Leaving a Church Well (Post #1)

While it might seem odd for a Pastor to write a blog titled “Leaving a Church Well,” I for one think the subject has been ignored long enough!  Sadly, I have seen too many members (now former members) of the church I pastor leave poorly.  Even those who have said they were trying to leave the right way seemed to have butchered it somehow.  It’s saddening and sometimes maddening.

Last month I read a little book study by Earl Blackburn titled Jesus Loves the Church And So Should You.  I really wish every member of every evangelical church would read it.  The book is a treasure trove of practical biblical instruction on all things church.  To say this book is sorely needed, even among the members of the church I pastor, is an understatement.  Chapter 17 is titled “When is it Right to Leave a Church and How Should it be Done?”

Practical to the core.

Blackburn writes, “To leave a church in a godly manner means to depart correctly (for the right reasons) through proper resignation of membership.”

Lots in that one sentence.  Over the next few blog entries, I plan to present some of Blackburn’s points for us to ponder.  For starters, he asserts there are only a few biblical grounds for a person to leave a church.  I have argued this for years, only to be ignored by people refusing to engage with the biblical texts I have asked them to submit themselves to while considering whether they have good warrant to leave.

For Blackburn, here are the biblical reasons to leave a church:

  1. when a church departs from the gospel and the preaching thereof;
  2. when a church embraces and teaches heresy;
  3. when a church tolerates open and scandalous sin in the church leadership or membership and refuses to deal with it via biblical church discipline;
  4. when a church changes doctrinal positions not consistent with the church’s original Confession of Faith, doctrines, or practices (e.g., becoming paedobaptistic or charismatic);
  5. when a member (who is not under discipline) changes his major doctrinal position from that of his church;
  6. when a member is providentially moved to another location far away from his or her present church.

And there you have it.  I think he nailed it.  I have frequently told people that there are only about five reasons I would leave a church family.  Blackburn’s list closely mirrors my own.  And yet, the vast majority of members leaving churches in our culture do so for reasons other than those listed above.

Our view of the church matters greatly, friends!  And whether we stay or leave, and how we leave if we do leave, speaks volumes about our relationship to Christ and His people.  And those two things are always connected at the hip!

Next week, we’ll chew on some reasons NOT to leave a church.

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A decade or more ago, I swore I would never read another book on leadership.  As an undergraduate I readsomany I thought my head would explode.  Then, as an Officer in the Marine Corps I read even more to the point of insanity!  I was sick of reading about it.  I just wanted to do it.  So I swore off leadership books.

Never say never.

To graduate seminary I had to take a Course on Leadership.  Poetic justice, I guess.  So after the course, I swore again to never read another book on leadership.

Never say never.

For many months now, a book has just been sitting on a table in my living room.  I have no idea where it came from, and my wife says she doesn’t know either!  I finally got tired of looking at it and cracked it open.

Manna from heaven!

Leadership as an Identity by Crawford Loritts, Jr. is the best book on leadership (from a spiritual perspective) that I have ever read.  And I’ve read tons of ’em.  Let me share some of his words of wisdom with you from the final chapter of the book.  The Chapter is titled “The Legacy of Faithfulness.

Intelligence and ability will only get you so far.  Faithfulness will carry you across the finish line . . . A faithful person is one who steadily follows God and obeys Him consistently.  Faithfulness is the stuff of stability, the evidence of purpose, the signature of commitment.  Faithfulness demonstrates that we take responsibility and accountability seriously.  Faithfulness says that we believe that God’s assignments are important.

If you desire to serve God long term . . . if you want your life to count . . . if you want to leave a legacy with your children and with the people you serve as a leader . . . you will pursue faithfulness in your life.

One day out of curiosity my friend asked his dad why he never needed an alarm, and the father’s response was priceless: ‘Responsibility woke me up every morning!’  He had a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, and a future to secure.  Responsibility told laziness, ‘Take your hands off him.  It’s time for him to get up and get after it!’

It is what you decide to do when the daily alarm clock of responsibility goes off that makes the difference.  Will you shut if off and roll over and go back to sleep?  Or will you get up and greet it with gratitude and holy ambition?

Here’s what I have learned: Distractions can cause you to be faithful about the wrong stuff.

God’s leaders who are faithful can’t help but bring a sense of holy gravitas [weight and substance] to their environment.  ‘Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord’ (Colossians 1:10).  When we do God’s will, our lives are characterized by a worthy ‘walk.’  Our faithful obedience to His will . . . ensures that God’s unique presence will be with us.

