By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
No matter how much we love our church, it is inevitable to have thoughts of changing direction and scenery. We even feel this with our own house or job from time to time.
We feel disenchanted, or disengaged from our church and its members, and think the only possible solution is to search for greener pastures before watering the lawn at our home church.
However, there are good reasons to change your church status to “looking.”
We are not referring here to the eloquence of the current pastor or his inability to paint a spiritual picture like David in the Book Psalms.
We judge the faithfulness of a lay believer by his fruits. Our spiritual leaders should be no different.
Matthew 7:15-17 tells the church to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” If the pastor is serving his own interests instead of the good of his sheep, it is time to start looking.
Some pastors make it a point to put their own personal matters within next week’s sermon in order to make a point to a particular party. Other pastors will use the pulpit as a place to offer a stump speech for their own personal political candidate. Ill-prepared pastors might opt to regularly recycle old sermons when they haven’t found tim to prepare for this week’s sermon.
Substantively, the congregation needs to be a “learned” and educated people to discern the truth of what the pastor is preaching. If the pastor is solely dependent on anything other than the Bible, odds are he is straying away from the Bible. The pulpit is not the place to float Biblically unfounded theories or ideas. Further, the pure pastor will not preach what he does not believe. Many times these Pastors pretext one of these with “I don’t believe this, but...”.
In Malachi 3:18, the prophets stated, “then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Godly preachers boldly declare the gospel because it is where he receives power, not only a paycheck.
"Careless teaching” as justification to look for a new church, doesn’t refer to an unengaging style or format; rather, it refers to the principles being taught. Paul had these worries in 1 Timothy 1:3-4. He warned, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.”
In 2 John 1:10-11, the warning went even further by stating, “if anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”
The teachers within the church, just as the pastor, should stay away from theories which are not supported Biblically. Further, it is time to find a new church if it subscribes to any other avenue to salvation other than faith in Jesus Christ.
The church’s teachers should also be able to teach a lesson without the need of an organized Sunday School booklet.
This is not to say the books are not helpful or should not be used, but the teacher needs to have sufficient Biblical knowledge to discern for himself or herself. Many times the topics and issue arise within a Sunday School class or other Bible study group which require the teacher to have a minimum level or Biblical understand. For example, every teacher should be able to lead an individual to salvation using the Bible and explain why his or her denomination believes a certain way.
Martin Luther declared, “next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Yet, just as for preaching and teaching in church, some songs are not proclaiming the redeeming ability of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul in Philippians 4:8 outlined the standard when he instructed, “finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Jesus should be our focus when we worship in song. The singer and music are merely God’s instruments. They are not be praised or glorified. If we are in the need to boast, 1 Corinthians 1:31 tell us to “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The pillar of every Bible-believing and God-fearing church is Jesus Christ. Paul preached to the church at Galatians 1:7-8 and iterated that there is no other gospel other than through the grace of Christ because “there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
He went further in 1 Timothy 3:15 when speaking about the godliness of the church by clarifying “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Every worship service and each activity sponsored by the church should be centered on Jesus Christ.
Too Much ‘Religion.’
A church can become too preoccupied with the establishment of religion and less concerned about the preaching about the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ. “Religious” churches cannot function without the set itinerary of the prescribed song, announcements, song, offering, prayer, preaching, invitations schedule. Yes, a church service should be start on time and be well organized, but a “spirit-led” church allows for an occasional divergence.
2 Timothy 3:5 warns of those who “have the appearance of godliness, but [deny] its power. Avoid such people.” A church can have crosses at every corner and follow the prescribed plan for a Sunday School service, yet be dead spiritually.
Too much religion kills the spirituality of the church. It becomes accustomed to a rigid schedule and the worship service becomes a something of a learned habit.
These churches do not welcome the presence or freedom given by the Holy Spirit.
This reason to look for a new church has nothing to do with the required clothing attire for those attending services. Churches who are lax on the ordinance of baptism and the participation of the Lord’s Supper are not Bible-based.
Believers are commanded to be baptized upon the spiritual immersion of the Holy Spirit following salvation. The church has this responsibility. Also, if a church believes in the sanctity and power of communion, it should set aside its observance regularly.
In Matthew 28:19, an integral part of the Great Commission is to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Additionally, the church is the central place in which Christians observe the Lord’s Supper.
Remember, no church is perfect.
Church should strive to be integral part of the community not only for its members but also those who are visiting. Any church has imperfections just as the community as a whole. I have always heard, “if you find the perfect church, don’t go to it because you’ll ruin it!” We are all on different spiritual levels and striving to attain higher levels together will improve the church as a whole with perseverance.
Leaving a church is not an easy decision. It is comparable to leaving a family because we have laughed together, cried together and shared God’s grace together. The decision to look for a new church should not be taken lightly and should be decided after much prayer.
If a decision to leave is made, it should be done quietly to minimize any hurt feelings. There are no perfect churches or perfect humans, only a perfect God! All of us desire to find a church home that is grace-filled and a pathway toward truth that feels Biblical and wholesome to you and your family.
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.
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