“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17
It is difficult to lose a loved one, especially a parent. For several years, during the time when my parents were old but still fairly healthy, the thought crossed my mind from time to time that someday in the future, I would be facing the reality of losing one of them, and then the other parent. When the day came that mom got weaker, and eventually needed nursing home care, I took another step closer to that reality that the loss was near. It helped me to recognize and accept the fact that it was going to happen, and that I must be prepared for it.
There is another type of separation which is very difficult to deal with, and that is separation from your church of many years because of false teachings. I believe more Christians are now facing this issue than ever before. In these days of apostasy all around us, pastors and other leaders are falling over each other in a rush to compromise the gospel for the latest fad, and some of them have been the most trusted and solid Christian leaders in the past. The result is that more Christians are finding it very difficult to find a church which is biblically sound.
My position is clear on this, and scripturally sound: when a church has stopped preaching and abiding by sound doctrine, and you have done all that you can to help correct that course, you have no choice but to leave that unhealthy church. And when Christians start coming to the realization that they can no longer stay with their church, it is still difficult to make that final decision that severs the ties that they have had for so long. It truly is like losing a loved one, or like getting divorced. Yet they will not feel the full impact until they have left, and will be shocked at the aftermath of their decision.
To those who are approaching this decision, I must give you some advance notice as to what will probably happen to you after you leave. Some of it is based on what happened to us, although I have had similar testimony from dozens who have written to me about having to leave. Regardless of what happens after you leave, you can know that continuing to place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ will help strengthen you in any situations you encounter.
You can expect some or all of the following:
1. Prepare to be alone. Do not expect a flood of concerned phone calls or emails from folks from your old church. This is what happened with us, and was also the same with many who have written to me. It will be as if your old friends, perhaps even relatives, never knew you existed. You will start wondering, “were these people really my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ? If so, why has not one person picked up the phone to ask why we are no longer at our church of many years?” So be ready for a really strange, inexplicable silence from most of those you thought were your closest friends in church.
2. Prepare to be labeled the cause of the problem- in the “nice” way. In the best case scenario, leaders from your former church will explain to others that you are confused, and have erred, and you need time to come to your senses before coming back into fellowship. Perhaps they will ask the church to pray for you and your family. You will become in their eyes someone to be pitied. However, do not expect that they will try to help you in any way; it will most likely only be rhetoric.
2. Prepare to be labeled the cause of the problem- in the WORST way. In the worst case scenario, the pastor and/or leaders will make sure that the church understands that you are the cause of the problem, that you were divisive, that you refused to go along with the “mission” of the church, and that you brought all this upon yourself, and no one else. If they go even further, you may actually be called out publicly as a troublemaker, sometimes from the pulpit itself, as some have testified in their letters. If you stay and fight, you may even be “disfellowshiped” and thrown out of the membership.
3. Do not obsess with convincing others. If some are willing to listen to you, and months later it seems to have had no impact on them, let it go. It is not up to you now. Speak to others who give you the opportunity, but move on after that, unless they sincerely are interested in finding the truth and hearing all sides of the matter.
4. Do not forget what church you are really a member of. You are a member of the true church of Jesus Christ, and not any one denomination. That cannot be taken away from you. Church leaders and denominational leaders will often fail, sometimes miserably, and you will feel abandoned. But the true head of the Church, Jesus Christ, never fails, and never leaves you. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29
5. Do not let your emotional ties cloud your allegiance to the Lord. Yes, there will be emotions that will toss you to and fro, and perhaps months of crying, and wondering why did it all have to happen this way? It’s not like you had to move out of state to a new job, or some other reason that is very understandable. But if there is false teaching in your church, and staying would mean compromising the truth, what choice do you really have?
6. If you have young children, you must leave even sooner. Our children are too precious, and if false teaching is in a church, rest assured it will filter down to the youngest in the church. Contemplative mysticism is being taught in the Nazarene church to young middle schoolers already. Are you willing to risk your young child or teenager’s spiritual well being and remain at your church out of some misguided loyalty, or because you will miss all your friends, the potluck dinners and the church picnics?
6. Continually pray for guidance and wisdom, stay in God’s word, and ask the Lord to help you find a solid, Bible believing church. It’s really that simple. Your spiritual health should always come first above any other reason to stay at your church. If you have exhausted all your own efforts at trying to wake up the leaders, or others in the church, then you have done all you could. You must now trust the Lord no matter what.
If you are thinking you may have to leave your church because of false teaching, may the Lord guide you, and give you wisdom, as you make your decisions. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, but it may be the only option you have left. If Jesus Christ is truly your foundation, you know that He will never leave you. He will be there for you, even when all others have betrayed you.
I have been reading a blog, www.christianlady.wordpress.com, since early 2009, and it coincided with the time that my “troubles” started. Christian Lady has been one of my favorite blogs, because I often would read a new post, and it felt like she was describing what me and what my family was going through. I post comments now and then there. For those especially going through this type of situation now, I highly recommend reading some of her posts, especially starting around February of 2009, such as this one where I left a short note: http://christianlady.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/conversations-with-broken-but-healed/.You will get a good perspective of the before and after effects of leaving a church.
Excerpt from Christian Lady on March 19, 2009
We left our church because we saw emergent creeping in. We were unsure if we were on target at first, but now I have no doubt we were right. Sometimes it’s a conversation with friends still attending, sometimes we pop into someone who left months or years ago. At any rate, the things that some say were “lies from the pit of hell” that came from our mouths are ever more proving to have not been lies.
My advice, if you have any strange little feelings that your church is “off” on biblical teaching in any way is to go to the leadership and ask questions. Be wise in how you ask, think, study, pray, pray pray. Ask them what books they recommend. Ask them what speakers they are listening to. Ask them what conferences they plan to attend. Ask their opinion about different books. Ask them what they know about this or that topic. Ask their favorite passages in scripture. Ask, ask, ask. Then, you can begin to challenge. Challenge on what they say at the pulpit, challenge on what they read, who they listen to, who they quote. If a pastor is following Christ, they likely will appreciate information that is helpful. If not, you’re going to go through a bit of trial. Pray for your friends but don’t burn bridges with them. You never know who will see what you are seeing, and who else is asking. Things are not what they seem. You might think someone is against you, but unless you hear it from their lips…or from the lips of someone you trust…don’t assume they are in agreement with the wrong teachings in your church. If you can find an ally, grab hold of them. Always pray. Offer to pray for your pastors, and really do it. Offer to pray with others who have the same doubts you do. It’s possible God may spare your church from ruin. You never know. Do what is best.