The Rise of the 'Done with Church' Population

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Semper Fidelis, Dec 29, 2014.

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  1. SeanAnderson

    SeanAnderson Puritan Board Freshman

    Perhaps if we had more good confessional Reformed churches, certainly in the UK, disenchanted young Christians would flock to them?
     
  2. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This thread is close to home for me. What is a “true church”? I am aware of the Belgic Confession’s Article 29, where the statement is found, “if the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein”, being one mark of it.

    I’ve lately been reading the book, Godly Conversation: rediscovering the Puritan practice of conference, by Joanne J. Jung (Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), which has not only opened a window into the spiritual practices of the Puritans during various governmental administrations – both for and against them – along with the quality of their spiritual lives and efforts to maintain them, but also, in the later chapter “Puritan Conference for the Contemporary Church”, how their vital spirituality might in some measure be replicated in our own times. It really affords a look – simply by comparing – into our own spiritual impoverishment, and that includes pastors as well as laity.

    I think the one single thing most responsible for people being “done” with the church is the widespread absence of what I would call the anointing or unction of God’s Spirit on the preaching of the pastors. Apart from Him shining into and moving hearts preaching is but cerebral (if that) or emotional displays of religious talk. Months or years of this is indeed enough to send people home to listen to audio recordings and/or gather into small informal gatherings for fellowship. It may also lead to a widespread falling away from profession to the faith entirely. You may have heard the expression, “If the congregation is asleep, wake up the preacher.”

    There is also a note of warning to those in churches in grave spiritual decline in Revelation 3:1-6 (the church of Sardis), not to leave but stick it out. For even in a church that had a name for being “alive” but in truth was “dead”, the Lord said of her, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (v 4). True, there was only one church in Sardis in that day, whereas there are many in our time. There does come a point when one’s heart is moved to leave.

    But would I go to an Arminian or Charismatic or Dispensational church that had a godly preacher, and whom the Holy Spirit moved through (in some manner)? I don’t think so, not for long anyway, as the doctrinal error of each of those errant views would curtail the Spirit from His full saving and edifying power.

    I do think these are perilous times, not only externally in terms of culture and of political forces, but spiritually. When I consider the second mark of the true church in Belgic Confession Art. 29, “if she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ”, I am further dismayed. That the majority of even Presbyterian and Reformed churches disdain the Reformation’s Words of Institution for the Lord’s Table, and cut out that our Saviour’s body was “broken” for us, it starkly shows for me the slide away from Reformation standards to some kind of modern hybrid grotesquerie, spiritually speaking.

    It appears to me that many of our present day Presbyterian churches (just to stick to our Reformed sector) are diligent to the max to get doctrine and practice right – which can be done by cerebral effort without the Spirit of Christ – but are lax where it also counts, that is, hearts that are awakened to discern in spirit where we are, both in the church, before God, and vis-à-vis the surrounding culture.

    As some of you have well said, I also feel for the “dones”, and grieve for one great cause for their defection of sorts, as I have indicated.
     
  3. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not against Christian soirees or concerts, depending on what's meant, not that I have much interest in them. I wouldn't necessariy condemn a Johnny Cash or Jim Reeves.

    But where the Regulative Principle is not followed, distinctions e.g. between generic worship and specific worship, and between private, family and public worship are overthrown.

    It's good if a church has Reformed doctrine, government, general practice and excellent preaching, but things are marred when the praise isn't Reformed, and things can slip further if this is the case.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
  4. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    Spot on Steve, especially regarding the unction.
     
  5. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    The Zeitgeist of American culture is so determined (irony intended) by voluntarism, that I'm not surprised by the "dones." The phenomenon dovetails neatly with American sensibilities. After all, why "join" a church (or even attend regularly) when you can cobble together your own reality, Burger King ("have it your way") style? You to can form a quasi-intentional spiritual community that meets your needs and gathers on an ad hoc basis whenever you feel like affiliating.
     
