Leaving any religious fellowship or association is often a very challenging decision in the life of a believer. But sometimes, we don’t have any other option but to leave. We don’t leave because we want to but because of the experiences we get in the church, the circumstances we go through, and many other reasons. For instance, people leave the Assemblies of God church for different reasons.
One may cite disagreements over certain beliefs and practices in the church as the reason behind their decision to leave. Others may leave because of the doctrinal differences in the church while others leave because of church politics and so on. This clearly shows that the decision to leave any church for another denomination is personal and it is marked by different reasons.
Whatever the reasons, questions arise from the increasing number of people who are leaving the Assemblies of God church with each passing day. Why are people leaving the assemblies of God for other denominations? Is there anything wrong with the Assemblies of God?
The Assemblies of God came into existence in the early 20th century. It was birthed from the Pentecostal Movement that strongly believed in the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the significance of spiritual experiences. The Assemblies of God was formed to promote unity among the groups that had embraced the teachings of Charles Parham. Charles presided over Pentecostal revivals in the early 20th century that sparked a desire in the hearts of believers to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It has grown over the years and has become one of the largest denominations in the world with millions of members worldwide. A denomination census carried out in 2022 reveals that the approximate number of members around the globe of the Assemblies of God is 68, 500, 000.
The Assemblies of God is an umbrella with over 360,000 churches under it. But despite its popularity and influence, members who join the denomination do not stay committed to it. Some leave immediately after the first service while others leave after years of grappling with questions about its operations.
Believers are defined by different spiritual journeys and beliefs and their encounters with faith may vary from one believer to another. So when they cannot feel contented in a church, they opt to leave and seek a deeper connection with God in another church. Let’s delve deeper into the different reasons that make people leave the Assemblies of God.
Why Do People Leave the Assemblies of God?
- Emphasis on Supernatural Experiences
The Assemblies of God has parted ways with most of its members because of the emphasis on supernatural experiences. Some leave claiming that the Assemblies of God puts a lot of focus on supernatural experiences and forget about the intellectual aspects of Christianity.
As earlier mentioned, the Assemblies of God trace their origin back to the Pentecostal Movement which believed in the manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing. There have been divisions in the Assemblies of God as regards supernatural experiences; it has become a point of contention. To some, it is an important part of their faith journey while to others it limits them from other aspects of Christianity.
People who feel like the Assemblies of God puts so much emphasis on supernatural experiences leave. They claim that they are not interested in speaking in tongues or prophesying but in connecting with God at a personal level. So, once they join the church and find that they emphasize the discipline of speaking in tongues, they leave. The pressure to conform to these disciplines makes them feel uncomfortable or out of place.
They feel spiritually inferior or inadequate and this forces them to go and never come back. When we become part of a certain fellowship or a Christian community, we all wish to feel at home, valued, and appreciated. But when we feel the opposite, we find another place that can make us feel part of them.
Individuals who are not interested in the charismatic experiences that are emphasized in the Assemblies of God do not feel at home in these churches. So, they leave so that they can find a ‘home’ elsewhere.
Others question the authenticity of certain supernatural experiences like speaking in tongues and prophesying. Some churches under the umbrella of the Assemblies of God take it too far, making some of their members doubt them.
These believers may leave when they lose trust in supernatural experiences that seem skeptical. We understand that some may be the work of the Holy Spirit but we also know that some are not.
- Denomination Operations
The Assemblies of God has a hierarchical structure that includes district councils and a general council. All decisions concerning the churches under the umbrella of the Assemblies of God are made at a higher level. Local churches have no voice in the setting of the regulations that govern them. They adhere to what is decided and set at the district level.
Sometimes, the decisions made at the district level do not align with the needs of the local church. Pastors of the local churches do not participate in important decisions such as the allocation of resources. This may force some of the pastors of the local churches or some of their members to leave. Those seeking an autonomous kind of organization in their churches may leave the Assemblies of God because of this.
Additionally, some pastors serving in the churches under the Assemblies of God may feel limited due to their denomination operations. Pastors at the local church are not allowed to perform certain tasks even though they are ordained. This limits their growth as servants of God and as shepherds of a Christian community.
For instance, they are not allowed to ordain their ministries or set regulations in their churches. They are bound by the regulations that are set at higher levels; something that limits their growth. Pastors who desire to grow leave the Assemblies of God and start their own churches. And when they leave, some members may decide to leave with them.
One of the most popular examples of pastors who left the Assemblies of God to start their own ministry is David Wilkerson. When he felt that his ministry’s growth was limited because of the policies and regulations of the Assemblies of God, he decided to leave. He desired to ordain people in his church who had grown spiritually, yet the denomination did not allow this.
Brian Houston also left the Assemblies of God after serving as a pastor for more than 20 years in a church he opened under the umbrella of the Assemblies of God. There was no bad blood between him and the Assemblies of God but the fact that he was not allowed to ordain pastors in his own church made him leave.
- Doctrinal Differences
Disagreements over specific beliefs and practices can make people leave any church or denomination. Teachings about different Christian disciplines have made many people either join or leave the Assemblies of God. The different teachings can be attributed to different interpretations of the Scriptures.
Some of the concepts that have been interpreted differently include the concept of salvation, baptism, and beliefs about the end times. Churches under the Assemblies of God umbrella may have different perspectives concerning these concepts. When members feel that the teachings of the church on baptism or salvation do not align with their beliefs or understanding of Scripture, they may leave.
Some may cling to the belief that salvation is by works while others may argue that salvation is a gift from God. This may not seem like a serious issue but it is one of the reasons why people leave the Assemblies of God. They search for a denomination that holds the same beliefs on salvation as the ones they hold on to.
Another concept that has caused division and members’ departure not only in the Assemblies of God but in many churches is the concept of baptism. The Assemblies of God believes that baptism is by immersion in many waters. However, some members may hold onto the belief that infants can be baptized too by sprinkling water on their heads.
The disagreements that arise from the modes of baptism may bring about division in the church. Members who may want their infants to be baptized may leave and look for churches that are willing to do so.
- Scandals Involving Church Leaders
Some of the leaders of the Assemblies of God have been repeatedly involved in scandals. This brings shame and disgrace to pastors serving under them and their members as well. Who would want to have a spiritual father who is always involved in scandals that can be avoided? Do they preach water and drink wine? Does this mean that the teachings they teach their congregations don’t apply to them? Some members leave immediately after their church leaders are involved in scandals that make them question their devotion to God.
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“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.”1 Timothy 3:2-7
These are the qualities that God desires from a leader of any church or denomination. Sadly, some of the leaders of the Assemblies of God church do the opposite of this. As a result, members leave never to come back again.
In conclusion, Jesus instructs us to embrace fellowship with other members of His body. However, it is important that we wisely select a Christian fellowship or church whose teachings align with our beliefs.