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It happens sometimes in some local churches that pressure is put not to quit the church to join another one. This is more common in Europe than in Anglo-Saxon countries. However, I have heard this kind of thing in Anglo-Saxon local congregations as well.
This pressure is often accompanied by this passage from the Bible, which is more or less accentuated depending on the place:
Hebrews 10:25 ... And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
We then hear Christians or ill-informed leaders simply using part of this passage saying: "Let us not forsake our assembly!
This is often used to discourage anyone from leaving their local church.
But even though Paul said this, it is important to understand that it is in a particular context, which we will see together now.
The verse that precedes the one we have just quoted is this one:
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works …
Paul is encouraging Christians to show love, compassion and solidarity towards one another. And it is in this context that Paul says not to forsake the fellowship meetings.
He is not necessarily talking about local church meetings, but any kind of meeting of Christians who come together to encourage and love one another. This certainly concerns local churches, but also houses, parks, or any other meeting place where Christians gather to encourage and show brotherly love to each other.
So this passage in Hebrews is not about Christians not leaving their local church. It simply says that if we are born again and have the opportunity, we should have regular meetings with each other. For some it will be every week, for others several times a week, for others once a month, etc... To each case its own arrangement.
I have written this quick teaching because I regularly see Christians who wish to leave their local church for good reasons, and who dare not do so thinking that they will commit a sin.
Sometimes, we want to go to a place where the teaching is more in line with our knowledge and relationship with God. Unfortunately, it can also happen that the leadership team, or elders, put pressure on us because they do not agree with some of our ways of thinking. I am not talking here about people who would like to leave their local assembly on a whim, but about people who live and walk according to biblical truth and who are faced with a leader who does not. This happens very sadly.
I think I have heard everything and anything in this area. I have seen pastors who are at their wits' end saying that if a couple left their church they would end up divorced. This is just one example among many. This is not to target pastors or leadership teams in general, but simply to say that not all pastors have the right teaching and attitude, just as some Christians do not have the right teaching and attitude. This is why I am talking about people who want to leave their local church for biblical and valid reasons, not because they are angry with so-and-so for example.
In this case, what does God think?
Is it really possible to quit your local church for biblical reasons?
The answer is yes!
For this we only need to look at what Jesus Himself said about a pastor of a local church in the city of Ephesus.
Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
In this example Jesus is rebuking the pastor of the church in Ephesus. We are not talking about a very small local church, but about a group of Christians in Ephesus that represents about 100,000 people all together.
The previous chapter gives us some hints about this “lampstand”.
Revelation 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
It is therefore very clear here that Jesus is ready, if this pastor does not repent of his bad behaviour, to take away the whole assembly of which he is the main leader.
God has no problem with you leaving your local church if the teaching of the Bible is not respected, or if the attitudes are not in conformity with what the Bible teaches. If Jesus says that He will remove this local church from this pastor if he does not repent, then He has no problem changing the leader of a local church if he does not do his job correctly.
It is exactly the same with all Christians in a local church. If the place you are going to does not respect important values of the Bible, and does not agree with its teaching, or exerts pressure on you, then you have the right to quit that local church without committing any sin in doing so.
However, it is very important that you leave in good terms.
You must do everything possible to leave in the best possible way. To do this, the first thing is to not be offended. I am not going to talk about offence in detail here, there is a lot to say but that is not the point now. Not being offended is therefore essential. If you need time because you have realised that you are offended, take some time to go to your leader in peace, to put an end to this offence.
Most leaders do not react well when they are contradicted in their attitudes or teaching. However, I have seen pastors react very well to a departure that they caused. This is just to say that not all are reacting badly.
Explain your reasons clearly, and make sure you always maintain an attitude of brotherly love. Just because I don't agree with a brother or sister in Christ, doesn't mean we shouldn't love or respect each other. I can have a healthy relationship with a person who disagrees with me.
It is not always possible to remain in good terms because it takes at least two people to come to an agreement. Therefore, if you have respected the fact that you always act in a loving and respectful way, then you are not responsible for the other person's attitude.
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Bye for now...
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