  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    There's quite a bit of it on this side of the Pond, too.

    But America's bad habits always tend to get here sooner or later :)

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
  7. Warren

    Warren Puritan Board Freshman

    Then I wonder if this "done" crowd is a hoax. A sham alibi. A ploy by false teachers to steal some unawares from Christ's flock and scatter who he can with fear tactics. "See, you aren't the only one who feels this way." "I know how you feel." "Does your church feel right?" Apostasy is in every age and culture. If idle hands are the devil's workshop, feelings are the overseers. I'm not surprised that in a country of 40 million believers, whose "greatest" industry might be fielding gossip and slander, the evil one deploys on a larger scale. That doesn't mean we have a meltdown of the church in America on our hands, it means we need to be watchful of our feelings.

     
  8. reaganmarsh

    reaganmarsh Puritan Board Senior

    This has indeed been a most profitable discussion. I particularly appreciate the reminders of patience and tenderness for those who may be true Christians but are either in a season of sin or have not actually been part of a true church.

    I'm also reminded, however, of Warfield's words:

    "It is not without significance that the apostolic writer couples together the exhortations, 'to hold fast the confession of our hope, that it waiver not,' and 'to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together.' When he commands us not to forsake 'the assembling of ourselves together,' he has in mind, as the term he employs shows, the stated, formal assemblages of the community, and means to lay upon the hearts and consciences of his readers their duty to the church of which they are the supports, as well as their duty to themselves. And when he adds 'As the custom of some is,' he means to put a lash into his command. We can see his lip curl as he says it. Who are these people, who are so vastly strong, so supremely holy, that they do not need the assistance of the common worship for themselves; and who, being so strong and holy, will not give their assistance to the common worship?"
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  9. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Abandoning attending or being associated with Christ's Church is a presumptuous sin, and those who do this should firstly be privately admonished by the elders, and if repentance is not forthcoming should be further admonished and barred from the Lord's Table for a season, and if still recalcitrant, sine die, until thete are further positive developments.

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
     
  10. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    This is critically important and the main reason I wonder about "erasing" members from the church rolls, even if a person has moved (and the church hasn't been contacted for transference of membership).
     
  11. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    Would you criticize or condemn a brother for not going to church for a year if they were in a hospital in traction with a full body cast and a badly broken back? Of course not. I know a lady who was in the hospital in the 80s for a year after a liver transplant.

    I've known a lot of "dones" in my life. Often they find another church after about a year off, maybe longer.

    Church can be the equivalent of a broken back or a traumatic surgery. There are wolves in sheeps clothing out there. There are perverts parading as leaders to youth and adults, and there are normal sinners who gossip and betray and ignore and feel superior. There are pastors who break promises and get controlling and have nervous breakdowns, and there are all kinds of messed up people who go to church to get help and end up feeling abused.

    To be fair, almost all the stories I know are from charismatic churches. But I've heard some PCA sad tales as well. We are all fallen.

    Anyway, give people time, and tell yourself that their soul was ripped and battered and broken every bit as badly as a body can be. I've never been a "done" but I know how it feels to wish I was. Church can be hard.
     
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Lynnie,

    I appreciate what you're saying about the social relationships being very destructive. Believe me I've been the subject of some vicious gossip when I was trying to lead a Church.

    That said, we need to point away from blame-casting and focus on the issue of why the Church has consistently (before recent history) considered the Church to be crucial to salvation. If our focus is merely on how hard it is for us to continue to put up with the sins of others and how we can appreciate it then we never ask: "What is is about the Church that people in the past thought was used of God to save us."

    There are bad preachers. Can we imagine (contra Romans 10) that we can do without preaching?
    The Roman Catholics turn the Lord's Supper into a place of idolatry. Can we imagine that it is better, therefore, that there be no Lord's Supper at all?

    As I've noted, there are bad Churches that are no Churches at all. What is heart breaking about all of this is that people find themselves wanting to be done and, because they have never experienced a solid Church, end up with no Church at all. I'm not saying it's their fault but it doesn't mean that I think that people are inherently good and, if abused, will somehow be saved without the Gospel.
     
