The question of whether or not Christians should remain loyal to their local church is a rather broad question and in order to properly answer it, it must properly be broken down and examined
Should Christians Remain Loyal to Their Local Church? Though the Bible does not specifically command Christians to remain loyal to a specific church, it is clear this was the practice of the early church and that the benefits of remaining faithful to a single church are much higher for the overall health of the Global Church.
Once again, there are many factors that must be looked into and questions that must be asked in order to best answer this tough question, so let’s take a look at some of those.
The Local Church is Not Competing
It’s integral to this discussion to understand who the church is to properly function. It is no secret that the church has been run like a business—the Pastor as the CEO and the congregation as the consumers.
Christians have been groomed to view church as a service in which they go to be subconsciously entertained, and don’t get me wrong, I love the local church, but it is impossible to ignore the marketing strategies as well as the sugar coating that frequently goes on Sundays.
The point of this section is not to rant about all the things the church lacks, but rather, to point out the significance of this particular issue and what implications come along with it.
It is largely because of this business/consumerism mindset that the local church falls into the trap of competing with neighboring churches, and sets their gaze on numbers rather than relationships.
The Local Churches were never designed to compete with other local churches. In other words, if a member goes to another church in the neighborhood, the leadership are not losing a customer to a competitor.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.1 Corinthians 12:12-14
This is not an argument for those who seek to leave a church, simply a reminder that we are all brothers and sisters, every church in every community that believes in Jesus is part of the body, thus we share in the same mission and goal.
The original intent of the church was to be a living breathing movement and community in which the Glory of God is displayed, all members are to be active in accomplishing the great commission as well as taking care of widows and orphans which leads to my next point—why you should remain loyal to your church.
Why You Should Remain Loyal to Your Church
Lets first address the word “loyal,” this implies a sort of division between the body of Christ, as though you are remaining loyal to your leader over another, etc.
The following passage is rather long, but it is necessary to break down and emphasize what I am trying to convey:
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.1 Corinthians 3:4-9
The point is clear, we do not attend and remain at our local church out of loyalty towards leadership, but rather we are faithful to our local church and in the mission it seeks to carry out.
The word then, in place of loyal, should be faithful. Those who have decided to become a member of a church should stay faithful to their church.
Those who do not dig in and get connected to a church are not able to follow the discipleship model laid out and practiced by Jesus Himself. Discipleship offers deeper growth, accountability, and connection.
In Ephesians 5:21, Paul instructs the believers to “submit to one another out of reverence for God.” And again in Hebrews 13:17, scripture tells us to “obey and submit to your leaders.” These passages imply that we should have some sort of leadership in our lives and that it is scriptural to submit to them, as well as our brothers. If we do not get plugged in and remain faithful to our local church, then we are not able to do this.
The Greater Mission
Remaining faithful in your church rather than moving around from church to church enables you to sow seed into the greater mission of the church. If you are not tied to a local church you are of course still able to minister to those around you, but being faithful to the church you have set down roots in allows you to take part and help further the greater mission of the collective church.
Remaining in your local church presents you with the opportunity to serve, which also connects to the greater mission. The church is meant to bring believers together and encourage them, but it is Biblical to serve one another, not merely sit and be taught.
Fellowship is possibly the most important of all of these, we are created for fellowship and connection, first with God and second with each other. God places so much importance on being unified and loving each other. This is perhaps the greatest reason you should be faithful in your church
Reasons to Leave
Not everything is cut and dry, so that same steps cannot be applied to every single person, but there are of course valid reasons to leave a church and being faithful does not equal remaining in abuse or being under leadership that teaches false doctrine. Whatever the reason that you’re considering leaving, it’s important to go back to the beginning of the blog post and consider how we are not consumers, but members of the body of Christ—brothers and sisters.
Since this is the case, we are not merely rejecting an institution when we leave, but breaking fellowship with real people, therefore if we do need to leave our church, every effort must be made to reconcile. We don’t kick our brothers to the curb when we see mistakes they make, instead, we bring it to their attention as the Bible instructs us and if there is repentance and reconciliation, we are able to come back together.
Being faithful to a local church does not mean that we cannot visit other local churches or volunteer, help, or serve in them, churches are a team.
I will end with this encouragement: don’t church hop and don’t church shop.
Be obedient to where the Lord is leading and seek to serve rather than be served, lay down consumerism mindsets and be faithful as much as you can in the capacity that He has called you.