Thoughts on the Way Home

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Before You Leave Your Church...


Mark LaCour

". . . let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some" . . . (Heb. 10:24-25) 

"I'm just not getting fed at my church."
"I’m leaving because they don’t use the King James Version Bible."
"They’re not serious about holiness."
"The leaders are too controlling."
"They don’t have a ministry for the children."

The reasons for serial church-hopping are endless -- some better than others.  The "itch to ditch" comes from an entertainment culture that only asks, what's in it for me? Knowing when to stay and when to leave an assembly can be a matter of finishing the race well or not finishing at all (2 Tim. 4:7, 10).  Three points to consider before you leave
your church:

First, know why you gather with these people in the first place.  There's a pecking order for why God's people gather.  Tops is you need to be encouraged and encouraging others (Heb. 3:13) -- stimulated to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24), protected against heresy (Gal. 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:12), matured in the faith (Eph. 4:13-14), with character development (Gal. 5:22-23; Col. 3:12-17).  "Lone Ranger" Christians rarely finish the race -- no one is good enough for them to be around.  The TV church is their religion.  But Christ gives gifts to His people for a public reason (Eph. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7).  You forsake those gifts at your own risk -- regardless how flawed the human packaging of them is. Hitching your wagon to the wrong church is just as bad as not hitching your wagon to one at all.

Second, know the difference between when it's mandatory to leave and when it's expedient to leave.  It's mandatory if a church doesn't preach the gospel; it's not if they don't preach end time events.  It's mandatory if they tolerate known biblical sin; it's not if they're struggling to define what holiness should look like in a given situation.  It's mandatory if the leadership wants to control every aspect of your conscience; it's not if they differ with your opinion.  Expedient leaving might be determined by circumstances -- persecution (Acts 8:1, 4), forced to find work in another city (Acts 18:2; Jam. 4:13); or a conscience issue that hinders yourself (1 Cor. 8:7) or others (Rom. 14:1-3,13).  But those who make minor issues their reason for leaving have major character defects -- flaws that can only be exposed and remedied through encouragement and accountability from others.

Third, know when to burn your bridges and when to wait to be sent out.  Not every leaving should be a dusting off of the sandals in protest.  Departing for ministerial reasons isn't the same as departing for moral reasons (Acts 15:39-40).  Leaving should be done graciously, like a son going to the army -- absent, but knowing he's always welcomed back. It should be done together with the leadership -- thanking them and/or the church for their service to you.  "Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
(Eph 4:3).

Not forsaking the assembling together doesn’t mean you must assemble together forever with the same body.  But changing churches on a whim leaves no room for leadership from others (Heb. 13:17) or wisdom to know how to minister to others -- both necessary for protracted growth to take place.

-Mark LaCour