So, where are you being tempted to be faithless or unfaithful?  Marriage?  Family? Parenting?  Work?  School?  Friendships?  Small groups?  Bible study and memorization?  Worship attendance?  Evangelism and discipleship?  Accountability for your life?  

God give us courage to be faithful.  Make us faithful servants of Christ, O Holy Spirit God!  May we be those who are not just counted as church members, but those who can be counted on.        

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Before Posting to Social Media . . .

I’ve been listening every week for a few months now to podcasts from 9Marks and Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  They are a real blessing, especially in helping Pastors and Leaders think biblically about all things “church.”  The most recent episode, for example, was titled “How to Leave Your Church Well.”  Boy, is that ever needed in the church of America!  I’ll probably have more to write on that topic in weeks ahead, but for now, I want to share some lessons from the podcast of several weeks ago.

Pastor Mark Dever, in a recent sermon, made application of a text by giving his listeners Twelve Questions to Ask Before Posting to Social Media.

  1. Will it edify?
  2. Will it be easily misunderstood?
  3. Will it reach the right audience?
  4. Will it help my evangelism?
  5. Will it bring about unnecessary controversy?
  6. Will it embarrass or offend?
  7. Will it convey care?
  8. Will it make people better appreciate someone else?
  9. Is it boasting or boastful?
  10. Is its tone appropriate?
  11. Is it wrong on this particular topic to say nothing?
  12. What do other spiritually mature people say or advise?
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The Grandness of Grandparenting

Now this is the commandment, the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them . . . that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged (Deuteronomy 6:1-2).

God undoubtedly desires His people to keep a trans-generational perspective.  The Lord delights in His people teaching His Word to their children, so that they may teach their children, and so on.  And God loves to see redeemed Grandparents bouncing grandbabies on their knees while singing, “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.”  Our Lord is faithful across the generations.  And our aim should be to see His grace produce trans-generational faithfulness in our own families.  

While I am not yet a grandparent, and do not anticipate being one for several more years, I do pastor many grandparents.  I enjoy watching them with their grandchildren.  It is a visual reminder of God’s goodness.  But grandparenting in our culture has become far more complicated than in previous generations.  We have some grandparents in our congregation who have had to take it upon themselves to raise their grandchildren full-time.  They’re essentially parenting all over again.  I commend them for stepping up and standing in the gap with the souls of their grandchildren on the line.  And we have grandparents who “watch” their grandchildren several days a week.  In many ways, they too are raising those children.  It’s easy for pastors to get so focused on the parents and young couples in a church that we forget the grandparents.  So, for what my thoughts are worth, I offer a few practical pointers to all you precious parents that are “grand.”

  • If you are actually functioning as a full-time parent, you need to ask for God’s grace to transition from the role of grandparent to parent.  Not easy.  But essential.  There are significant differences in the parent-child relationship and the grandparent-grandchild relationship.  To effectively parent, you need to be a parent.  
  • If you are parenting as a grandparent due to some kind of brokenness in the biological parent (your child), then study up on biblical forgiveness and seek grace for kindness and patience.  Speaking ill of your grandchild’s parent in front of the child is disastrous.  Avoid it!  And gently urge the parent (your child) to get whatever help he or she needs.  The goal should be, if at all possible, to see the parent and child fully restored.  
  • Do not enable grown children to live in sin or indulge a sinful lifestyle.  Paying for biblical counseling for the grown child – yes!  Giving cash to the grown child battling addictions – no!  Helping buy school supplies for the grandchild – yes!  Allowing the grown child to give herself consistently to sin under your roof – no!
  • If the situation with the parents is desperate and not reconcilable in the long-term, pursue legal custody of the grandchild(ren).  This makes so many things simpler on you if you find yourself functioning as a parent.
  • If you provide regular childcare to your grandchildren, do not do it for free.  I know this sounds harsh to some, but I do not believe you are doing your children any real favors by serving as a free, permanent childcare solution.  Charge them half what they would have to pay an actual daycare.  This at least forces responsibility back where it belongs – on the parents.  You can always put the earnings into your grandchild’s college fund!  
  • Do not agree to provide regular childcare for your grandchildren without asking the parents some hard questions.  Like, “Why do you need this childcare?”  And, “Have you downgraded your lifestyles in order to do everything possible to allow mom to stay home with the children?”  And, “Let me see your budget.”  Far too often in our culture parents are simply taking advantage of grandparents in order to maintain a certain standard of living.  And the problem exists as much inside the church as outside!
  • Do take every opportunity to laugh and frolic with your grandchildren!  You never know how many more opportunities to do so the Lord will give you.  
  • Do teach your grandchildren the Gospel.  Read the Bible to them.  Read gospel-centered books to them.  Christian bookstores are stocked with shelf after shelf of great biblical children’s books now!  
  • Pray over your grandchild.  Pray blessings on their heads.  Pray with your grandchild.  Teach them to pray and relish the precious words they utter to God.  When they pray something amazing or just cute, write it in a journal.  You’ll enjoy the memories and smile each time you read the journal entry.  In today’s world, you might even film some of your prayer times or fun times with them on your phone.   
  • Use technology to stay in touch with grandchildren.  For those separated by distance, there really is no excuse today for not still being connected to your grandchildren’s lives.  
  • Find out what your grandchildren enjoy and encourage and support them.  I’ve seen 8-year old boys verifiably giddy just because grandpa showed up to their baseball game.  As long as God gives you the health, get out there and enjoy life with those grandbabies!

