When is it Time to Leave a Church?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

A s more and more churches turn apostate, how can we know when it’s time to leave our church and find a biblical one?

The Essentials

As more and more churches turn apostate, how will we know when it’s time to leave our church and find a biblical one? In church history, it seems there are three essentials that each church must have. They are the preaching of the Word of God, the Bible. Then there is church discipline as Jesus commanded (Matt 18:15-20), and finally, every church must have the sacraments, including the Lord’s Supper or Communion and I would include baptism in the sacraments of the church because Jesus commanded new disciples be baptized (Matt 28:18-12). Even Jesus was baptized, although He had no sin and it was to fulfill all righteousness, but the church must have the preaching of the Word of God, church discipline, and the Lord’s Supper (regularly), but also including baptism. These essentials should be found in every church where Jesus is the Head. If any of these are missing, then it might be time to leave your church.

No Expository Preaching

If there is no preaching or teaching of the Word of God from the pulpit, then the sheep will starve to death. Just as sheep need to be feed in green pastures, so do believer’s need to feed on the Word of God. We are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge” (2 Pet 3:18). We have no message, but God’s Word does and it has power, for “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). Only God’s Word has the ability to achieve what it is sent out to do (Isaiah 55:11), not us. The Word of God has the power to save because many “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23). Interestingly, God even declares that we are “protected by the power of God” (1 Pet 1:5), and we read about that power in the Bible. When a person of God shares the Word of God then the Spirit of God might birth a child of God.

The Spirit and the Word work together in our salvation, for the Spirit is the Author of the Word as “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).  We’re commanded to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).  We are to teach and preach the Word, not a word from man!  If your pastor is not preaching from the Bible, it’s time to head for the door.

No Church Discipline

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

Jesus knows human nature, for He is our Creator. He knows we will all need discipline, so that’s why there is church discipline. Step one: go to the person first, in private, and talk with them about the serious nature of their sin (like adultery, public drunkenness, abuse charges, etc.). The first time the church is mentioned, Jesus brings up the command for church discipline, and it starts here, where “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matt 18:15), “but if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt 18:16). The Bible clearly indicates that by two or three witnesses a thing is established (Duet 19:15; 2 Cor 13:1), so if going to them first doesn’t work, take two or three brothers or sisters with you. Not a posse, but just two or three.

Paul dealt with church discipline and it lines up with what Jesus taught. For example, if the two or three witnesses do not persuade the sinning church member to repent, then we are to “tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17). If the church agrees, then heaven is agreed with the church’s decision (Matt 18:18-20). They are to be disfellowshipped because Jesus is trying to have the Bride appear before the Groom as spotless, and sexual immorality especially, tarnishes the Bride of Christ Who is betrothed to Christ. And it is really for the good of the sinning member because God desires that they repent. If they are allowed to continue to worship while living in such sin, there will never be repentance and the Bride of Christ will not be presented as spotless before the Lamb. So it is best for both the church and for the sinning member. It is the ultimate act of loving your brother or sister to go to them when they sin.

“Take; this is my body … this is my blood of the covenant …”

No Sacraments

Regular Communion should occur in every biblical church as we are commanded to “Do this in remembrance of [Him]” (1 Cor 11:24). We are to remember His broken body and shed blood by observing the Lord’s Supper, and when we do, we proclaim His death till He comes This command comes with a warning for those who make take it in an “unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27). This is reason enough for all of us to “examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:28-29). Apparently some who took it in an unworthy manner died (1 Cor 11:3), not properly observing His supreme sacrifice. I would add baptism too because we are commanded to be baptized, not in order to be saved, but because of a witness that we are saved.


If churches do not have the weekly preaching of the Word of God, or if there is no church discipline at all, and there is a lack of sacraments (Communion and baptism), it’s time to find a new church home. We must be biblical and agree with Jesus’ model for the church because He is the Head, not we ourselves (Col 1:17-18; Eph 5:22-25). Let us be about our Father’s business, warning people of the coming wrath of God. We must tell them of Jesus that He is mighty to save and that He is their one and only hope of eternal life (John 3:16-17; Acts 4:12). If not us, then who?

Here is some related reading for you: How to Find a Bible-Believing Church

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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