Yeah, OK: many of you are silently rolling your eyes at me for the what-for I have given Strategem in the meta of the last post because you have a story like this one, which I received via e-mail and have doctorized to conceal the identity and particulars from the original e-mail:
I took my family to a perfectly orthodox church after I changed jobs a few years ago, as far as I could tell. The preaching was always about Scripture, -always- from some very plain-jane orthodox perspective. They were not participating in trendy marketing & ministry, and they had a viable church polity – biblical enough to be sure.I mean, what do you do with that, right?
As I say, we attended for years, faithfully, because God said to attend a local church, and I don't believe there are many excuses not to do so.
I made the effort to be supportive of the pastor. My wife and I did ministry there. We worked to connect to the families in the church and extended our hand to anyone who would shake it.
But the preaching was only safe – safe doctrine, safe exposition, safe topics, all doctrinally fine but, um, sort of under glass like pieces in a museum rather than things I could take home with me.
The church never reached back to us. The pastor/his family never showed friendship to or concern for us. The pastor would see me sitting in the parking lot with absolutely nothing to do as I waited for 90 minutes for my child's youth group to conclude, and at best he'd wave at me. Never wanted to come talk to me, with me.
Then on the recommendation of a former church member, I joined the men's fellowship st our current church. It was in this connection, that I began to see some light, and entered a new and immensely better phase of my life. Then I attended one service. The preaching was remarkably good, and had what the current pastor lacked: passion. My wife attended next, and was similarly impressed. We began coming.
When we left, I emailed the pastor, telling him we'd left, wishing him well, urging him to use his position with passion and fire for God's glory.
He never responded.
But I'm gathering from your posts that you think I did the wrong thing?
I think that, if we're going to only fish out what someone prolly did wrong, we're just a bunch of hypocrites looking for a fight – so let's first see what this person did –right-, which I think is a lot.
First, he didn’t live in his church like it was a bunker – like it was the only herd of Christians in the world, or at least his corner of the world. He had needs as a Christian man which his church didn’t fill, and he wasn't afraid to get filled by associating with other Christians even if they were under a different roof than he normally came to. That's not consumerism -- that being honest. If your church doesn't have an opportunity for you to fellowship with other believers in more than just a coffee- while- reading- LifeWay- on- Sunday kind of way, you prolly need some of that and to seek it out isn't evil. It's self-awareness. Getting Christian fellowship ought to be part of church; when church doesn't do that, seek it out with people who are Christians,
You know: like we do at this blog, except in person. It'd be OK if you knew people from other churches.
Next, he wasn't really looking for the next big thing – wasn't chasing fads or leaving one church for another, or stopping his attendance or attending irregularly because his current church was, frankly, lame. He was faithful to the church he was joined to in spite of being more than a little disappointed in its performance.
And lastly, he can make a clear case that one church was exercising the mission of the church by acting alive and the other was frankly on life-support. That is, one was living out some kind of "calling out" and the other was not really doing much at all. It was sort of the tombstone of a church, which is like the tombstone of a wife -- you can see she was there one time, but you can't be married to a tombstone. Put an appropriate, loving epitaph on it and move on.
Let me put it this way: if I was attending a church where I was teaching Sunday school and having serviceable worship on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, but I found that all my fellowship time and discipleship and real acts of public service for the sake of Christ was under the umbrella of another church, I'd seriously consider changing churches – even if I couldn’t teach at the new church. And the reasoning would be this: I am fruitlessly ministering to this body of people, and I am fruitfully ministering with these other people. My Christian life is actually a life in one circumstance, and no so much in the other.
That's not bailing due to apostasy: that's working with fellow workmen. And that, btw, is what the church is.
You could find out by being in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people this week. You can't find out by glowering at this blog and trying to nit-pick the flaws in my reasoning -- that will only give you a headache, and who wants that?