  13. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    Rich.....I reread the letters to the seven churches today. Awful stuff. A woman false prophetess, teachings of Balaam and the Nicolatians, a name of being alive when actually dead. Jesus never says "now the rest of you get out and stay home". No, he calls them to patiently endure and be faithful and hold fast and so forth.

    I also skimmed through Galatians. Paul's rebuke is pretty strong! But he never says "now the rest of you get away from these legalistic false teachers and don't gather together until they clean up their act". He could have said that.

    I've probably had a dozen conversations in the real world over the years with people giving up on the institutionalized church. You can't read the NT and not see elders and deacons and teachers and the rest of the gifts as we assemble together. You just can't.

    But what I am trying to say is that when a person says "I am done", with church, or maybe their marriage, if you jump on them it doesn't help. Many of then over time do get over it and go back. And often they realize how they failed to go to an offender and confront, and they failed to get the elders involved, or they got bitter and didn't pray for those who despitefully used them, and they just don't know how to deal with abuse or mistreatment. Or ( very very common) they put leaders on an unrealistic pedestal. They can see this and get back into church but it may take a while, I've never seen it sooner than a year. The healing is slow, and facing our own mistakes comes slowly. I would try to listen and ask questions. What you often find is that they deep down do long to be part of a good church.

    It is really complicated when they are charismatic and want to be in a "God is really moving" charismatic church, on the cutting edge and all that jazz, without the bad stuff. I have to admit I find those cases way over my head....it'll take a miracle to get them into ordinary orthodoxy. But it does happen. The worst pair of flakes I ever met who spent years not going to church got into John Piper and are active in a local church now.

    It does bothers me when certain segments of the Reformed community talk about church in a way that dismisses people all over the world in jail for their faith (think of Wurmbrand for 14 years), or unable to go to a church under Islam, or seriously invalided. God can provide for them and it is our solemn duty to pray for them and visit them if possible. I read missionary bios and many great men went alone to countries where there was no church gathering for a long time, or at most a few converts. If mostly only personal piety is ordained for us through such circumstances, God can provide fully with no lack.

    Just my thoughts. I have enough exposure to postmil thinking to be optimistic as I pray that God will do something. Maybe it'll take nuclear bombs or economic collapse or persecution, but I think one day the "dones" with be gathering with us again.
     
  14. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Slightly off topic: Something must be wrong with my eyes tonight... as I read this thread, every time I skim the word "dones" my mind reads "drones." Interesting.
     
  15. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I find myself with mixed ideas on this concept. I think it is far more complex than made out in the article.

    I question whether "John" was really a pastor's dream, or whether he only thought he was because he was that obtuse. I have known a couple of "dones" who volunteered time and gave generously but also were so cancerous to the welfare of the church (quarreling, slandering, etc) that no one was truly sorry to see them go. I even knew one that predicted the demise of the church due to his departure--and the church actually did much better without him. Such people often quit in a tantrum over not having their opinions rule the world, but it really isn't the fault of the church.

    On the other hand, I have known some situations in which someone left a church that was so broken and twisted that it scared the congregant out of church for a while. I have known pastors who really do fail to make an effort to relate to their congregants.

    So I think it is really difficult to come up with any overall attitude toward "dones." Depending on the circumstances, they might need gentle encouragement... or they might just need to repent of being insufferable whiners.

    In the larger cultural context however, I do think that there is a tendency to institutionalize the church far too much. I think this is what some were saying by referring to a consumer mentality. I am often surprised how taken aback people can be by the suggestion that they ought to love their pastor and teach their children to love their pastor. It is almost as though I suggested they ought to love the grocery store manager. Calvin says that the church should be our mother, but the church is made up of people. We are commanded to love these people. And love has to be practiced and taught. It doesn't come naturally to any of us.

