If you’re reading this and you’re a Christian, I hope you’re either a member of a local church or actively seeking one. God’s Word is filled with promises to Christ’s church regarding Christ’s church. As believers in Christ, we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and have received a divine inheritance in Christ (v. 11). This heavenly estate comes with heavenly benefits, not the least of which are “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (v. 18). United to Christ, we get full access to the Savior and those whom He saves. Christ has given Himself fully to His church, and He has given His church fully to His church. It’s not Jesus or the church; rather, these are mutually inclusive relationships ordained for your good and for His glory. By God’s design, the members of God’s family—including its pastors, elders, deacons, and members—bring glory to Him by serving, loving, and blessing the other members of the family. For all these reasons and more, leaving your local church should never be done in silence, isolation, or ambiguity.
It’s been my experience that discussions related to leaving a church are most often around questions of why and when. For example, church members often ask questions such as “Should I leave my church if I don’t agree with this or that?” and “Does God give me the freedom to leave my church for any reason or only certain reasons?” To be clear, the answers to those questions are important, requiring careful consideration, study of Scripture, counsel, and prayer. But, I’ve had many fewer conversations related to how to leave a church when extenuating circumstances were dictating a change—for example, when taking a new position with a new company in another city, or, in the case of a newly wedded couple, when each spouse attended a different church before marriage, or when an elderly member changes residence for health reasons. Situations like these are common in the church.
So, how should we leave our church? First, we must continue to do everything, whether in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17). Everything means everything. This includes how we leave a local church. When we leave a local church in the name of Jesus Christ, we are in no small way recognizing His lordship over all things, not only in our lives but in all matters related to the church. Ultimately, it’s Christ Jesus who is the Head of His body, the church (Col. 1:18). By seeking to root in Christ and relate to Christ how we leave a church, we testify to the reality of our identity in Christ. We testify to the reality that He died for us that we might no longer live for ourselves but for Him (2 Cor. 5:15).