Monday, November 21, 2011

When to Leave a Church, Part II

Last week, I addressed some issues that were occuring locally and some warning signs on when it might be time to move on and find a different congregration. Although this seems to becoming a more common thing nowadays (and I'm sure we can all come up with our own lists of legitimate reasons to leave a congregration), this week I wanted to point out a couple of issues that seem to be contributing to these issues.

First off, some context. In I Corinthians 3, Paul talks about divisions that were already coming into the church back then. In other words, as Solomon once wrote "there is nothing new under the sun," (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Even in the Corinthian church, there were many obstacles to overcome such as the numerous gods and goddesses that were previously worshipped in the region. Funny how some things are coming full circle now.

In this instance, however, I'm seeing a couple trends that preceeded some of the unusual issues I mentioned last week. The biggest one by far is biblical illiteracy. With the abundance of reading devices, access to the internet, endless Bible study availability, this is actually surprising. Yet time and again I find it amazing how few people "do their homework" when examining a new set of teachings...including the pastors/preachers themselves. Maybe it is due to the excessively busy lifestyles that Americans tend to lead nowadays.

Another piece to this puzzle also seems to be what I wrote about in this post. Why is it that so many people can power their way through 1,000 page novels or non-fiction books in a matter of days but can't even read a chapter a week out of their Bible? They'll even go so far as to read books about the Bible, but seriously struggle with day-to-day or even weekly reading of the Word on their own time. Again, with the abundance of resources and Bible translations out there, I find this amazing. While it is true that not all are called to teach out of the Word, basic reading seems to be an incredible struggle.

The other potential factor here is that we may be in the End Times. There is lots of commentary on either side of this issue, but some relevant verses here can be found in Matthew 24 and in II Thessalonians. Both speak of a falling away before Christ returns, which is in sharp contrast to some of the current teachings making their rounds that try to promote a theology that "God is powerless" unless we act (or get out of the way) and that we (the church) are the ones who will bring about Christ's second coming. Again...this goes back to basic knowledge of a handful of Bible verses.

Ultimately, whether an individual or a family decides to move on from a church due to heretical teachings is a personal decision. A case can be made to try to "hang in there" and stand on the Word in the hopes that others will listen. At some point, however, it may be time to walk away and move on to work with those who will listen.

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