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Is it selfish for growing believers to change churches?

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Is it selfish for growing believers to change churches?
Posted on December 15, 2020  - By George Mattackal

How does a growing believer decide on moving/changing churches when they clearly recognise the church they’re currently part of has no vision and is mostly driven by legalism? Does one stick on with praying and hoping for a revival? Or should they move to a church that identifies the need to mentor and disciple its sheep? Is that a healthy practice — although (seemingly) selfish — to desire?

One of the primary goals of any church should be to disciple the sheep. This is the crux of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to “Go therefore and make disciples… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

The journey of sanctification which begins at the time of the new birth is one of growing in Christlikeness and maturity

The journey of sanctification which begins at the time of the new birth is one of growing in Christlikeness and maturity. A primary means of accomplishing this is by being a part of a local church where the believer is taught the Word, enriched through fellowship, is ministered to by gifted brothers and sisters in Christ, and develops and uses his or her own spiritual gifts.

Sadly, as evident from the question, local churches often fall short in this mission. A big reason for this failure is poor leadership without a clear Biblical vision for the local church. Many believers in such churches often feel an urge to move to another church.
While I do think there may be circumstances where moving to another church is the best course, such a decision should not be taken lightly. I personally am not in favour of moving from church to church. However, I also recognise that there are situations where it may be the Lord’s will for a person to leave one church and join another.

Before you move

I would suggest that before deciding to move churches a believer should do the following:

  1. Pray for the church and its leadership. Earnestly take your desires for the church to the Lord for an extended period of time. Philippians 4:6 tells us “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”. If there are other believers in the church who feel the same way, perhaps spend time together in earnest prayer. When doing this, it is important that the focus is on prayer for the church and the group should not devolve into one that creates trouble within the local church.
  2. Examine your own role in the church to see if you are doing your part to minister to the church. Ephesians 4:26 tells us how the church is to grow: “… the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Growth in the church occurs when every believer is ministering to others as this verse explains. Before considering leaving, I think one should look for ways to minister within the church.
  3. Take your specific concerns to the elders of the church in a spirit of humility and prayerfulness. If they are not receptive to your suggestions and ideas, then I think the next step is to take your concerns regarding the elders to God. 1 Peter 5:1-4 gives instructions to elders about how they should conduct themselves in the church. However, verses 5-7 speak of the attitude young people should have towards elders of the church. The implication is this is how they should behave towards the elders, even if those elders do not conduct themselves as per verses 1-4: “… you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders… Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” If we have cares or concerns about the church and the leadership of the elders, we are to cast those cares on the Lord.
  4. Evaluate your motive for wanting to move churches. Is the motive genuine and God-honouring? Have you taken all reasonable steps to address the concerns within the church, such as speaking to the leadership and doing your part to bring about changes?

Seek dialogue

If despite doing all of the above, and giving it sufficient time in prayer, you don’t see any change and feel that the Lord would have you move to another church, then it would perhaps be okay to do so. However, I would encourage you to first speak with the elders, and explain to them with grace and humility why you desire to move. It is always best to leave with the blessings of the elders and a commendation from them.

I would also recommend that a good practice would be for the leadership of a church, when faced with someone seeking to join from another church in the same city, to speak with the person seeking to move and understand the reasons before accepting into fellowship. The potential receiving church should encourage the person to see if he has gone through the steps above and to contact or meet with the leaders of the original church to understand their perspectives and any concerns they may have with the move. I am aware of situations where a church that followed this practice was able to counsel a person to change his mind and remain with the original church and try to work out the issues.

George Mattackal

About George Mattackal

George Mattackal currently serves as an elder at Calvary Bible Fellowship in Bangalore, India. He previously served on the board of Gospel Missions of India, USA for more than 20 years. He has a keen interest in supporting ministry work in India, which he does through teaching and financial support.



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