Well, that’s enough to keep us busy for a while.  When it comes to matters of parents and grandparents in the church, my strong desire is to see parents working hard by God’s grace to allow grandparents to just be grandparents.  That will bless families across generational lines in ways we cannot imagine.  In some ways, many of the above tips pain me to write.  I wish they were not so needed.  May God restore peace and gospel wholeness to our families.  May the Lord give us a revival of Psalm 78:1-8 families.  For the sake of Christ, and the joy of all you parents who are GRAND!           


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Ten Years of Gospel Unity!

On Sunday, March 12th, 2017 we (Corydon Baptist Church) celebrated our 10th Anniversary!  The history of CBC is unique.  In 1994, First Baptist Church of Corydon had an ugly split that resulted in a group leaving and forming Cross of Calvary Baptist Church.  But in 2007, by a mighty act of God’s grace and power, those two churches reunified under the banner of Corydon Baptist Church!  We pray that our unique history will become commonplace, as churches that were once at odds lay down their offenses at the Cross and unite for the sake of God’s glory in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

To open the celebration this past Sunday, I read John 17, and spoke these words:

We gather here today to celebrate!  We celebrate Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  We celebrate God the Father who sent Him to us.  We celebrate God the Holy Spirit who imparts His eternal life to us.  We celebrate the Triune God.  He is a Tri-Unity.  And we celebrate unity.  True unity.  Not unity that the world celebrates.  But unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

By God’s Grace, Ten Years ago, two churches that had once been at odds made a decision.  To honor God and His Gospel above all.  Above all other differences.  Above all other preferences.  Above all other offenses.  And Corydon Baptist Church was born!  It was Gospel Unity birthed in hearts by the Holy Spirit that brought this church into being.  And it is the Gospel which unites us still.

The Gospel of a Holy, Sovereign, Righteous, Just and Loving Creator God.

The Gospel of unholy, sinful, rebellious, fallen man. 

The Gospel of mankind helplessly and rightly condemned by God and spiritually dead before God. 

The Gospel of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, living a perfectly righteous life, dying a substitutionary death in our place, rising from the dead to justify His people before God, and ascending to reign at His Father’s right hand until His enemies be made His footstool. 

The Gospel of the Sweet Holy Spirit convicting men and women of their sin and powerfully, irresistibly drawing them to faith in Jesus and granting them repentance of sin. 

The Gospel of the Loving Rule and Reign of Christ in and through His New Covenant People, the Church, as He sanctifies us and sends us out to make Him known in Corydon and to ends of the earth.

This is our unity!  This is our identity!  The Good News that God rescues and forgives sinners through the Person and Work of His Son, Jesus.  This is our heartbeat.  Let all lesser things never come between us.  And while not every Christian who comes our way wants to be a part of God’s work among us, we must stay the course of living to please God and not men!  Because we are Gospel People, first, foremost and always.  This is how the world knows that God sent Jesus – a oneness that defies all worldly explanation.  A family resemblance that comes only through a common commitment to let Jesus get bigger while we all get smaller.

O God thank You for making us one!  Make us one still.  Let this Church be known, be marked by one thing and one thing only – The Glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Hallelujah!  Amen.  





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