Finding a Church, Part 3: Leaving a Church
Being a Christian in the military sometimes creates challenges in situations civilians take for granted. For example, how do you find a church? The concept of a “home church” and steady lifelong attendance takes on a whole new meaning when you move every two to four years.
This is the third article in a series of suggestions and guidance on finding a church as you move about in your military career. The first, Part 1: The Military Chapel, discussed the various perspectives and thoughts on attending services at the base/post military chapel. The second, Part 2: Worshipping at Local Churches, addressed the topic of local/community churches a military Christian might choose to visit. This final article discusses the sometimes controversial topic of “leaving” a church.
There used to be an old military Academy gripe that cadets were judged unfairly: if a civilian changed colleges, it was called “transferring.” If a cadet left the Academy for a civilian college, it was called “quitting.” Similarly, it seems the modern Christian culture cannot abide those who depart one church to attend another. Sometimes “church moves” are even accompanied by a doctrinal tussle, a social falling out, and the lingering effects of gossip between those that remain and those that have left.
As a Christian in the military you will obviously have many opportunities to enter and leave church congregations as you move between various locations. There may be other times you feel the need to change churches for other reasons. For example, advocating a doctrine contrary to the Bible is obviously grounds for leaving a church.
Departing a church body doesn’t need to be hostile, though; you might simply feel your spiritual needs may be better served somewhere else, or that your spiritual gifts may be better utilized at another church.
While all churches generally make up the body of Christ, each tends to have its own personality and specialization. Some churches are mission-oriented and focus the majority of their resources on outreach; others are gospel-oriented and focus their efforts on evangelism. Some focus on families, military members, discipleship, or fellowship. Humans have personalities and churches do as well. Occasionally those personalities may not mesh well regardless of a common faith. A church may have a focus that is slightly different than a military Christian’s, and you may feel that another church would be more appropriate. Also, as you grow, you may find that the church that was once your near-perfect home is now not quite suited to your spiritual gifts or needs.
As you are assigned to various locations you’ll be forced to “plant” and “uproot” in many places, and many factors in your personal life, spiritual state, and others will influence your decision in your new church “home.” Regardless of why you leave a church, whether for military or spiritual reasons, it does not need to be a drama.
A Christian in the military must make an active effort to find a church you can call home. The base chapel and community churches have their advantages and disadvantages. Whatever your choice, as a Christian you should prayerfully consider your spiritual gifts and needs. As a member of the military, you will move and travel often in your career, and finding a church is a critical first step in continuing your spiritual walk.
This is an update to a prior article on Finding a Church.