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Supplementary Catechism Lesson “Time to say Goodbye”?


Catechism Class. SUPPLEMENTARY EPISODE – Time to Say Goodbye?

In this podcast, I’m asking, ‘When should I leave my church, or what’s a good reason to leave a church and what’s not?’  If we were to conduct a survey about why people leave churches in Northern Ireland or even further afield, what would our survey say?

Listen to the PODCAST

  1. For the sake of the children.  I’ve heard this over and over again throughout my ministry.  ‘It’s for the sake of the children, pastor…’. But why should the most spiritually immature members of the family (well, one would hope so anyway) be able to influence the family’s worship practices?  CLICK TO READ Frankly, I consider this as a failure of parenting – it is a parent’s duty to teach their children what Christian worship is about, and to enable them to be participators in the worship.  Furthermore, the worship of the church is not about age.  It’s not about what appeals to any specific generation, it is to be honouring of God, it should be all about HIM.
  2. I don’t like the worship.  Worship wars – and that’s not just about contemporary v’s traditional either!  Although if the church is singing songs that are not full of biblical content, or have dubious links to the New Apostolic Reformation for example, that could arouse a curiosity to explore … How many people have been sucked into toxic organisations like Hillsong and Bethel Redding, by their music?
  3. Too far to travel.  That can, of course be legitimate.  Perhaps there are better ways to use the financial resources that the Lord has given you than to donate them to BP.
  4. Too many hypocrites in the church.  I know!  You’re one of them!  So am I! Ask the Pastor to read Martin Luther, and teach the doctrine of simul iustis et peccator, – we are all sinners, and we all let the Lord down.
  5. I don’t like the dress code.  That can work either way of course. Churches do have different views on what is acceptable by way of dress-code when we worship God. In Northern Ireland, until fairly recently going to church was a ‘dressing up’ occasion. Men would have a Sunday Suit, and they would wear a tie, and dress very respectfully, and the women would always have a Sunday dress and a hat.  That is no longer the case in many churches. The trends toward a more casual dress code were changing just after the turn of the century, in the 2000’s.  We are taught that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart – that is certainly so, but does God look on the outward appearance, as well as the heart? All of these deeper issues have brought discomfort to Christians and have been given as reasons to seek fellowship with Christians who are more like minded.
  6. Too much commitment. This is especially relevant to small churches.  If they had stay in their local town, and attend a local church they could use whatever talent the Lord has given them, – even just supporting the local work financially and encouraging others with their presence.   

Six commonly identified excuses, or valid reasons(?) For leaving a church.  The Reformers’ definition of a church was a place where the Word of God is properly proclaimed, and the sacraments are being rightly observed, and church discipline rightly maintained.  So, are there any legitimate reasons for leaving a church?  John MacArthur is especially helpful here, and you can find a link below. McArthur gives us some perfectly good reasons why you SHOULD leave a church…   

  • Heresy on some fundamental truth is being taught from the pulpit  In Galatians 1, Paul is totally candid about this He writes, in Gal. 1:7–9 7 He says it twice, ‘let him be accursed. Let him be ‘anathema’ – literally, – let him go to hell.  That’s fairly direct, isn’t it?  False doctrine damn souls and we should avoid it like the plague. 
  • The leaders of the church tolerate seriously errant doctrine from any who are given teaching authority in the fellowship. You see the scenario here. The church has an orthodox statement of faith, and perhaps its pastor and elders are all sound, biblical believers, but they allow visiting preachers to occupy the pulpit who are far from sound. Unbiblical teaching, seeping into the church body unchecked. (Rom. 16:17). So, what if a church leader invites a preacher with, for example, ‘oneness’ beliefs?  
  • The church is characterised by a wanton disregard for Scripture, such as a refusal to discipline members who are sinning blatantly. In Corinth, when Paul was writing, there was blatant sexual immorality, being practised among the church members. (1 Cor. 5:1–7).
  • Unholy living is tolerated in the church. This comes in many forms and Paul gives us some examples in 1 Cor. 5:9–11  
  • The church is seriously out of step with the biblical pattern for the church.  This has become a problem in more recent times, where churches have self appointed pastors and elders, where spiritual abuse has taken place, where one man has exercised unrestrained authority, without accountability. (2 Thess. 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6  2 Thess 3:14).
  • The church is marked by gross hypocrisy, giving lip service to biblical Christianity but refusing to acknowledge its true power. I can certainly think of churches very like that. (2 Tim. 3:5. 

So, six rather dubious reasons that people leave churches, – and six biblical reasons why a person SHOULD separate from a local church.  Just ‘not fitting in’ probably isn’t the issue. I probably won’t ever perfectly fit in – in any church, because thankfully, there’s not a church anywhere full of people exactly like me!  What an AWFUL thought!  There will always be an element of compromise, and reasonable acceptance of other’s people’s opinions.  But when I don’t ‘fit in’ because of of error in the church, or any of the reasons McArthur listed, then it’s probably best if I find fellowship elsewhere.

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