There’s been a lot of talk recently on blogs and social media about the church; more specifically on leaving the church. There are some great reasons to stay at a church through various ups and downs, but there are also some good reasons to seek fellowship elsewhere. Here are three of them:
When the church isn’t teaching or preaching the Bible.
They’re out there, lurking. Standing tall behind sturdy pulpits with designer suits and polished shoes: and they’re lying to you. We’re warned about those who seek to deceive us by Jesus himself in Matthew 7:15 and 16. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
The pastors and church leaders that twist take away from and add to scripture to fit their own personal motives. Perhaps it’s blatantly ignoring scripture. Whichever the case, we must be on guard against those teachers whose words don’t line up with scripture.
To throw out some examples, if a church teaches that there is another way to eternal life aside from Jesus Christ, leave. If a church tells you Jesus was not the Son of God, leave. If a church tells you Jesus was nothing more than a moral teacher, leave. If a church teaches that belief in Jesus will earn you material wealth, leave. If a church never talks about sin or repentance, leave. And for your basic safety, if the church pastor is dancing around holding a five foot rattlesnake, leave.
In fairness, we’ll likely all have some differences from a church in our interpretations of scripture. Some may cause us to feel the need to leave; some may be workable depending on how strongly we feel about it. Issues such as baptism methods, the roles of women in church, etc. But when there is an explicit break from the very heart of the Gospel, we need to turn and run as to not be deceived by anyone.
When your children aren’t being loved, fed, or welcomed.
There’s that kid in the back of the service. There in the last pew a snotty nosed baby bouncing on his momma’s knee; her vain attempt at keeping him calm so she can manage to take in a few crumbs of the message the preacher is delivering. Between the constant pats on his back and retrieving of his paci, the mom is scribbling scripture references under each point of the sermon outline. Alas, the soothing shushes from his mom fail, and as he begins to yell and scream in the way only small children can, mom concedes, packs her diaper bag, and leaves for home.
Annoying, isn’t it?
Kids in church. We really aren’t sure what to do with them. The boys run around shooting each other with pretend guns while the girls twirl their dresses and dance around. Can we really teach the Bible to them?
Of course we can. Not just teach the Bible, but welcome them just as Jesus did. During a time when Jesus was in the midst of teaching numerous people about marriage and divorce, some parents brought their little ones to Him. The disciples attempted to keep them away, rebuking them. Jesus would have none of that. “Jesus said ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –Matthew 19:14
Children need attention from us as church, but not because if we don’t reign them in they’ll be a distraction. Children need attention because they are the next generation of our church. They’ll be the teachers, the preachers, the elders, and the missionaries in a few decades. It’s our duty to give them a strong foundation.
And when I say it’s our duty, I mean ALL of us. Men, don’t act like child ministry is just for the moms of the church. Kids need strong male role models, and when they don’t get that at home for whatever reason, the church MUST be there to shine light into their lives. At the same time, the church can’t put people into children’s ministry just to have a warm adult body there. It does no good, and does not glorify God when we force or guilt people into serving. This happens too often in church. I’ve seen churches put some of the most unqualified people in classrooms to lead children, and the kids suffered for it.
If you’re in a church that doesn’t think your 2 year old is worthy enough to be taught verses from God’s word or prayed for, leave. If a church doesn’t have Godly men and women with warm hearts and kind spirits serving in the children’s ministry, leave if you feel uncomfortable. I have a friend in ministry who once served at a church that didn’t want to run background checks on nursery workers because they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you go to a church like that, run like hell. A church that isn’t doing everything possible to protect your little ones and welcome them like Christ did will not protect you or welcome you either.
When the pastor is just a jackass or an elephant.
Is anything more cringe worthy in church than when a pastor openly promotes a political agenda? I mean to the point where he’s all but handing out buttons after service in the foyer?
We’re in a world that’s not only divided politically at our jobs and in social circles, but in our churches. That’s an inevitable reality, but if a pastor is helping further the divide, there’s a problem.
Being a democrat in a Southern Baptist church must be difficult, as is being a republican in some more liberal church services. As leaders of the church, pastors should be focused solely on sharing the gospel of Christ and glorifying God. The pulpit is not a platform for political stump speeches; it is a platform for the beautiful message of God’s grace, one that blurs blue and red lines.
Sure there are some issues that get painted as politics, but should not be pigeon-holed as such. Abortion is not just a political issue; it is an issue of protecting human life. In that same context, ensuring the homeless and abandoned (yes, even the ones on welfare) are cared for is equally important.
If a pastor shares more quotes from Ronald Reagan than he does the Bible during a sermon, leave. If a pastor is more concerned with keeping our constitutional rights than giving up our personal rights so we may bear the cross of Christ, leave. If a pastor rips the wars in the Middle East or President Obama instead of praying for our servicemen and for our president, leave.
Leaving a church is rarely easy. Maybe you’ve gone to a church your entire life, but now you’re starting to see things that trouble you. Maybe you’re church “shopping”, and are looking for the key things that will help you decide when a place feels like home.
Ask these questions as you visit a church: do I feel the Spirit at work here? Am I welcomed? Are there areas for me to serve? Are my kids safe? Are they being taught the Bible? Does the pastor preach truth according to God’s word?
One thing that’s important to remember: church is not all about you. There will be things everywhere that aren’t exactly the way you’d like them. That’s okay. The body of Christ is not perfect, and neither are you. Fortunately the Head of the Church is, and as His children we are called to serve in His body. With prayer and wisdom, God will guide you and your family to a local church to serve in.