Question:

Good morning, Mr. Jeffrey!

My husband and I have decided to switch our church membership to another local body of believers.

God says that He places each member how He sees fit (I Corinthians 12:18), but I cannot find a biblical reference to how God moves people to different churches after they joined their original church family. Obviously, when a family moves away and it is too far to drive, they must then find a new church home. But that is not our situation. The reason for leaving is not about a disagreement over doctrine but primarily over the direction in which our original church is going. There have been many changes that my husband and I disagree with and that we have seen over the last few years that have been a stumbling block to both our spiritual lives. We could survive there, but we are not thriving as we had been.

Here are my questions:

  • Are there any Biblical texts or principles that we could use to help us honor God with this decision?
  • How does God view leaving a church family and how does He view joining a church family?

Thank you for your time!
God bless you and your ministry!

Answer:

I'm a bit confused because you state that the reason you are changing congregations is not due to doctrinal issues, but at the same time you said that the decisions of the current congregation are placing stumbling blocks before you and your husband. Those statements seem contradictory.

In the New Testament time, you did not find multiple congregations in a region. Towns and cities had one church, so a person changed congregations if they found themselves in a different location.

There are regions where you might find that you have a choice of congregations to join. But if you are looking for the perfect group, you won't find one. Not one congregation is without flaws, problems, and irritations. The members in that congregation are too old. The members of this congregation are too young. There are too many hypocrites. The people are too apathetic. The preacher is not dynamic enough. The preacher shouts too much. The list of reasons for changing congregations is endless.

Consider the seven churches of Asia. They represent all of the Lord’s churches.

  • Ephesus has diligent workers, but they lack love.
  • Smyrna is poor and suffers heavy persecutions. Some are told they would soon be facing prison.
  • Pergamos is located in a bad section of town. In fact, Jesus describes it as the location of Satan’s throne. Some have been killed for their faith, but others are compromising the truth -- falling into sins, such as fornication, idolatry, and false teachings.
  • Thyatira is known for its many good works, but it allows a false woman teacher to serve in their midst. She has even led some of the members into committing fornication.
  • Sardis looks active on the surface, but it is basically dead. They were once a strong congregation, but no more. However, there are a few strong members still in Sardis.
  • Philadelphia is spiritually weak, but has a number of opportunities and remains faithful to God.
  • Laodicea is a wealthy congregation, but it is spiritually so-so. The members are so full of their own greatness that they cannot see the things they are lacking.

Which church would you and your family join? You see there is no perfect church. Each one has problems. The problems differ, but none will allow a person to just drift into heaven. My point is that church hopping doesn’t solve a single problem. You just exchange one set of problems for another.

Still, there are times when remaining with a congregation might be detrimental to your own spiritual health. If a church is advocating false doctrine and makes it clear that they won't be changing, then it is probably time to find a more faithful group to worship with. But too often what I see are people who allow personal preferences to get in the way. I've heard of two congregations where people threatened to leave if a preacher was invited to come because his wife wore a head covering. Another congregation had someone threatened to leave if they hired a preacher who had exposed a major problem in another country decades prior because a friend of theirs was a part of the scandal. In still another congregation, a family threatened to leave if someone was appointed as an elder, but they could not offer a scriptural reason why the man was not qualified. In yet another case, people left a congregation because they didn't like the building and its location. In every case, no offers of discussing the issues were made or figuring out how they could work together. Their minds were made up.

If there is a problem in the local church, the question should be how to build up the church so it becomes what God wants and not a discussion about tearing it apart. "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands" (Proverbs 14:1). Only if a church refuses to stay faithful to the Lord should a serious discussion of possibly needing to move your place of attendance be made.

Response:

Thank you for responding to my question! I can tell that you put thought and effort into it.

The stumbling block that I was referring to was that we lost respect and trust for some of the leadership in our previous church due to the directional change that they had implemented. We noticed that we were not able to receive the Word of God through their teaching and lifestyle the way that we once could. We were not able to receive the "message" because of how we were relating to the "messengers."

Thank you for taking my original questions seriously. I know that I must grow into a more mature Christian. I know that because of my immature faith I contributed to this problem and sin.

Thank you for being gracious in your previous response. I have seen that you are not afraid to rebuke immaturity.

God bless you, your family, and your ministry.

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