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When Should You Leave a Church?

Actually, my question is more specific than that — too specific to fit in a headline. But we’ll get to it in a moment. First, some context.

As the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has moved toward endorsing pastors who practice homosexuality, many of its member churches have moved toward leaving ELCA (HT Mollie Ziegler Hemingway). It’s safe to say none of them did so lightly. They did it out of a conviction that the church body had rejected God’s Word and embraced apostasy.

Individual Christians often are faced with the same decisions, in any number of churches over any number of issues. Sometimes (like this time) it’s quite clear that a church has gone apostate.

Other times it’s a tougher call: There may be alarming trends, but there are also people working for fidelity to Scripture: You might be among them. You don’t yet know which way the church is going to go. (Finding out can take years, even decades.) You don’t know whether it’s going to decisively cross a line past which you can no longer be a part of it. You may not be sure where that line is.

All the more reason to think about it. Which brings us back to the full question: When should you leave a church on principle — not for personal reasons (which we’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog), but for reasons of its doctrines or practices? And a follow-up question: Have you ever had to wrestle with this decision?

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About the Author

Matt Kaufman

Matt Kaufman has been a columnist for Boundless since the site’s founding in 1998, and did a stint as editor in 2002-2003. He’s also a former staffer and current contributing editor for Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. Matt is a freelance writer/editor who spent some years in Colorado, but gave up the mountains for the cornfields: He now lives in his hometown of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. His house is a five minute drive from the one where he grew up, and he enjoys daily walks around the park where he used to play baseball.

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