    I absolutely agree that young people ought to be encouraged to participate--primarily because this is how people learn to love each other. People bond through giving and receiving. We practice this in families all the time. Kids are taught to say thank you for meals and gifts and so on, and they offer their parents small tokens of love (handmade pictures or handfuls of Cheerios, or whatever), and the parent thanks the child for the gift.

    God has made people to function in this way. He provides for us, and we thank Him--and in doing so, we learn to love Him. In return for His kindness, we perform our small pitiful acts of service for God. Does God need our service? No, but it seems evident that He knows that we need to serve Him, to feel useful and helpful in His work. He lets us "help" Him like a father lets his toddler hammer a nail--not because the father needs the toddler's help, but the toddler needs to help his father.

    I think this needs to be the idea behind volunteering for church work--a recognition that it is not so much that the church needs us (God will preserve His church, and it will carry on with or without us), but that we need to serve. We need to learn to love. Sometimes, sure, we have to cut back service due to life circumstances (jobs, etc), but in general, we should try to encourage everyone to participate--but not in a needy "come save this sinking church" way, but rather "this is a chance for you to contribute, to be grateful, to return something so that you learn to care about someone besides yourself." And unless John has a serious legitimate complaint about his church, this is where he is failing--that he does not care enough about his pastor and his fellow congregants to want to stay and serve them and be served by them.

    When we speak to our children, I think it is especially important that we tell them that their pastor and elders pray for them every week, that their pastor spends hours each week carefully preparing sermons, and that they should pray for their pastor and elders and thank them for these things. Tell them that God is their father and the church is their mother. The pastor should not be "some guy telling them what to do" any more than their mother is "some lady telling them what to do." If they talk that way about their church leaders, punishment ought to be as swift as if they had said it about their mother. Children ought to be taught to speak respectfully to and about their church leaders, to thank them, and to consider how they might help and encourage them. And in return, leaders ought to really work at encouraging children by thanking them for their efforts and asking them to contribute in small ways.

    This has been on my mind somewhat this week because it is near our pastor's birthday, and my kids hatched an elaborate plot for a birthday gift. They have spent many hours this week preparing it in great excitement, contributing much of their own money and time to the cause of making it absolutely perfect. I am so delighted to see that, even if perhaps they go a bit overboard. But they are trying, in their teenager-ish way, to say that they love their pastor. I am comforted in this because I am pretty sure they will never be "dones" as long as they feel this way.

    People really can get good teaching at home through sermonaudio, and they can pray at home just as they can pray at church. Ultimately, it's love that holds people in church. When someone gossips about you and the trustees won't fix that broken back step that annoys you so much and the pastor just WON'T get out of the book of Jude.... you grit your teeth and bear with it all if you love them. And even more, you remind yourself that Christ loved them enough to die for them, and so if only for that reason, you should be willing to lay down your life for them too. I'm not saying that I'm good at remembering these things myself. But I know that I should, and I pray that God will teach me to be more like my children who eagerly sign up to be ushers and greaters, and who express their gratitude to their pastor with giant posters.
     
  16. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    "they can pray at home just as they can pray at church." . . . I am not sure on that - there is a particular blessing or presence when 2 or 3 are gathered in His name, that apparently is not part of solo prayer.
     
  17. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Caroline,

    What is the Confession getting at (as I posted in the OP) that there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the visible Church?

    What, precisely, do you think the Confession has in mind as far as why it believes the local Church is somehow linked to salvation itself such that, outside of it, a person is not ordinarily saved?
     
  18. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Digitized documents, podcasts, apps, and video streaming have tweaked the definition of the local church. Many people think they can get all the local church offers from home because the sacraments and discipline have been already marginalized to a great extent.

    Most of the home churches I have known had very good reasons to leave their church. However, they don't have good reasons for staying out of church.
     
  19. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I am sorry if I was unclear on that point. The law and the prophets hang on the commands to love the Lord your God and your neighbor. That is something that people who think they can just learn at home often miss. The greatest commandment is not to learn as much about God as you can, but to love Him. And Jesus said to Peter that if he loved Him, he should feed His sheep.

