What Does Church Membership Really Mean to You?
March 13, 2009
By Pastor Lee Hemen
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. (Acts 15:24)
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:19)
Dissension within the ranks of a military unit can cause harm, confusion, and disruption. It can when it occurs within the church as well. How sad is it when those who claim Christ, who were once part of a loving fellowship, that now speak against or tacitly work against His church body. The church at Jerusalem was saddened by people who claimed to be part of the church there and then deliberately went out to disrupt what Paul and others were doing in winning the lost. They started their own fellowships in order to draw others away from what Paul taught. They claimed to know the truth better than Paul. (Can you imagine?) They taught things that were contrary to what the early church taught on love, acceptance, and forgiveness. They said holiness was found in what they taught instead of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. So much so that the Jerusalem church leadership felt they needed to write a letter to all of the churches so that they would know exactly what these “Judaizers” were teaching and that there were those who willingly were causing dissension within the church’s ranks.
The Apostle John would later say that these kinds of disruptors had gone out from the church, but they did not really belong to the church! Wow! That sounds pretty harsh but was it true? Yes! Why? John related that “if they had belonged to us (the church), they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” John is saying they showed their “true colors,” as in the words of Cyndi Lauper.
There are always those who want to have it their way, think they could do a better job, or that they are not “listened” to, instead of humbly submitting to the established authority of the body of Christ they belong to or working within the church itself. If they are told “no” by the body of Christ or its leadership, they see it as a personal offense. We see this in folks who hop from church to church looking for that “perfect” place, but never find it because they themselves are in reality the problem. (Kind of like what Charles Spurgeon wrote!) We find it in those who say they “love” their church, its pastor, and its members, then use the qualifier “but” when speaking about it to others.
Paul absolutely hated these kinds of people and saw them for what they were: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (2 Timothy 3:2-7)
Man oh man was Paul ever hard on these folks! If a pastor wrote this about those who cause dissension in today’s church, he would be branded as “uncaring, hurtful, or mean-spirited.” In our day and age we have forgotten that the church holds a sacred place with the Lord. He established it, died for it, gave it its authority, enabled its leadership, and gave it spiritual gifts to use within its confines. Jesus sees His body as sacrosanct, holy, and His. Christians have come to falsely think because they enjoy free will and are seen as a priest before the Lord, they can think or do whatever they want, including when it comes to the local church. This is patently false and wrong theology. When Christians leave a church over pettiness, disagreements over ministry, or how they think things should be run – and then try to sway others to join in their personal proclivity Paul says they are “men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected!” Not my words, Paul’s!
As a pastor I have seen folks leave churches for many reasons. Some moved away, some left the faith, some died, some saw the church leadership teaching heresy, and some left in frustration or anger because of personal disagreement. But whatever the reason a person leaves a church for, they would do well to remember the words of Paul and others who saw those who left but then tried to gain a following through deceit and disruption afterwards as ungodly and working against the will of Christ and His body!
Be very careful my dear fellow Christian when you leave a church in frustration, because what you do afterwards speaks volumes as to what your true motives are and what you really believe about Jesus and His church that He loves.
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.