Reasons Why I Never Leave A Church

Have you ever felt tempted to leave a church?  I know I sure have.

My guess is that there are probably pretty good chances that you've been part of a church where you and/or your family were personally hurt by somebody else in the congregation, perhaps even by one of the pastors.  Or, you've been part of a church where there were numerous practical and theological "problems" that abounded. Or, maybe you've even been part of a church that has rejected you in some way from ministering, and where you feel that your gifts and talents aren't being put to good use, and that you were stifled in some way.  Maybe you've even felt that you just aren't getting fed.

And, for all these reasons and more, people leave churches that they've been in someway committed to every single day.

I can personally relate.  Having been a part of several different churches since I became a Christian, and having been involved in just about every ministry of the church at some point in time, I've pretty much seen and experienced it all.  Heck, Lord only knows that I've even been the source of some sour problems within a church.

God help us all!

Yet, with all the things I've seen and experienced over the years, I personally feel like I've never experienced any legitimate reason for leaving a church.  That's not to say I've never left a church and moved on to somewhere else.  I certainly have.  And I don't deny, there may be some very legitimate reasons why one should leave a church.

But, personally speaking, when I left a church and went somewhere else, I never left for any of the reasons people typically give for leaving a church.  Anytime I have moved onto another church, it was for one reason, and one reason alone:  I felt my time there was simply done, and that the Lord needed me to be somewhere else for another season in my life.

Have I been abused by leaders in the church?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I been part of churches whose theology was a little bit off, and that I disagreed with some of the things said from the pulpit, or by other ministers in the church?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I been part of churches that, for one reason or another, didn't allow me to minister in some official capacity?  Yes, I'm experiencing that even now at my current church!

But, are these valid reasons in which to leave a church?

Absolutely not.

When I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but notice that life in the early church wasn't without some serious problems.  While we have this tendency to read the New Testament with rose-colored glasses, and to see it as something glorious, the truth of the matter is that life in the New Testament church was fret with all sorts of awful problems.  Most of the New Testament was written in response to the ever present problems and challenges that congregations were facing.

For example, in Corinth, the church had deep sexual problems.  One guy was sleeping with his step mother.  Other men appear to have been visiting idolatrous temple prostitutes.  Marriages were in disarray.  Church services were full of mass chaos, and people were fighting for prominent ministry positions.  The poor were being neglected.  Church members were getting drunk at the church pot-luck.   There were a lot of cliques, and factions were threatening to destroy the unity of church.  The church even came under the sway of some so-called "Super Apostles," that showed up out of nowhere and threatened to lead the church into heresy.

Needless to say, there were some serious problems at the Church of Corinth.  And we've not even talked about other churches, like in Galatia, where some members of the church were insisting that converts to Christianity needed to get circumcised.

I'm sorry, and I don't say this to be crass, but when was the last time you went to a church that was overly interested in whether or not your penis had a foreskin or not?  I venture to say, while I've seen some awful junk in the church over the years, and I am guessing you have too, none of us have probably ever been to a church that cared about how your boxers were filled out.

Yet for all this hostility and all these problems, I've yet to find a single verse of Scripture in which the apostles ever instructed other Christians to leave the church they were a part of.  

At best, the apostles instructed Christians to avoid interacting and having fellowship with people who were particularly egregious in their theology and lifestyles.  But even in all that, they never, ever suggested that somebody actually leave their church.

Instead, the apostles called upon each church to work together to resolve the difficulties they were having.  They encouraged those in the church to love one another, forgive one another, and to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit, at all costs.

Of course, these things aren't just difficult to do, they are hard things to do!  It's hard to press on when you see things that grieve you.  It's hard to press on when you or your family get insulted or hurt in the process.  It is hard to deal with all of these things that often make the church anything but the source of joy that we feel it ought to be.

But such is ultimately the cross we are called to pickup and endure.  But in embracing the cross, we open up ourselves to the opportunity to be transformed into the person that God wants us to ultimately be.  And I don't think we can become that, unless we embrace the church, with all her faults, and with all her problems.  As the late Art Katz used to say, before the church can be a source of life to us, it must become a place of death.  The cross always precedes the resurrection in the ways of God.

If you feel tempted to leave your church right now, I would encourage you to stay a little bit longer.  Endure yet another season of whatever trials you feel you are going through.  Wait on God, and see what He is yet up to in your very midst.  You may only be three days away from a resurrection event.

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