Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When Do You Leave?

As our church family has been walking through our new covenant, I was sharing with another pastor that I have been shocked at responses we have had. Overall, the responses have been positive but the ones that were not have been varied as to why.  Some are upset over what was not included in the covenant and think that our covenant should be more restrictive,  and others are upset over specific items that were included.  For me, both the positive and negative responses (and the dramatic differences between them) reinforced how seldom we as people of God really contemplate how we live and why we do what we do. Statements made ranged from “When I signed the covenant, it made me aware of how I need to really try to be in the Word of God more.” to “When I had to sign this I realized I haven’t been….”   When I look at our new covenant that our strategy team put together, I see a document filled with the Word of God  and expectations that are thoroughly biblical.  As we discussed it and preached through it, very few questions or comments came up about it and yet, when we had to stop to sign it, it became something we actually had to think twice about.
Some have asked why we "made so much" over our new covenant.   Simply - because it is the center piece in which we will strive to serve God together. This doesn’t mean we have all obtained each of these things, but it means our hearts' desire is to strive to do them.
Here is the link to our covenant, for those who are not members of our fellowship.

During this time of preaching through church membership, I spent a great deal of time explaining why membership is biblical and what our responsibility is in membership. As a matter of fact, several of the blogs I have posted have even dealt with church membership. However, I don’t believe I have ever taken time to discuss why or when one should leave a church. We live in America and we love convenience, comfort and choices.  Generally, it is for one of these three (convenience, comfort or choice) reasons that people will look for another fellowship. Most genuinely believe they go to church primarily for themselves, rather than seeing the church as a body and the need for one another (although they might not admit that overtly).  I have heard of people leaving and even have had people leave over everything from music, to d├ęcor, to following family members who left. Pastors have aided in this in that we spend a great deal of time asking people to join our church by telling them about all our fellowship can offer, rather than giving them biblical instruction of the responsibilities of being a member of our fellowship. The importance of loving the difficult to love, being with people that are different than you, working biblically through differences and conflict, getting our hands dirty because we are sinners dealing with sinners...all of that is kept quiet as it isn't a great sales technique to get people to join your church in our American Mega Church, "meet my needs" culture.  Most want to know what kind of trips you will do for my student, who can keep me entertained with my style of music, who will keep the sermons to the right length and topic so that I can go and just “feel better about me.” So, when I came across this blog some time ago, I thought it would be fitting for me to post during this transition time for our church family. As I read it, I concluded that I know  very few who leave their fellowships with these as their motivating factors.  (also seen below) 

Leaving a church is not something that should be done lightly. Too many people abandon churches for petty reasons. Disagreements over simple matters of preference are never a good reason to withdraw from a sound, Bible-believing church. Christians are commanded to respect, honor, and obey those whom God has placed in positions of leadership in the church (Heb. 13:717). However, there are times when it becomes necessary to leave a church for the sake of one's own conscience, or out of a duty to obey God rather than men. Such circumstances would include:

If heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit (Gal. 1:7-9).

If the leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship (Rom. 16:17).

If the church is characterized by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly (1 Cor. 5:1-7).

If unholy living is tolerated in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-11).

If the church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church (2 Thess. 3:614).

If the church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power (2 Tim. 3:5).

This is not to suggest that these are the only circumstances under which people are permitted to leave a church. There is certainly nothing wrong with moving one's membership just because another church offers better teaching or more opportunities for growth and service. But those who transfer their membership for such reasons ought to take extreme care not to sow discord or division in the church they are leaving. And such moves ought to be made sparingly. Membership in a church is a commitment that ought to be taken seriously.

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