At the end of God’s book, the angel escorting the Apostle John through his apocalyptic vision says, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:9). Just a few verses later the Bride of Christ is described as “those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” And a few verses after that, “His servants” who will “see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”
These are descriptions of the Church given by the angel of God! What grandeur and glory and beauty are captured in these words. We do well to regain a high view of the Church, of which every single gospel-proclaiming local church is a part. Jesus loves the Church. And so should you! And so should I!
To bring this series to an end, I want to share with you some passages and comments I have sometimes presented to those who are considering / wanting to leave the local church I serve for what we might call “less than biblical” reasons:
- Given what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2-4 (especially 2:11-22, 3:10, 4:1-16), do you think he would accept your reasoning for wanting to leave if he were the pastor here?
- Giving the clear command to view ourselves as a “team” striving towards holiness together in Hebrews 12:14-15, how does your decision reflect that spirit?
- Given the instructions of Philippians 2:1-4, how does your decision not violate those commands?
- How does this decision make Jesus look really great and powerful and glorious? Does it show off our Savior’s power to reconcile people to one another? Is the spirit of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 manifested in your decision to leave this church? How would lost neighbors or friends come to see the love of Christ in this and be drawn to Him? (see John 13:35) We dare not forget that Jesus started His Church with 12 men who could not have been more “abrasive” to one another in their personalities and occupations and stations in life!
- If Paul expected Jews and Gentiles (who were taught from childhood to hate one another), as well as former sexual and moral deviants of all kinds to be able to serve Jesus together in a church (1 Cor 6:9-11), then how do you manage to justify “personality differences” or interpersonal struggles as a legitimate reason to leave a church family?
Can I tell you I have never had a single person wanting to leave for less than biblical reasons even attempt to engage with these passages face-to-face with myself or our other elders. Not once.
It reinforces the truth that people simply do what they want. Period. We are all driven by our hearts (Prov 4:23; Matt 6:21; Mark 7:14-23). We go for what we want. And if we want to leave a church, for reasons that are clearly not warranted by the Scripture, we will proceed to do so over any protest or guidance or counsel. But it seems to me this is a very dangerous thing for a person who claims to be abiding in Christ and His Word (John 15:6-9). Think on it.
And now, let me conclude by sharing with you a story of “Victory in Jesus!” We had a member leave us last Sunday, and she honored our Lord and His Church. She had been in discussions with pastors for months. She was so respectful and thoughtful throughout the process as pastors helped her find a new church home (she had moved to another city). And she came back Sunday to say goodbye face-to-face, express love and gratitude to her church family, offer to tie up any loose ends that anyone was aware of, and seek our commendation to her new church home. Praise God! There are still a few believers who prize the love and unity of the Body of Christ over and above their personal preferences and comforts. What a blessing to see this sister in Christ leave us so well. She will make an amazing member and servant in her new church to which we commended her. No doubt.
God is good.