    Furthermore, Jesus said that those who love Him should obey His commandments. It is utterly impossible to obey the Ten Commandments alone. The commandments require us not only to refrain from doing evil, but to do good--to uphold our neighbor's good name, to promote the wealth and outward estate of others (as well as ourselves), a charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, etc. (Quoting from the WSC, obviously). These are impossible to accomplish alone. Therefore, the idea that anyone CAN live a Christian life in isolation is simply factually incorrect (unless providence has forced that isolation upon him in the form of a desert island or something of that sort, and even then, it should be a great trial to him, not a blessing.)

    The Proverbs say it best: "A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." (Prov. 18:1)

    Edited to add a small analogy for further clarification: If someone ever says to me, "I am your friend and I would do anything for you, but I hate your husband and I cannot bear to be around him. I think your children are annoying and I do not like them, so please leave them at home when you visit me," then I would not consider that person my friend. I would say, "If you love me, then for that reason alone, you should be kind to my husband and my children. I love them, so when you are hateful to them, you are hateful to me, and when you are kind to them, you are kind to me."

    I often wonder how it is that people (knowing that this sort of connection is true even in human relationships) think they can approach God and tell Him with a straight face that they love Him but hate His bride. Or (to use another biblical frame of reference) that they love Him but can't stand His other children. How do they not see how offensive that is?

    We ought to always bear in mind that these are God's children. Even the pastor (as we are tempted to criticize) is one of God's children--someone for whom Christ died. If God is so kind to them, then maybe I should be too. After all, it is the same grace poured out to me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
  20. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    That was a good post Caroline. Sometimes when working with patients at the hospital that are very ornery I treat them with love thinking that they were a baby and a child once that was dearly loved by the parents. Of course this thought comes from the love I have of my children which should convey how Our Lord loves us in like manner.
     
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    That's beautiful. Sinclair Ferguson told the story of a woman honored for her humanitarian work by the Queen. She remarked that she paled in comparison to her husband's ability to get close to the worst of human filth without flinching. When asked how he was able to be so near the stench of human filth he replied that he thinks of the stench of his own sin that his Savior had to wade through in order to save him from his sins.
     
  22. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Thank you Caroline.

    Would you also agree that the local Church is not merely where you demonstrate that you love your neighbor? In other words, it is true that we can't really say that we love the Lord but hate His Bride and so we never demonstrably love the people who constitute the Church. This much is true.

    But is there more to it than that? Is it merely because you need to demonstrate a living faith that the Church is vital for your salvation or is there something that the visible Church ministers to you that is vital to the Lord's saving plan for His children?
     
  23. Caroline

    Caroline Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm not sure that I understand your question, Rich. I did not say that loving one's neighbor and one's God is the only thing we do at church, nor that it precludes ministry to us, nor that it is where we "merely demonstrate." But the church is where we learn to love God and our neighbor, and as those are the two greatest commandments, I would not characterize that as "merely demonstrating." It is not possible to learn to love God or one's neighbor sitting at home on one's couch alone every Sunday, except perhaps in special circumstances wherein one cannot go to church, and then one must pray for special grace to learn outside of the normal method.

    This is not to say that I take away from the authority of the church. That is a whole other discussion and a lengthy one--what authority the church has, how that authority is applied in churches that are corrupt in leadership, etc, etc. My concern is that the focus on the authority of the church sometimes causes people to deflect their responsibility as believers. People often turn up their noses at the authority of the church because they nitpick small flaws. "I can learn more at home than I can learn from my pastor" or "Why should I be involved in church ministry when no one appreciates all the work I do?" or "I get tired of people always asking me to teach the kids' Sunday school." The sum of it ends up being, "I don't think my church is good enough to declare the word of God to me or be the ordinary means of salvation for me. They do this and that thing that I just think is unwise/ not purely Reformed/ annoying/ whatever."

