Bible Questions and Answers


Bible Question:I am currently attending a church that has undergone a split in the congregation. The split occurred before I started attending so I do not know the actual reason(s) for such a division. The question I ask is this: If those that left did so because they felt there were sinful situations present in the church (i.e... divorced people remarrying in the church, elders not meeting the biblical requirements), are they sinning by leaving or am I sinning by staying in such a situation? I have been saved approximately seven months and vaguely remember reading in the Bible that if you allow yourself to be in the company of sinful people or sinful circumstances, you are also partaking in such sin. I really would like to know if this is true or not so I can take appropriate measures.

Bible Answer: Yes, God does tell us that we are influenced by those around us. That is a truth that applies to every close relationship, and a church setting is a close situation. The spiritual quality of the leadership determines the effectiveness of the church. Immoral leaders will result in either the church not growing or in deformed growth.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (NASB) 1 Corinthians 15:33

When to Leave a Church. Leaving a church is a difficult decision. There are good reasons to leave and there are bad reasons to leave. Unfortunately, many church leaders rarely think there is a good reason to leave their churches since they are responsible for the conditions of the church - good or bad. Here are some issues to consider when thinking about leaving a church.
  Reason To Leave A Church Passage  
  Truth is not being taught Acts 20:29-31
Rev. 2:12-16
  Leadership is overly controlling and unloving 3 John 9-11  
  Leadership is biblically unqualified 1 Tim. 3:1-7;
Titus 1:7-9
  Pastor and/or leaders are living in sin 1 Tim. 5:19-21  
  Leadership does not deal with sin Matthew 18:15-18;
1 Cor. 5:1-13
It is important to evaluate a church not just by what is taught, but also by what is not being taught. We need to ask, "Does the pastor teach about hell, the Holy Spirit, prophecy, sin, Satan, Jesus as the God-man, and salvation?" What are his views on homosexuality, the role of women in the church, the authority of scripture? Does he believe the Bible is completely and totally without error? Or does he believe it contains mistakes in the areas of faith, prophecy, history, and science? Some pastors will teach only those portions of the Bible that are currently "safe" or popular with today's culture. A faithful pastor does not hesitate to teach all of the Bible and to explain it in depth. The teaching of the Word of God should be the major portion of the service.
Another reason to leave a church is a leadership team that is not lovingly caring for the congregation. When the focus of the church becomes the organizational structural, "getting things done," and building the size of the church more than in the teaching of scripture and loving people, it is an indication that the leaders care more about the organization and their position than Jesus. The Apostle Peter encouraged elders to be more concerned about the flock of God when he said,

. . nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. (NASB) 1 Peter 5:3

Closely connected to unloving leadership is an overly controlling leadership team. While it is necessary for a leadership team to be in control of it's ministries and operation, excessive control is wrong. How does one determine what is excessive? This is very difficult since leadership must prevent error from being taught, control its ministries and must deal with sin. But 3 John 9-11 provides an incredible example. This passage reveals a church where either the pastor or some layman unilaterally prevented people from coming to the church and unilaterally removed people from the church. 
Another major reason to leave a church is the existence of biblically unqualified men in the leadership team. The biblical qualifications for leaders, including the pastor, are listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9. The health of a church is determined by the spiritual condition of the leadership. A church will never rise above its leadership. If a church is characterized by being spiritually immature, biblically illiterate, or as a congregation that does not love others, then most likely the men in the leadership are not spiritually qualified. It also implies that their relationship with Jesus is not growing. If the leaders are truly seeking more of Jesus then it should show in the lives of the congregation. A congregation should be characterized as one which is seeking an intimate relationship with Jesus.
A fourth reason to leave the church is when a church does not discipline those leaders who have sinned. For example, a pastor who has had a sexual affair with anyone other than his wife does not belong in ministry. 1 Tim. 3:2 disqualifies him. Consequently, he should not be in ministry until he can demonstrate to the leadership team that he is again qualified. This will take many years before he should be considered ready to assume some form of ministry. How else can he demonstrate a pattern of life? One month or one year is not enough. Some other sins to be concerned about are gluttony, desire for money, luxurious living, arrogance, or significant financial debt.
The final reason to leave a church is when its leadership will not deal with sin in the congregation - not just the leadership. Matthew 18:15-18 outlines the process commonly called church discipline. In this passage, Jesus teaches that both the congregation and the leadership must be willing to deal with sin. In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul rebuked an entire congregation for not dealing with sexual sin between a man and his step-mother. It is important to note that he rebuked both the leadership and the entire congregation. If a congregation and its leadership is unwilling to deal with sin, then run.
What To Look For In A Church. On the positive side, here are some guidelines for choosing or staying in a church.
- are qualified 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9
- are godly examples Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3
- are self-sacrificing John 21:15-19; Acts 20:31
- teaches the Bible in depth Nehemiah 8:8; 1 Tim. 4:13;
- has passion to teach truth 2 Timothy 2:2; James 3:1
- has a passionate love for Jesus John 21:15-17 Phil. 3:8
- people are loving Hebrews 10:24-25
- ministers together Acts 2:42; Hebrews 6:10
- supports the leadership Hebrews 13:7, 13; Hebrews 6:10
The church needs to be on fire for the Lord Jesus. Some churches are looking back over their shoulders at the years when their church was dynamic and growing. Now their church may not be growing and may even be decreasing in size. They may have a wonderful church building, successful leaders from the world, and a radio or a television ministry. But these are not the marks of God's ideal church.
Ultimately, God is looking for biblically qualified leaders who are eagerly seeking an intimate relationship with Jesus, and as a result are shepherding the men and women in the church. One of the most significant functions of the leadership team is that they are good Bible teachers and they are teaching. The leadership team is training men and women to be the future leaders in the church. They are seeking to train others who will eventually take over their ministries. That is true discipleship. Otherwise, the training is merely book study and empty activity without any fulfillment.

Conclusion: If you decide that the men and women who left the church did so for good reasons and if the conditions are the same today, then I would encourage you to start looking for a good church using the guidelines above. Every church is different, even within denominations since the pastor and the leadership team are different. The quality of the leadership and what is taught or not taught are key indicators whether the Holy Spirit is actively working in the church. When error is taught and the leadership is unqualified, the Holy Spirit will not be very effective in the life of the people. But when men and women desire to live godly lives, submit to the Holy Spirit, faithfully teach and obey the Word of God, and seek an intimate relationship with Jesus, great things will happen.


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