A follow-up to “The Spiritual and Emotional Effects of Change in the Church”
“This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” – Titus 1:13
Any time we do not heed to God’s warnings, we will eventually be lead to exalting our own belief instead of those given by God. There comes a time when we have to address problems. When we “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) we fall into the traps of denominational beliefs and doctrine.
I have to look at several aspects of faithful men. Noah was instructed to build a very large boat in a land of no rain. Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” Noah was instructed to build the ark out of gopher wood. It was to be 300 X 50 X 30 cubit in size, and was to have three decks. Do you suppose that if he had used oak or balsa woods it would have made a difference? Because he followed the instructions, 1 Peter 3:20-21 says, “who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
What if Naaman dipped himself in the Pharpar river instead of the Jordon? 2 Kings 5:14, “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” Naaman accepted correction and he became clean again.
These two, well known, stories are actually quite simple. They followed God’s instruction and they were saved for doing so. Everything we do makes a difference! Just because the Bible does not say you can do something does not mean you can.
John 12:49, 50, “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.” Jesus Christ did not speak on His own. He spoke only what God told Him to. If Christ did not interject His own authority, how can we justify applying our own authority?
I recently left a congregation because of the changes that were starting to take place and many followed their opinion rather that the scriptures. The Bible warned us that many would “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The elders of this congregation are wolves amongst the flock. They made changes by coming in the back door and sneaking them in. Paul made several warnings in Acts chapter 20. Paul admonished the elders to “take heed” unto themselves and to all the flock, of which they were overseers (28). Instead, they were to “shepherd the flock” (28). Paul warned them that “wolves” would enter in, “not sparing the flock” (29). Some, even among them, would arise to draw away the flock (30). “Wherefore, watch ye” – be on the alert (31). Paul reminded them that he had warned them day and night for three years (31). Paul commended them to God and to His Word, which was “able to build you up” (32). Paul reminded them of his example of providing for himself and those with him; laboring in this way, enabled them to provide for the weak (33-35). Paul described this particular eldership and many others very well.
I recently read an article that said that an eldership must first Sheppard itself in order to Sheppard the flock. How true is this? If an eldership cannot look after, study together, and correct one another – how can they do so with/for the congregation? It is effectively impossible!
When I look back at the way things were addressed and handled, with the eldership, I can see one major mistake that we made. We were not open with the rest of the members with the problems, as we should have been. Since we left the congregation we have received several phone calls inquiring why we left so abruptly. When we go into a little detail of the issues at hand many of the people we spoke with said they did not realize these things were happening. When we end our conversations, I encourage them to examine them for themselves. I do not want them to just take my word for it they have to see it for themselves.
The hardest part about making it more known is the proof. Until you are given some hard core proof it may appear that you are just a trouble maker and nothing more. We, as humans, need proof for everything we hear. This is also why it is so important for us to examine the scriptures for ourselves. The preacher can be an excellent speaker, but if we do not study, for ourselves, what he is saying – we can be led down a path of destruction. After all, if you watch a television show and they tell you that it is based on a “true story,” how do you know how much is true? You don’t unless you check it out for yourself.
So how many things have to change in order to change the Gospel? Galatians 1:6-9, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
I find it very interesting in this scripture that Paul quickly points out that if we are not teaching as he taught then it is not the same Gospel that Jesus taught him and the fact that he immediately repeated himself to tell us its importance. Galatians 1:11-12, “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” It is plain that there is only one Gospel and it must be taught correctly. We may always have differences; however it is a mistake to equate personal judgment with obedient service. Everything we do matters and we must be careful that we are following the proper pattern of worship.
Finding a true, loving, caring, spiritual, and scriptural eldership is becoming harder to find. Unfortunately, the older men of the congregations are dying out or giving in to the younger generations’ personal feelings and wants. We searched for a new church home several years ago, because the congregation we were attending did not have many children. The eldership never called, visited or showed concern that we were no longer attending. This should have been a sign to us then, but we still returned to worship with that congregation, because we loved so many people there. Now that we are gone from there again, we can indeed see the lack of concern they have for those in the congregation. My wife was the church secretary and suddenly quit her job. We left without warning. Three weeks later, we still have yet to receive a letter, visit, or phone call concerned about our well-being.
We have visited another congregation for the last three weeks and have received a visit from the youth minister and a separate visit from an elder and another gentleman from the congregation. We were also invited to several members’ homes after Sunday evening worship. This true concern for others has shown us, once again, that we were simply in the wrong place.
We still miss those we truly love and care for, at the old congregation, but there comes a time that you have to separate yourself form the false teachings and false leadership in order to know you are doing what is right. Once again, it appears that our “true worship to God” has returned.