    I'm not saying that people never have legitimate complaints about their pastor or other church leaders or other laymen, and I am not saying that those things should go unaddressed. I have known some churches to be worth leaving, and I have made complaints myself over legitimate grievances even in very good churches.

    But my point is this... God declares that if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us (Mark 11:26). Christ says that what we do for the least of His brethren we do for Him (Matthew 25:40), and that even one who offers water to one of God's little ones will not lose his reward (Matt 10:42). James says that that pure religion involves caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27). I could go on and on.

    It's not a matter of demonstrating. Love isn't something we feel sitting on our sofa listening to sermonaudio. It's something that we do when we forgive and bear with others in patience and serve God's little ones. It's treating our pastor the way we would want congregants to treat us if we were in his place.

    I didn't make the law of God, and sometimes I even chafe against it when I really, really don't want to get up in the morning and go to church and take communion with that guy who was so rude to me last week. But nevertheless, that is the commandment, and it is purer than I will ever be.

    But the sum of what I am saying is simply this: If someone says that they can be a Christian just as well at home alone as going to church with their brothers and sisters in Christ, the reply is simply that this is patently ridiculous. We cannot keep the two greatest commandments that way. We can't keep the Ten Commandments that way. We can't produce the fruit of the Spirit that way (how can you be patient or kind or gentle alone?). I think it is better for people to think less about whether their pastor and elders are "good enough" to be making judgments about their salvation and consider their own responsibilities to the ones that Jesus referred to as His "brethren" and His "little ones." If the focus is always on whether the church is ministering to ME, then it becomes far too much about my feelings and whether I think I'm "getting my money's worth," so to speak. If the church, by having difficult and frustrating people with whom you must be patient and forgiving, is teaching you to be patient and forgiving, then it IS ministering to you. If you learn to love your neighbor even when your neighbor wants to paint the sanctuary purple, then you just learned to keep the second-greatest commandment. That's an important thing to learn, and I don't know how someone can be a Christian and take no interest in keeping the commandments.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
  24. jandrusk

    jandrusk Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think that there is a key statement in the article that is very telling and I think is probably the motivator for those who are leaving: "I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.” That statement is prefixed with the feeling that they have "learned it all". It seems to me at least by what the article laid out is that it's a rebellion against church authority and having to submit to the authority of the church. Also notice how the quote views the position as simply, 'some guy'. This just may be a natural outworking of BK philosophy; I'll have it my way or no way at all.

    This actually may not be a bad thing that's happening. The author of the article seems to think that it's problematic due to the nature of there being less people around to serve and provide financially. I see it as the Father pruning His church to refine it as gold in the fire.
     
  25. mercyminister

    mercyminister Puritan Board Freshman

    I could have easily been one of the "dones." I recently left an OPC congregation for several reasons. The church was without a pastor since June and had been under the leadership of two elders. One of the elders became very despotic and made sure those who he did not care for became very insignificant in the church. A second reason, and more importantly, the Gospel was not a living Gospel in that congregation. Opportunities to serve were very few and were discouraged unless one was a church officer. Finally, the congregation did not show Christian love. If one was not a member of one of the three "privileged" families, they were outsiders. Outsiders were expected to remain in their seats, keep silent, and put their offering in the plate. No more was expected of them.

    Anyhow, I got to know a congregation of the Bible Fellowship Church, a small denomination primarily in eastern Pennsylvania. This church is everything I expect a Gospel-living church to be and I thank the Lord every day for bringing me there. I just regret that things did not work out at the OPC church I had been attending for 15 months.
     
  26. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Had to consult Wikipedia for that.

    I am confused, however. Your signature says that you are an officer of a PCA congregation; you post indicates that you were in an OPC church since sometime in 2013, and you indicate that you have now gotten to know a Bible Fellowship congregation.

    Are you still a PCA officer?
    Did you ever join the OPC church? (I couldn't really fault an elder for not looking to a non-membership for leadership)
    And what does it mean to 'get to know' a congregation?
     
