Why I decided to leave my church

By Don Koenig

In a previous article, I told about the
church covenant that we were told to read out loud when the new pastor arrived to take over. A few of the other previous articles in this series also related in some way to issues I experienced at this local church.

I had decided because of the legalistic views of the new pastor that it is probably best for both me and this church that I depart from them. This article was written shortly after I left. The reason why I came back for a short period is given at the end of the article.

There were several reasons why I decided to leave my church.

I am writing about this because I know other churches have many of the same issues going on. Shortly after we joined this church the head pastor and youth pastor suddenly quit for reasons not fully explain and that produced a long search to replace the senior pastor, I will speak of that later.

We had looked long and hard for a good church in the area and in my opinion when we joined this church it was the best of the lot. Almost without exception the rest of the churches we visited in that region of the country were so traditional and ritualistic that the cliché "the frozen chosen" would have been an understatement.

My wife had taken a job that took us to another county in the same area of the Ozarks. We did not want to do the hour drive on winding roads back to the church where we were going to so we joined a closer church. had I known what would happen in the future I might have been inclined to do the distance and remain at my previous church. The last I heard, I no longer would have that option because the pastor of our previous church told me that they have become a purpose driven church. I hope he did not buy into that movement for long.

Lack of commitment to Bible studies was certainly one reason to leave our new church.

The main issue for me was the lack of commitment from the church and the class members to support it by attending faithfully. This Sunday school class was the only Sunday class in the church that did an actual verse by verse Bible study without the LifeWay quarterly magazines. I thought many members would show up when it was announced to the whole church that a real Bible study would begin on a real book of the Bible by a well qualified seminary taught teacher. That however, was not the case. The class actually lost numbers after we dumped the quarterly magazines.

A second reason to leave was finding out that most of the church membership was biblically illiterate

The Bible illiteracy in this church that claims they believe the Bible to be God's word is pretty high. Most have never read through God's word even once in their life, so how do they know it is really God's word? (I guess someone told them it is and that is good enough for them.) When I truly believed that Jesus was Lord I was compelled to read the Bible over and over but I guess I am unusual because others confess Jesus and do not even take the time to read God's message to them even once.

It is rather strange that a visitor from another denomination (who occasionally attended the weekly men's prayer meeting and Bible study) was generally the only one besides myself in attendance that could carry on an in-depth intelligent conversation about biblical issues. Those that attend this group are the core group men of this church! This should not be!

Some deacons continually promoted and pushed ecumenical groups like "Promise Keepers" as well as the latest Christian books and fads. Promise Keepers rallies are a mixed bag but do those who push Promise Keepers even know what the core leadership of the Promise Keepers movement believes? Even if they did know what they believed, would they even know why some of their own doctrine conflicts with the Promise Keeper doctrine?

The leaders of Promise Keepers are largely Pentecostal Arminian Dominionists and they stack the deck with like thinking teachers at their rallies. They have little regard for teaching correct doctrine. They get numbers by peer pressure from go-with-the-flow leaders in churches who think numbers and emotional decisions mean that God has to be behind it. Sure Promise Keepers does some good for men and families but lets not put it on a pedestal that in the past it proved it could not stand on.

Most of the men that do come forward in these Promise Keeper meetings were first told doctrine that made them doubt their salvation in the first place. Or they were told they did not make Jesus Lord when they got saved so they needed to come down and do that. Understand, many of these leaders really have a doctrine of salvation by staying holy until the end.

After several days of subtle brainwashing and being exposed to deafening music, these "Promise Keepers" spend the whole trip home telling each other how wonderful it all was and how their life is now changed. On the next day, they tell it to the church, and by next month they have forgot anything about it and no change is evident in their lives.

Even so, they do remember that there is another meeting scheduled in the future so they need to buy the tickets in advance to get that discount. They also seem to find some kind of affirmation of their own Christian walk if they can find others to join them. I will not even get into the money changers that huckster Christian trinkets and who follow these meetings from town to town fleecing the flock.

When I attended any group at this church what they talked about before and after the formal meetings almost always relates to small talk about anything that does not relate to God or their Christian walk. The talk is usually about local and national sports. When they have sit down lunches at the church you can usually have more fellowship talking to yourself in a mirror. One thing new members cannot do is sit at a table first because if they do they will remain by themselves during the entire dinner (unless it is very crowded). The trick is to wait and find a table that is almost full but don't expect any deep meaningful conversations at that table.

This dual thinking where conversation moves to Christian issues in formal classes and to worldly issues outside of formal studies is reflective of what people really think about in their lives. I do not think it is at all possible to carry out an in-depth conversation about Christian issues with the vast majority of people that I have met in this church.

We joined the church because it was clearly premillennial

Before we joined this church, I was told by the head pastor that his position was premillennial. Otherwise I would not have joined. After all, I do teach premillennial and dispensational Bible prophecy. When this pastor left, the interim pastor was also clearly premillennial (he was an excellent godly preacher full of wisdom).

