The Mailbag: When is it OK to leave a church that’s begun embracing false doctrine?

Originally published September 12, 2016

The elders and pastor of my church have made it clear that they aren’t interested in my husband’s and my concerns about, among other problems, a new women’s study (by a false teacher) starting this month. He told me he would read the articles I sent him but that I was wrong. Is it OK to leave this church, and, if so, when? How long do we wait and not see change?

That’s a great question, and I’m afraid there’s no “one size fits all” answer. When a church begins slipping, biblically, and there’s a Christian in that church who’s wise and discerning enough to see it, God has put that Christian in that church to help biblically solve that problem, or at least to serve as a prophetic warning as to what God’s Word says about the issue and what will happen if the church does not correct its course.

Our very first priority in this situation is prayer. We must pray fervently for God to change the hearts of the pastors and other leaders, for wisdom to know how to best approach the problem scripturally, and for God to give us wisdom about how long to stay and when to leave. (For us married ladies, that decision ultimately falls to our husbands, so we need to be praying for them, too.)

When you’ve done what you can to help biblically solve the problem(s) and have consistently been rebuffed (and it sounds like that’s about where you and your husband are with this church), it may be time to leave. It is perfectly biblical to leave a church that is embracing false doctrine despite scriptural warnings (Titus 3:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, 2 John 9-11, 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, Mark 6:11, Matthew 7:6).

Sometimes, God will make it exceedingly clear as to when you should leave because the church will ask you to leave or, in some way, make it impossible for you to stay.

It sounds like you and your husband have tried to help this church. Just continue to pray for your church and its leadership, and for wisdom (especially for your husband) about staying or leaving. Then trust God to direct you (Proverbs 3:5-6).

If you do end up having to leave, make sure you immediately begin your search for a doctrinally sound church to attend. No church is perfect, but we need to obey God’s mandate to be faithful members of a local body of believers.

Additional Resources:

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?

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.

3 thoughts on “The Mailbag: When is it OK to leave a church that’s begun embracing false doctrine?”

  1. Sadly, Michelle, many Christians have found that – regardless of their approach to the leadership – they tend to be labelled trouble-makers, mavericks… Bible verses are weaponised to keep Christian ‘whistleblowers’ in line, e.g. Proverbs 20:3 “It is to one’s honour to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Those, who defend the Gospel, are seen as dishonourable rabble-rousers); Proverbs 29:22, ” An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.” See, 1 Corinthians 11:16-19; Titus 3:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15…and the list goes on!
    Is there a ‘good’ way to de-weaponise Scripture taken out of context, and used to gaslight people in an abusively unloving and spiritually lost & blin congregation?



    1. Hi Thad- Sadly, I’m all too familiar with that type of reaction from church leadership, both first hand and from hearing the experiences of many of my followers.

      If, by “good way” you mean “gets them to repent and do right instead of wrong,” usually by the time they’ve gone that far down the wrong path, they’re not going to be convinced by anything you have to say. The only solution is for God to open their eyes and change their hearts, because this is a heart issue, not a “lack of evidence” or “lack of a convincing argument” issue. In that type of situation, I would pray fervently that God would convict them and give them the gift of repentance. I would probably also write a letter to the appropriate people demonstrating from Scripture where they’re wrong and begging them to repent, but, in my experience, without God’s supernatural intervention, they’re not going to listen to that either. However, a letter (or verbal conversations) like that isn’t pointless even if they don’t change. They have now been given a prophetic warning (as I mentioned in the article) to repent. They will not be able to stand before God in Judgment and say claim they didn’t know they were sinning. Your warning will serve as a witness against them.


  2. When you have done all you can and have been rejected you are left with no Biblically sound option to stay no matter what ‘loving one another’ verses are used to tell you they are open to you continuing in fellowship with them and fallacious arguements that if you leave you are the one in error. You will be isolated and unable to truely fellowship in the church. Best in this situation to leave and find a church where you can be in true fellowship with others who put sound doctrine above loyalty to things outside of Biblical revelation or people in spiritual leadership/authority over you.


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