  27. mercyminister

    mercyminister Puritan Board Freshman

    Are you still a PCA officer? I am an ordained deacon in the PCA and still have the Mercy Ministry that I had before the PCA church I was in had to close because of falling membership.

    Did you ever join the OPC church? Yes, I did join. I was there 15 months and the church had a pastor for the first nine months I was there. Originally, it was supposed to be a merger of the two congregations, but did not work out that way.

    And what does it mean to 'get to know' a congregation? I had attended conferences at the BFC and was impressed with their dedication to promoting the Gospel, their worship quality, and their Sunday School program. I had attended a few times while I was a member of the OPC congregation. When I finally left the OPC church, it was an easy move as I already knew the Pastor and some of the leaders there.

    James
     
  28. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    There may be something even more profound behind that statement. It may indicate that the kind of preaching being experienced by the "dones" is not Christ-centred but focused on something else.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  29. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    We have to be careful in adopting a "throw the baby out with the bath water" view of the de-churched. When an individual removes themselves from the authority of the local church they expose themselves to a life without the graces of the church. It is hard to name Christ while at the same time rejecting Him. The Lord's discipline can be harsh at times, but if the wayward saint turns back to the church it could be said that God's discipline was itself a form of grace.

    If they do not return then their abandonment may very well be an act of apostasy (1 John 2:19).
     
  30. Kalinin

    Kalinin Puritan Board Freshman

    10+ years ago I'd probably have dismissed someone automatically who said they didn't commit to a congregation where the gospel was preached, perhaps waving a quote from Paul about not giving up on meeting together. Perhaps I'd have thought that if that was their attitude, they didn't think much of the gospel in the first place - or maybe the image of the seed falling amongst the stoney ground would spring to my mind?

    However, that is exactly the situation I found myself in. I had got to the stage where I simply couldn't bare attending church any more. It's one thing being on your own and having difficulties in health etc, it's quite another to go each week and see ppl in groups all around you having lively jovial conversations about work or education, promotions, holidays & moving to a bigger house etc - while you nurse a coffee and want the ground to swallow you up. If that sounds like jealousy then please understand I love to see people happy and so on, but being on the outside looking in is like torture. I regularly attended Sunday services and the midweek prayer meeting and was a member in good standing, but although I loved the praise and the preaching was super & systematic bible preaching, I was dying inwardly. I don't mean that in the biblical sense of my "old man" dying inwardly, but rather the seemingly intentional lack of any meaningful fellowship or even a few decent friendships was literally destroying me - please forgive the analogy, but for me it was like being in an abusive relationship where one partner is repeatedly punching the other, I felt ritually humiliated every time this happened.

    I had internalised this as being "my fault" and eventually decided just not to physically go and attend, but rather just listen to the sermons online. At least that way I'd get the teaching and avoid the crushing experience of weekly rejection.
    But in the process of attending a few services to support a new ministry in the city, people in that church would actually speak to me and encourage me to stay for coffee. The minister remembered my name the second time I spoke to him, and people were kind and friendly.
    I started going to this church more and more, and am now a member there, and deeply blessed by both the preaching AND fellowship.

    Basically the point is, I'd got to the stage where I couldn't take the rejection any more. I'd read Job 29 and 30 where Job contrasts how people treated him when things were good in his life and he was well to do and respectable, with in chapter 30 where he is treated with such contempt that people almost line up to spit in his face!

    To turn this to a positive lesson for me, I pray to God to give me a holy confidence in Christ to allow me to approach someone who I see standing by themselves and looking lost after a service. I say "confidence" just because I'm not the most sure of myself, but I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me in saying hi and being sensitive to show an interest without asking too much, and knowing when to listen etc. So far it's been positive for me, just a little mini-ministry if I can call it even that, and who knows that by speaking to people visiting or so "showing hospitality to strangers" that we might "entertain Angels (literally God's messengers to us) unawares"?


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