31 May 2014

To Leave or Not To Leave

Recently at least one pastor has advocated leaving the PCA for what he believes are valid reasons.  In response another pastor argued that while those reasons give rise to some concern, they are not serious enough in his mind to warrant a departure.  To leave or not to leave, that is the question.  I believe there are two preliminary queries that must be answered in order to resolve this larger issue.  First, is leaving a church or denomination necessary?  Second, is leaving a church or denomination wise?  Regarding the former question, I am in agreement with the second pastor’s response.  The concerns about the PCA do not necessitate leaving the denomination.  As to the latter question, I do not believe it is wise at this time to leave the PCA.  Indeed, it appears very unwise to depart from one fellowship without being called to a different one.  That is to say, it is never wise to leave any church or denomination for purely negative reasons.  God does not simply drive us away from challenging or difficult circumstances.  He uses them to test, challenge and refine – to sanctify us.  Therefore, we are to stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1Cor 16:13).  In other words, be courageous!  We need not flee from anything except sin.  But of course that is dealt with in the first question – is it necessary?  A wise departure always involves being called or guided to something – to a new sphere or opportunity for service, ministry or fellowship.

Let us resist the consumeristic urge to think only of our own tastes and preferences.  Paul says, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Php 2:3).  We must look not only to our own interests but also to those of others (v. 4).  Membership in a church or denomination involves a significant degree of commitment.  It means we become part of a family in which we are bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to [our] mutual edification (WCF 26.2).  To leave unnecessarily for selfish reasons is never wise.  One of the distinguishing traits of a truly Christian character or a genuine Christian church is loyalty.  We serve and worship a God who promises He will never leave us or forsake us.  Even if we are faithless, He remains faithful (2Ti 2:13).  That kind of fidelity should be reflected in our lives and relations.  I do not mean we are to be loyal at all costs, for sometimes circumstances demand decisive action and a break with ungodly influences.  The formation of the PCA is a case in point.  The churches leaving the PCUS departed necessarily and wisely.  But I do mean that loyalty requires kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other… and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col 3:12-14).  Is it necessary to leave the PCA?  No.  Is it wise to leave the PCA?  No, because God is not calling us elsewhere and loyalty demands that we persevere together.  As for me and our church, since at this time a departure is unnecessary and unwise, we will remain gratefully within the PCA.

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