Thursday, July 2, 2009

Blog Link-When Should You Leave A Church?

I recently read part two of an article titled "When Should a Christian Leave a Church?" I would say that the majority of the time when people leave a church it is for no good reason. Having a spat about what color to paint the new nursery, why someone didn't eat your gooseberry cobbler (which is HIGHLY overrated anyway), or how the preacher looked at you when you were coming in the door (nevermind that he was trying to see who it was in the glare of the sun) would not be reasons for someone to leave a church. If you or someone you know are in a church, however, where the leadership exists with no accountability and they pick and choose which parts of the Bible apply, I would say "Get out!!" Churches with hyper-authoritarian leaders often wound people spiritually, as the author writes below:

How many sincere sheep do you know who "have been scattered" because of the tyranny of pastors and elders? How many sincere believers do you know who have been "afraid and terrified" even to speak what was in their hearts for fear of the elder's discipline? How many husbands and wives have been alienated in their affections from each other because of the intrusion of the church or elder into their relationship with each other. Many of you who read these lines have seen in practice what the following verse describes:

"The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly." (Jeremiah 10:23)

I would pray to God that some of the preachers who have split churches over the issue of "elder authority" would ponder Ezekiel 34. Usually when people are run out of a church for refusing to obey the "duly authorized elders" (which, interpreted, means refusing to sell your conscience in "unquestioning obedience" to the eldership), they are never visited personally by the pastor. They are not contacted in any manner except to be informed in a "duly authorized" letter that quotes a lot of verses (mostly out of context) and then informs the "rebel" that he has been "duly" excommunicated from the church, or cult, as the case may be. Sometimes, not too often, the rebel is told that the elders are willing to consider receiving him back as soon as he will genuinely repent, which of course means, kiss the pope's ring in submission.

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourself with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock." (Ezekiel 24:2, 3)

If you were a pastor whose church was sacrificing to pay you close to $50,000 a year in salary and benefits and putting less than $1,000 a year into any kind of mission work, how should you feel when you read the above words from Ezekiel? (By the way, if you ever have an elder board tell you "We can't pay him [the senior pastor] enough", that is not the case. The IRS has rules regarding non-profits and how much they can pay those that work there. Yes, a church falls under those rules as well. Romans 13:1 says that we are supposed to submit ourselves to the governing authorities and that means we have to follow the IRS's rules and regulations. As an outlandish example, a church which paid 50% of it's annual revenue as the pastor's salary would probably have an auditor asking "Ok, where does he keep the incriminating photos he has of the other elders". See here and here [pg 5].)

"You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back strays or searched for the lost. You ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered...." (Ezekiel 34:4, 5)

If you are a pastor who has driven families out of your congregation only because they dared to disagree with you, and you have never visited one of them to try to resolve the difficulty, who do you think God is talking about in Ezekiel 34:2-5?

Many who read this will say, "none of those things could ever happen in my church." You may be surprised! If you have a truly Godly pastor, these things will not happen regardless of how wrong your view of Elder authority may be. However, if your system is that held by many Reformed Baptists, you have a ready made situation for these same things to happen in your church at a later date with another pastor.

A good man in a bad system will not misuse his authority. A good system can deal with a bad man and get rid of him. A bad man in a bad system is an untouchable pope simply because he is protected by the system. He may be the worst of tyrants, but nothing can be done by anyone. A sincere sheep has only one option in such a case.

When one of these sheep finally gets enough courage to leave such a church, or in one writer's words, "...with a sigh of relief some sheep escape such ministries," I guarantee you that God does not view this "escape" as rebellion against His "duly authorized church." He views it as a refusal by a sheep to follow a false shepherd. When a child of God flees from that kind of tyranny, he is being obedient to the voice of his one true Shepherd and he is rejecting the authority of a false prophet.

If you find yourself in this kind of church, know that you have God's blessing in leaving it. Get out!! Feel the FREEDOM!!


Jackie said...

And the truth shall set you free! I read another blog post that said "when someone comes out of a spiritually abusive situation and breaks through -- only to have others, never in it, assume that they are as guilty as the perpetrators, that they have encountered just a difference of opinion and overreacted." I think you end up not wanting to bring it up(ie. with a pastor of another church or anyone)because you don't want the ugliness and hurt to follow you or have others look at you like well what did you do or where is your sin in all of this?. You want to be obedient to Him that called you out of the abusive situation not be persecuted further for the actions of others. Thankfully I have been blessed by a group of friends that helped me through my time but I am sure there are others that are still "adrift" wondering do I even put myself out there again? I encourage just be faithful to God and HE WILL keep His promises to you!! He didn't forsake you to the abusive church and He will not forsake you ever!!
"Praise be to GOD for He is my refuge, my tower, my strength."

Joe Blackmon said...

I know people can feel hopeless but there is hope in Jesus Christ. I pray if anyone is in a situation like what the author described here they will realize they, too, can FEEL THE FREEDOM!!!!

St.Lee said...

If I could just chime in on this issue ....I have gone through this personally, and here is a word of encouragement to anyone who may be going through it now. It is God's doing. He has a greater purpose in it. It may put you into the depths of despair, but it is God teaching you. It is likely that it will cause you to doubt your very salvation! On the back side you will be able to much better understand so many of the Psalms where David cries out to God from the pit. Finally John Bunyan's "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" will make total sense to you. And on the back side, you will be able to see how God put you in that situation to teach you and prepare you for service in the Church he will move you to. Truly "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Joe Blackmon said...


Thank you so much. Your words are such an encouragement to me, sir.