Why I Decided to Leave My Church

Written By Rachel Tso, Singapore

How I wish my church at home was like this.

Guilt wracked me. I quickly repented and pushed the thought away, astonished at how I could conceive such an idea. I drew my focus back to the evening church service which had just ended. We had just heard an impactful message about sharing life together as a church community and loving our city.

Students I had met an hour ago at the church dinner invited me to join them in the foyer for tea and biscuits. Before the evening was over, I had made several more friends—postgraduate students like me who were new to the city of Leeds in northern England.

As we parted ways in the evening chill, my new friends shouted after me, making me promise that I would be at church for Bible Study on Wednesday. I shouted back, “Of course!” Then the thought returned.

How I wish my church at home was like this.

This time I pondered it. And I continued pondering it as I joined the church and grew with an intentional community and impactful teaching.

While my home church in Singapore had good biblical teaching, it wasn’t always easy for me to understand or apply. In Leeds, however, I began to understand and apply the Bible in ways I hadn’t previously. I remember one message where the pastor urged us to take 1 Thessalonians 2:8 to heart: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” and it was one they lived out well.

After the message, local church members invited international students home for a British Sunday roast. I was so touched by this and other gestures that I began approaching new international students at church as well, encouraging them to attend the church’s student dinners and helping some settle in. I also learned much from the International Student Bible Study leaders who had a knack for explaining biblical concepts well and with humor.

What followed was a long journey of deep soul-searching. Of weighing pros and cons. Of rocking back and forth between guilt and peace. Of choosing between what was familiar and what was unknown. And eventually, holding God’s hand, I jumped with both feet into a new church, leaving my home church of 16 years.

 

Returning Home and Starting My Church Hunt

After I graduated two years later and came back to Singapore for work, I returned to my home church. At first my new job consumed much of my time and energy, so I shelved the idea of seeking a church like the one I’d found in Leeds.

As the months passed, however, I found my spiritual life stagnating. Attending church, going for Bible study, and reading the Bible began to feel like chores. I also found myself growing more self-centred and impatient with people. I thought this was perhaps because I wasn’t involved enough in church, so I stepped up to serve in the worship ministry and attended more church-organized events. But when I still seemed to lack joy and growth in my spiritual walk, my heart began to ache for the community and teaching I had experienced in Leeds, which had helped me grow in so many ways.

My family had also noticed the changes in my temperament, and sensed that my faith was not as strong as when I had just returned. So they were supportive when I began visiting new churches on my own six months later.

At first, the churches I visited were either too far or didn’t have a strong young adult community. I also felt guilty for “disappearing” weeks at a time and causing my churchmates, even members of my parent’s cell group, to ask about me. During this time, I lacked Christian mentors who could guide me in this journey. But I continued to pray that God would either change circumstances in my home church, or make a smooth transition to a new church. Ultimately, I prayed that God would direct me to the best place to grow.

When three different people told me that I should visit one particular church they thought would suit me, I knew God was telling me something. I heard it was a relatively large church with a mix of international and local congregants (mostly young adults), had sound, easy-to-follow biblical teaching, and a mix of contemporary worship and modern hymns. I set a date to visit it with another church-searching friend—and haven’t looked back since.

 

Taking the Plunge

I remember my first week in that new church, filled with both excitement and guilt. I found myself typing copious amounts of notes from the sermon on my phone—something I do when I find the message relevant and want to remember new things I was learning, and which I had not done in a long time. A visitors’ lunch followed the service, and deep conversations stretched late into the afternoon, with people who were genuinely interested. It was what I needed.

Since then, the new church has become my home. The community group I joined, as well as the sermons, have helped fill me anew with a sense of awe and worship for the Lord. My interest in the Bible has also been re-ignited, and I’ve resolved to read through the entire Bible this year. I’ve been making good progress and enjoying every moment so far. I find myself discussing sermons with my new church friends, and frequently conversing with people more mature in the faith.

Before taking the plunge to change churches, I struggled with the divide between where I felt I needed to be in my walk with God, and where I was. Now, the divide isn’t totally gone, but it’s considerably less. And I’m supported by people helping me, week by week, to close that gap.

Church is an important part of our spiritual growth. If your current church provides you with applicable biblical teaching and community you can connect with and grow with in terms of your knowledge of God, and your love for God and others, then definitely, stay.

But if you have given it time, prayed about it with a trusted Christian, and still feel a deep unrest, don’t just ignore it. It’s okay to visit other churches. Do a little comparing. For all you know, you may end up back at your old church, convinced that this is where God wants you to be rooted. For others, however, it may involve taking a leap of faith and starting somewhere new. Let’s not delay when it comes to something as important as our spiritual growth. Let’s pray for God to plant us where we need to be for that to happen.

3 replies
  1. Tran, K.
    Tran, K. says:

    Perhaps, I think of it this way: I move churches to not only grow, but to contribute to another place. I sometimes feel that, in a privatized, consumerist society, I have grown used to feeling that there are many opportunities for immediate satisfaction. However, I am learning that I must be the one for that change.

    Reply

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