that time. If your church changes its mission, vision, values or doctrine, then okay…
…get the parachute and jump.
But if you know on the front end it’s going where you aren’t, or can’t, or won’t, then that’s the time to leave. Your job is to find a church you can align with, and enjoy the flight.
After all, there are a lot of flights taking off, and surely one of them is headed to a place you would love to go.
James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.