stay or leave?
By George Card
One time I heard a saying by a Christian for why she did not change to another church. "bloom where you are planted". That is a nice saying but it is not in the Bible. Later on I met the pastor of this young lady and then I realized why he had taught and often repeated that saying to his congregation. The reason was simple, he was a false prophet, and this was his trick to keep the church members from leaving his church.
If your preacher teaches correctly the word of God, then absolutely stay, you have no business going elsewhere you need to stay in that flock. Yes there comes a time when a pastor has gone so far from sound doctrine; that it would be a sin to keep on following him. We ought to follow God and not man.
Before anyone thinks that I am encouraging sheep to abandon their shepherd, let me say that is not my intention. I want people to remain with their pastors, even if the pastor is deficient or has a few problems in his theology. No preacher is perfect, everyone has his weak points. I definitely am not perfect, so don't think I have all the correct answers, for I don't. However when a preacher is teaching blatantly false doctrine then it is your duty to leave that minister.
No church is perfect either; every congregation has its problems and disputes. Just because your church is not “Perfect” means that you have to leave it. Most churches are “Normal”, when I say “Normal” I am actually talking about a church that has its difficulties and a little bit of turmoil. Just accept it a “Normal” church is what you will find anywhere you go. There is no “Perfect” church anywhere so don’t bother to look for it by church hopping.
Before you even think about leaving your pastor or church, try other options first. Some churches actually have rules and systems to prevent preachers from straying too far from sound doctrine. If the preacher is teaching certain false doctrines or if the preacher has deviated from the official doctrine, the official denomination has a right, nay a duty to investigate him when a complaint is made.
If enough members bring a complaint against the preacher, the officials in the church will probably investigate the matter. Even if the preacher teaches the correct doctrine his lifestyle might not be the best example for a believer, in that case he needs to be corrected also. Yes church members can get rid of a pastor who has gone wrong. No preacher is a king over the congregation, although some behave like if they were popes.
But there will be times when God reveals to you that a doctrine that your church or denomination teaches is wrong, and then this might be the time when you may need to leave. I seriously doubt that the denomination will change its official doctrine just to please one single member and alienate the rest; it is not going to happen.
Of course there are independent churches where the voice of a single member has a stronger influence, and perhaps there you might be able to affect a change. Of course it all depends on how receptive your pastor is to a truly biblical revelation.
However if God has shown and confirmed in his word to you that you this is not the correct preacher, church or denomination for you be at, then you need to leave. Make sure you really are feeling the leading of the Lord, not just because the pastor or the church is not perfect. Of course a false greedy pastor will try to dissuade you from leaving; after all he won't just be losing a member but also your tithes.
Of course the preacher might resort to telling you, that if you leave his church you will be in danger of hell's fire, you can be sure he is attempting to sow fear into your heart. But what is the point of staying if you are also in danger of hell's fire by following him because of his teaching of false doctrine?
Jesus said that the blind follow the blind and they both fall into the ditch. Mat 15:14 If God in his mercy has opened your eyes to a vital doctrine in his word, then you need to stop following your blind leader and start following Christ. Yes there is a time when you have to leave a preacher, a church or even a denomination.
I know this message might one day come back to haunt me, nevertheless I still have to teach it. I know that I do not have perfect knowledge, but I try to be open to teaching and correction. Perhaps a Christian brother will disagree with me, in that case, he might be right and I will wrong or maybe it will be the other way around. I pray that I will be able to recognize if the revelation is truly from God or not, and if it is, that I would graciously accept it, but if be a man-made doctrine, that I should clearly reject it. Just because I am willing to hear a person or church member does it mean that I have an obligation to accept just any “Revelation” they have received.
The Catholic Church tried for many years to keep people from leaving their flock by using the fear of hell, but it did not work. Pastors who try to keep members in their church either by fear or other similar means might be well intentioned and even right. Yet I have learned that each person must follow their own path, everyone ultimately must answer for himself or herself. No person will be able to use the preacher as an excuse for not following God.
Burning the bridge by the church member is not good, it not only prevents a future return and reconciliation but then it also creates a bitterness that might never go away. It is always better to leave a minister, church or denomination on good terms, even if you disagree with its doctrines, precepts or rules.
If you are a minister and a church member decides to leave, your first impulse might be to try to dissuade that person from leaving, but you have to do it right. But if you see that the member has decided to definitely leave, it is better that he or she leave in good terms. The preacher can say words like, How about "I pray the Lord will keep you wherever you go and if you do decide to come back, you are always welcomed here". Or "Please pray for me, and visit back whenever you want to." Or perhaps "May the Lord give you more revelations and may you get closer to the Lord". Allowing the member to leave on good terms opens the door for a future return of the leaving church member.