When should a church member consider leaving a church for good?
The question was posed to Pastor J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., who admitted he doesn't have a "litmus test." But he offered two "truths" to weigh when deciding whether to stay at or leave one's church.
The first truth: "We live in a highly-consumerized, no-commitment, what's-in-it-for-me culture."
That type of mindset will destroy the church, Greear warned.
"Don't be a consumer," he stated.
Many long-time Christians act like infants and toddlers who need to be fed and have their needs met at church. These Christians are often the ones who complain most about "not getting anything out of their church," the megachurch pastor said.
But "the church is not about you," Greear emphasized.
Instead of only waiting to hear "spine-tingling preaching" each week, Christians need to "grow up" and learn to use their spiritual gifts in church. That is the way to feel fulfilled, Greear noted.
Also, churches need people who are committed, not just attendees who are looking for "the hottest show in town," the pastor said. Those who are committed to the church will stick with the church through "ups and downs, cold seasons and hot ones."
The second truth that Greear wants Christians to consider when thinking about leaving a church is: "I only have one life to live, and I want to invest it where I get the most return."
You get the most return when you invest yourself in one place for many years, the Summit pastor pointed out. And you want to invest in a place where you are growing in the Word, in relationships and in the use of your ministry gifts.
In other words, it's best to be in a church where people live and believe like you, and work passionately for the mission with you.
"You'll be much more effective working side-by-side with like-minded believers than you will trying to effect change on your own," he noted.
Greear mentioned that he knows people who have been in every type of situation — those who stayed at a dying church and saw its revival, those who "wasted" some years in a dying church, those who left a dying church and were blessed as they found another church, and those who left their church prematurely.
His concluding advice: "Choose where you invest your life wisely."