I don’t think there is any harder nut to crack than a person who has some understanding of doctrine, but is mired in Human Reason. About two months ago, my time at the local church I belonged to came to an end. I had been praying for well over a year that God would show me if I was to stay there or leave. The answer came that it was time to leave and I left. Why did God take away my affection for that particular church? I didn’t leave because I was angry with anyone or anything like that. For about 13 months I had observed God driving a wedge between me and the leadership at that church. That wedge began very small and grew very large. It began when God opened my eyes to Reformed Theology as I researched my third book. There was already some tension between my pastor and me because of my first two books. I never figured out why. However, as I became Reformed in my theology I naturally discussed this with him and some of the other deacons.
It was amazing to me that only a few even knew what Reformed Theology was. Those who did know also had a warped understanding of it. My pastor told me that it was old and out of date. He insinuated that the Holy Spirit had moved on from it. I became a man on an island in that church very quickly. I was a teacher and, of course, I taught the truth. There were some in my class from an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist background who resisted what I taught very aggressively. Of course they could not refute anything I taught from scripture. It was always based in tradition.
It all came to a head in the Spring when my pastor decided to implement the Purpose Driven Church model. I had been writing posts and comments for the past year on the PDC and how unbiblical it is. I participated in many discussions with pastors and church leaders all over the United States about it and how it is wrong for any church to do. When my pastor gave me that book to read I almost fell over. I could not believe it. I thought that God had finally answered my prayers about leaving. However, God had me write a document to give to my pastor detailing the biblical fallacies used by Rick Warren in his book. I took about two weeks to research and write it. I gave it to my pastor along with the book just before Church that following Sunday.
As I was preparing to leave to go home after teaching that Sunday, I noticed that a couple of the other Deacons would no longer talk with me. I missed the next leadership meeting because of an out of state trip, but when I got back I was sure I was going to hear how the push to go with the PDC was full on and that would be the answer from God to leave. However, I was told by a good friend that it was decided in the meeting to not implement it. I was very relieved. I set about simply teaching and serving. A few weeks later we had a deacon’s meeting and I was shocked to hear the pastor and the chairman of the deacons discussing all of the PDC things that they were going to start doing. The Pastor even had his PDC book with him and quoted several time from Rick Warren as I sat there stunned.
Afterwards, I prayed a great deal about it asking for wisdom and discernment. I also pleaded with God to make it clear to me and my wife that it was time to leave that church. As I worked on my lesson I had no heart for it. What was going on? The next day we went to church and found that they had decided to combine my class with another class and so I wasn’t going to teach. No one had told me. I knew right then that I was done. It was time to leave. I went to my wife and told her. She said that we should just leave after early service, which we did. We have not been back.
Both of us miss our friends from that church. We have visited a few other churches, but we have not joined any of them. I do not feel adrift. I do not feel like a man on an island anymore. I miss the fellowship from that church, but I do not miss the conflicts I had with the pastor and some of the leaders there.
I received a letter from my pastor about a month after we left. He never called. He never visited. He never checked to see how we were doing. That was fine by me, but it really bothered my wife. When the letter came she read it first. She told me later that the way he had handled that was all she needed. She then began to understand how frustrated I had become with him. He would not discuss doctrine with me face to face. He would wait until a sermon to make a point that he knew I disagreed with while staring at me as he did it. Once in a men’s Bible study class he started making disparaging remarks about my first book in front of the other men. Over the next couple of Sundays he had everyone that was in that Bible Study class give their testimony before the church. That is, he had them all do it except me. Now, I’m not a big fan of doing that anyway, but I could tell that he was deliberately excluding me.
My heart ached over how this relationship had deteriorated over the past five years. I said nothing to anyone at the church. However, one day my mother called. My mother is a very discerning Christian. She has that gift. She asked how I was doing. Then she told me that she was positive something was very wrong. Then I told her what had been going on at church and how we had left. She told me that God had cut that relationship between me and my pastor and it was time to move on.
Attempting to discern this sort of thing by Human Reason is always wrong. All through this very trying time, I kept asking God to make the cut or not and to make it obvious. My mother and I discussed the history of this and she told me that it appeared to her that my pastor had seen me as a threat. That surprised me more than a little. I am a teacher, not a brawler. I don’t try to force people to my view. I use scripture to attempt to speak the truth. I never tried to circumvent his authority. I never consulted him on my writing because he was always so negative about me writing at all. He refused to see that my emphasis on discipleship and growing the flock unto Christ-likeness was far more important than growing a big church. I am convinced that God put that wedge between us and moved me out of there. Why? I really don’t know. However, I do know this, when the compromises with the PDC started happening, God made it clear to me that I could not be passive about it. I had to speak the truth. I did that. He also shoved me out the door and I obeyed Him there.
A good friend told me a few weeks ago to just rest in the Lord and don’t worry about church for awhile. God does that sort of thing sometime. My stress level about church has really diminished. I feel like I did my part in the fight for truth. It didn’t matter whether what I stood up against happened or not. What mattered was taking the stand and being obedient. I feel like I never cracked the tough nut. However, I was obedient and God has given me peace about that.
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