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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, August 10, 2007

When NOT to Leave a Church

I wish to continue my discussion I began the other day addressing the question of, When should a person leave a church?

It is a question I am asked every once in a while by emailers or acquaintances. I believe it is an important question to consider especially for a sober-minded Christian who loves the Lord and His people. A committed Christian will want to be a part of a thriving, God-honoring congregation, and if he is part of a church that is not thriving, nor God-honoring, the question of when to leave and attend elsewhere needs to be considered.

Equally important is considering the question: When NOT to leave a church? If a person is seriously thinking of leaving his church, he should make sure it is for the right reasons. I appreciate Hayden's comments under my first post on this subject. Commitment to a local church should be as significant as being married. You have made a personal commitment to an individual to remain faithful to him or her regardless of trials. Why shouldn't we have the same perspective as to our commitment to our local churches? This church may have made a significant spiritual investment in you and now you are wishing to leave your "home" and go elsewhere? Not without sound reason.

I will take up the question of when NOT to leave a church with this post, and discuss the question of leaving in the next. Again, my thoughts are by no means infallible, nor are they exhaustive. I will offer five points. I am sure they could be improved upon.

- You don't leave a church because of the music. In other words, if the music is old fashioned, or boring, or not contemporary enough, or too contemporary, and not old fashioned enough. My words here may rub some readers wrong because I know there are some passionate opinions about music and music styles in worship, but entertaining a preference disagreement with the music style is not good grounds to abandon a church. If the music compliments the service well and the songs are biblically sound and honor God, a person should look past the occasional singing of a contemporary version of And Can it Be? with drums and an electric guitar.

- You don't leave a church because you think the preaching is boring or doesn't meet your needs. The concept of boring preaching is subjective. Even the best preachers can be boring sometimes, but even that doesn't mean the pastor is a bad preacher. There is a big difference between boring and bad. Boring may have to do with ability, where as bad impacts ones doctrine and theology. Boring will receive constructive criticism.

- You don't leave a church because of petty, interpersonal disagreements with other members. Sadly, this happens a lot, however, if you happen to feel offended because the pastor dismisses your ideas about the youth night activities, or your wife's idea for songs for the Easter sunrise service, that is not grounds to leave your church.

- You don't leave a church when the old pastor leaves and the new one arrives. Inevitably, people will leave when a church transitions with a new pastor. Everyone just loved the old pastor, and in their minds, no one can ever replace him. But, I believe it honors the work of his former ministry when the people he pastored for so long are accepting toward the new pastor with grace, love, humility and submission.

- You don't leave a church if it is too small or doesn't have "big" ministries to kids, teens, or adults. Activities and programs can supplement the life of a church, but they shouldn't be the focus of why a person attends a church. Also, people have a tendency to perceive a small church as having something wrong with it. "If it were good, more people would come" or so goes the idea. But there may be nothing wrong at all with this small church and "smallness" has its advantages, such as a closer knit group of members and more opportunities for personal service.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Jason E. Robertson said...

Fred, good post. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to pastor in this consumer-driven culture. I recently had a man in our church who let his teenage son leave our church to go to another church because the boy's girlfriend was at the other church. The man's wife then pressured him to go to church with his son because a family should worship together. So eventually the man decided to follow his son to the other church. What tha....

I find myself angry with such losers. Pray for me.

5:10 PM, August 10, 2007  
Blogger Hayden said...

Jason,

I echo your comments. The same thing happened with me in Michigan. The only difference is that it was the daughter that wanted a different church and the family followed.

All,
It is difficult to pastor when we have a "buffet line" approach to church. If we are looking to attend or pastor the perfect church we will never be satisfied with the growth that the Lord is doing in our midst!

I tell people that they ought to plug into the church that they are a part of and commit to it like they would if it was teh last church on earth. We must passionately love His church, and a way to do that is to love teh local church.

9:00 AM, August 11, 2007  
Blogger Kent Brandenburg said...

You make some good points here. Many.

Soundly Biblical music? You mean just words, right?

2:12 PM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Words primarily, but sound biblical music should also be played with skill and be appropriate to the lyrics it is presenting. A wide variety of instruments can be utilized for that purpose.

Fred

5:38 AM, August 15, 2007  
Blogger Kent Brandenburg said...

Are any God honoring lyrics compatible with worldliness, fleshliness, or rebellion? Can music itself, separate from the words, be worldly, fleshly, or rebellious? If music is worship, and the church presents God something He explicitly says that He doesn't want, is that false worship? Is false worship a separating issue?

11:13 AM, August 15, 2007  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Kent,
I want to define, at least according to scripture, what is exactly fleshly or rebellious, as it concerns music and music styles.

I don't believe music is intrinsically worldly. It is how the person playing the music intends for the music to be understood and conveyed. I don't believe a fast paced song with a good beat is sinful just because it is fast paced and has a good beat. It is worldly and sinful when the music is intended to promote some sort of wickedness clearly marked out in scripture as wicked.

The Psalms calls God's people to worship him with a variety of musical instruments, and I would infer that implies music genre as well. I guess I would have to see some instances recorded in scripture where God rejects music and music style because the very music and music style was something he doesn't want.

12:49 PM, August 17, 2007  

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