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There are unbiblical things happening in my church. I want to leave and find a better church. My husband wants to stay. Do I submit to him and stay at this church or go against his wishes and find another church to join by myself?

I receive some variation of this question several times a year, which absolutely breaks my heart. Normal, everyday disagreements in marriage are hard enough, but when it’s something this important that involves such a huge part of your life, it can be excruciating.

It’s also an impossible question for me to answer a) since I’m so far removed from the situation, and b) because every situation is different. All I can do is ask some questions and provide some resources that may help as you make your decision.

◊ Is the issue at your church actually unbiblical? Just because you don’t like something (the genre of music, that women wear pants to this church, that there are/aren’t age-segregated activities, etc.) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unbiblical. Search the Scriptures. Is what is happening at your church clearly violating a chapter and verse, rightly handled, in context passage of Scripture?

◊ Are you fairly certain your husband is saved? Does he usually make godly decisions as he leads your family? The answers to these questions may give you some insight into your husband’s perspective on this church and help you understand his side of things better.

◊ Is this a “We must obey God rather than men” situation? Carefully examine that passage. Scripture has always been clear that we are to obey those in authority over us, and the apostles knew it. The only reason they disobeyed the authorities is because the authorities commanded them to do something that clearly conflicted with God’s Word. Is that the situation you’re in at this church? If not, Scripture is clear that you’re to submit to your husband.

◊ Don’t underestimate how greatly your submission could impact your husband. Scripture says it can make such an impression that God can even use it as a tool to draw unsaved husbands to Himself for salvation. If submission can soften an unsaved man’s heart toward salvation, perhaps it could soften your husband’s heart toward finding a better church.

◊ Is it possible that in obeying God’s instruction to submit to your husband in this circumstance God is keeping you in this church in order to give you an opportunity to serve Him by bringing biblical truth to bear on the unbiblical situation (in a godly way, of course)? Sometimes the solution to a problem at church is not to cut and run, but to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

◊ Submitting to your husband doesn’t mean you can’t pray for him and the situation at church. You should definitely be praying that your husband is making the right decision and that God will change his heart and mind if not. You should also be praying that you would have the right heart in this situation, praying for your children if they are also in the church, and praying that God would change the situation at church. Pray fervently about everything.

◊ Have you and your husband actually sat down and talked this through? If not, set aside some uninterrupted time in a pleasant environment, and carefully, prayerfully, and objectively (no histrionics) explain – citing clear Scripture – what is bothering you about the church. And then listen to what your husband has to say in response. If he is anything like my husband, he’ll probably bring up at least one good point you hadn’t thought about, but need to.

◊ Would it be helpful to bring in a third party to bounce the situation off of? Maybe a pastor friend you both trust, a spiritually mature couple you’re friends with, your parents or in laws, even a biblical counselor? Sometimes a fresh, objective set of eyes and ears can help.

◊ Is there a solution you and your husband can work out besides the two options of you staying or leaving? Do some brainstorming. Is the unbiblical situation at your church self-contained enough that you could arrange your attendance habits in order to avoid it? (For example: The women’s ministry only offers classes using materials by false teachers. Solution: You don’t have to attend those classes. Or, you could volunteer to teach a class that studies a book of the Bible. The “contemporary” service at your church uses Bethel and Hillsong music. Solution: Maybe your husband would compromise and go to the “traditional” service with you that only uses hymns.) Maybe your husband works a lot of Sundays and would be OK with you going to another church on those Sundays. Perhaps the two of you could reach a compromise of going to the doctrinally sound church you like every other Sunday, and the old church the rest of the time. What about a trade off? “If you’ll switch to this new church for me, I’ll do ____ for you.” Think outside the box, ask God for wisdom, discuss it with your husband, and see what you can come up with.

◊ Keep the perspective that God is using this situation in your life (your husband’s too) for his glory and your good. Maybe God will use this situation to grow your trust in Him, to strengthen your prayer life, to give you more practice in submitting to your husband, or to train you in the Scriptures. Whatever His purposes, He is doing it for a good reason. He loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t abandoned you. He’ll bring you through this.

Conflict over church can be rough on a marriage, and the solution is not always easy. Pray without ceasing, obey God’s Wordseek godly counsel, and trust God to lead you.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.