Some members of the search committee announced to the men's group that they found a candidate for pastor. When I asked these search committee members if he was premillennial they did not even understand the term and when the term was explained to them they did not know the answer.

The search committee was picked by the church to find the new leader for the church. The committee should be pillars of the Church and should be full of knowledge of the Bible, yet those I talked to did not know basic Christian terms. How in the world could they then come up with a correct pastor for a dispensational premillennial church?

My wife and I were on a trip when the candidate was presented to the church and when the vote was taken. The church voted in a very young man to lead this church. I still do not know if this pastor takes an amillennial or a premillennial position and I will bet that he was voted in with none knowing his position. (It seems most young pastors recently out of seminary do not take a position or let anyone know their position on certain theologies.) Thus, they either never teach about unfulfilled Bible prophecy or they misapply these prophetic passages just like the amillennialists).

The new pastor arrives

Our new young pastor, started his first service with having the congregation read an old church covenant (as I said in a previous commentary). I then told him in that case it is not really "our church covenant". (After looking at the words I could not even read it and could not make such an oath to God. Many purpose driven churches are making members sign unbiblical covenants or they can not even join their church. When I asked him where the covenant came from he said he did not know it probably came from some old historical document. I said then it is not our church covenant (it came from a old Baptist hymnal). The pastor in his statements the next week did give me the impression that new members would have to agree to the church covenant to become members. He and his wife and another couple were welcomed into the church membership on my last Sunday of attendance without even a vote of affirmation from the congregation. Perhaps they were afraid to do that, although this vote has always been done in the past for new members.

The new pastor first sermon series is on the Ten Commandments

The new pastor started with a series on the Ten Commandments. He first made it clear that the commandments were to lead us to Christ and that we could not keep them and needed Christ but then like many pastors he gave grace with one statement and took it away with the next.

The next week in his sermon he was doubting the salvation of anyone who broke what he thought was taking the Lord's name in vain. Breaking this commandment according to him included swearing and even common language sayings like "In the name of God" or "as God is my witness" or "O my God" or "I swear to God" etc. He also said that we should not make oaths and vows because God takes them seriously.
He then mentioned the church covenant that they read the week before and suggested that we are all bound by this oath to God and that we needed to keep it.

The following week his sermon was about the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.
In his mind, the Sabbath is Sunday although clearly in the scripture it is Saturday. He said, since we observe the day of the Lord (the eighth day) that this day is now the Sabbath for Christians. That belief simply cannot be found anywhere in scripture. He rationalized the Sunday Sabbath by quoting a scripture that tells us the early Christians met on the first day of the week. So, because early Christians met on Sunday he jumps to the unfounded conclusion that Sunday is now a Sabbath to be followed by Christians. That of course is reasoning from one's preconceived theology. The concept is not taught in scripture. In fact Romans 14, 5-6 gives us the freedom to make every day alike if we so choose.

Early Christians met on the first day of the week for at least two reasons:

1. Many early Christians were Jews and they still kept the real Sabbath (Saturday); even Peter and Paul and James and John did.

2. Jesus rose on Sunday, so they met on that day to celebrate the resurrection.

There is no passage in scripture that in any way equates Sunday to the Sabbath or that puts Gentile Christians under the legalistic requirements of the Sabbath. Yet, this young pastor tells our congregation that we should not be doing certain things on this Sunday Sabbath. He then went on to included such things as watching football, participation in recreational and sporting events, shopping, playing golf, etc. Almost everyone in our church does one or more of those types of activities on Sunday (whether named or implied) and they will continue to do them.

I did not want to be a part of this obvious hypocrisy so I left my church to look for another.

it became obvious to me that each week the church would be put under more bondage and under more control by a pastor who should be learning instead of teaching, so I left the church.

Since we were new in the church we did not have the influence to correct anything from within. The rigid views of the pastor in itself was reason enough for me to sign off and seek somewhere else to worship, but like I said previously there were other reasons as well. There were also social reasons. At this point we had been faithfully attending just about every church function for well over a year. Yet, after over a year in the church, my wife and I had not had one invitation to anyone's house or anywhere else on a couple to couple basis. To be honest, we did attend an open house once by the leader of the Sunday school class around Christmas. There really is much more opportunity for companionship in any neighborhood bar. But, "God forbid" if I be found in one while I am a member of this church, since drinking anything alcoholic breaks the church covenant. (Oh no, I just used the name of God in a figure of speech and according to this pastor I just broke "his" third commandment).

I have some suggestions for this church and other churches like them:

Stop using the dumbed down magazine quarterlies from Lifeway for Bible study and home devotions. This practice is making many Baptists biblically illiterate. Instead they need to attend real Bible studies each week and read the Bible daily.

All in church leadership need to learn the whole Bible and take extra time to study it.

The members need to pay more attention to new people in the church. The Southern Baptist handshaking ritual might look good but when a person walks in a stranger and walks out a stranger each Sunday the person knows he is still a stranger no matter how good the ritual of handshaking is carried out by the church. The only lasting effect of this Southern Baptist ritual is in spreading disease.

The cults are so appealing to many because they really know how to welcome strangers. This church and others like them might try offering some real southern hospitality instead of being so clannish.

The church needs home fellowship groups. This is especially important for people new to the area or for people who have come out of the world and need to meet new friends.

The church members and leaders need to define their church's basic theology and insure that the pastor and those who teach classes adhere to that theology. For example, there should be no amillennial or replacement theology teaching in a dispensational premillennial church.

Young pastors need to study for themselves what the Bible really teaches and not just parrot what seminary school teachers taught them or what they learned as a child in their upbringing. They should offer the same freedom in Christ that the New Testament gives to all Christians. Putting people on guilt trips and back under bondage never accomplished anything in the church other than a reduction in attendance. The Holy Spirit that lives in true believers will convict those that are missing the mark. God does not need pulpit bouncers in His Church. If children are always told that they are screwing up by parents they will become neurotic. In the same vein the children of God who follow pastors who beat up their flock will forever question their own salvation because that assurance will be based on their own performance rather than on His performance on the cross.

I do not expect young pastors to know all about these things. They will learn but please do not act as if you have all the answers at your age because the older wiser people in your church know better. In 30 years if the Lord tarries, you will also realize how little you knew when you were young and how little we all still know.

After I left I received a newsletter from this church

The pastor told the congregation to "think big". He says he has a dream to take the city for Christ. (What world city has ever been taken for Christ? As the character Travis Jordan, in the Frank Pretti novel "The Visitation" says, "Not even Christ took a city for Christ"). When that happens the world will send in the military to take the cross off the gate.

In order to achieve this dream everyone in the church needs to "think big" and prepare room for this large influx of new members. He pretty much laid out the reasons why they need a new church, (he said lack of parking and decaying buildings) but does not outright say that they have to build a bigger church at another location. Yet, I can guarantee he will soon push a building program unless the congregation stands up now and says no!

Where are these pastors cloned from?? The church is in fine shape and I never had a problem parking. I never walked more than one small block to attend. On its best attendance days the church is at most half full. The town has 2200 people, of whom the majority confess to be Christians. Most who do not belong to this church go to some other church in town. You could put every non-Christian, non-confessing Christian and backslider in town in the building and there would still be enough room. The church in the past month had a combined average Sunday morning attendance (two services) of less then 200 people (it declined from 250 after the old pastor left) and the church can hold 400 to 500 people in just one service.

The inside of this church looks very modern and the outside is brick and stone that will still be standing when Jesus comes for His Church. The church owns a huge activity center just two short blocks away that could be used for Sunday school classes if need be. There simply is no reason for building another church other than the pastor's dream to "think big". He says his dream for the church to "think big" is for the glory of Christ. There certainly are enough gullible people in that church who will believe that putting Christ's name on a major expansion program is equivalent to Jesus directing that the church be built for His glory even though building another church in this town will add no one to His kingdom.

What happens to those who do not want to think big in a small town? Are you going to tell them to find another church because they are not going along with your church growth program?

Never mind that this kid's dream will put the church in debt up to its eyeballs for no reason other than to fulfill a dream that was really planted in his brain in seminary or in a church growth seminar. No wonder this pastor left his old smaller church for what he hopes to be his new dreamland. Next, will come the endless preaching on tithing and sacrificial giving to pay for this dreamland. At this point I am glad I left.

I had not attended this church for over a month but due to new developments I returned.

I was determined to find a different church in the area because I knew that this pastor instead of leading me into worship would lead me into agitation over his teaching each Sunday. I write about my search in my search for a good church article.

The reason I decided not to leave this church after all was because the church fired the pastor after about a month. From what I heard from a pillar of the church, some leadership in the church thought some of the doctrine being taught was not what this church believed. They discussed the issues with the pastor and they could not come to agreement. So they asked for his resignation and the church voted to accept It. From what I heard, it was in regard to his strong Calvinist points of view. I personally think when he attacked footfall on Sunday in the Ozarks he was already on shaky ground. I do not know what they found wrong with his teaching because I was not in attendance for his later sermons but I commend them for finally seeing that this man was not the right pastor for this church.

I left after all a few months later due to a physical relocation

I have since have moved to another state. I wish them well but two years after their two pastors left they are still looking for replacements. As I said in a previous article. This stupid man make method of selecting pastors will take them through a 4 year trek in the desert. In fact they may never get back to being the church they once were before their previous pastors left. Two years later the funds were still falling and so was the attendance, yet the deacons think all of this was God's will.

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