Christian people are regularly pulling away from their church families by entertaining and visiting other options when they find themselves dissatisfied, frustrated with leadership, upset with others in the body of Christ, angry if their gifts and callings are not acknowledged the way they would like, disappointed in the programs or activities, or disheartened by the lack of “success” at their church. Sometimes people have no other reason to court other churches except they are looking for a change, looking for convenience, or for a church that better serves their needs. When people leave they often use expressions like, “Holy Spirit said….or Holy Spirit is leading…” without ever asking for their leaders to “listen” to God’s voice and share what He is telling them so there can be spiritual agreement. Some people slowly drift away while others abruptly pull up stakes and move on, but undoubtedly, most Christian people will explain their reason for leaving a church or ministry to be a Holy Spirit prompting, even though there are probably some hidden agendas.
It happens so regularly at this point in the body of Christ that we have grown accustomed to and accept it as a normal part of church life though this should not be so. I myself have fallen prey to this same “normal part of church life” concept, buying into it and rationalizing my choices, but giving God all the credit for moving us on when ministry seemed impossible. However, it was not God, – it was me. The first time we abruptly pulled up stakes and moved on thinking it was God was when we were part of a church where a “few” people hated us. I am not exaggerating by using that word as we received hate mail, were publicly humiliated, and told we were not welcome. It was such a shock to us that we were not prepared to handle the rejection. Though I received comfort from the Lord, I did not let Him bring strength, joy, and hope into our ministry and lives. I was devastated and confused allowing myself to wallow in a sea of sadness, pity, and pain. We thought we were sacrificing ourselves for the many, but in truth we sacrificed many for a few naysayers. Though the Word of God tells us we will be persecuted and that trials and tribulations will come, we are still surprised when they do, and even more surprised by whose hands they come, generally those closest to us. We forget or ignore our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, thus we run away from people and circumstances when the warfare is intense. (Ephesians 6:12)
As a result of experiencing this “leaving” phenomenon ourselves and then watching it happen more frequently in the body of Christ with the pace ever quickening, I have felt an increased burden to pray for the American Church. I find myself wondering how so many people are hearing from God to leave difficult or unhappy situations when Scripture points to the opposite. Rarely if ever did God simply move people out of hard places but rather helped them to “go through” and experience victory first. When people leave a church or ministry, the ripple effects are far reaching yet we seem unaware and unconcerned about the impact of our decisions on others. People who leave churches are typically well-intentioned but also focused on self. I say this with all the love and grace of Jesus Christ because if we were Kingdom minded, we would put His cause above our own inability to understand the difficulties we go through with faith, family, and church.
Let us understand one thing – when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He always places us in His family! Always! He places and appoints us in a church of His choosing. However, He will give us over to our own desires should we decide we do not like His place of choosing and want to go our own way. This “giving over” is demonstrated in 1 Samuel 8 when the Israelites decided they wanted a king. God had provided judges for His people while He reigned over them Himself. But even after Samuel told the people that a king would only enslave them, they still clamored for a king. God relented and gave them what they wanted, telling Samuel the people had not rejected him but rejected God and His reign over them. It is interesting to note the judges were not perfect and in fact, we are told they were dishonest and perverted justice but it was still God’s plan to work “through” judges. However, the people wanted to be like all the other nations having a king to rule over them, to judge them, to go before them, and fight their battles for them. I believe this describes people in the church today. God has given us His plan for what Church should look like. (Ephesians 4:11-12) Jesus Himself has appointed apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists to lead and equip us, but that does not mean all the leaders are perfect nor that we will like everything they say and do. Yet God works “through” them to make His bride blemish free. Unfortunately, we want what we want when we want it, and most Christians are milling around, clamoring to God they want something different. And if they do not get it they will go looking for it. In His great love He gives us free will. What a mighty God we serve that is ever patient and will wait for us to return to Him.
Whenever we begin looking to leave our church family on our own it is probably not going to turn out for us in the end. I know people do not want to hear this. I sure did not! But it is truth. We leave churches for all kinds of reasons, yet we will not find in the Word of God where He tells us to leave churches. Therefore if we say Holy Spirit is leading us away we are most likely deceived, unwillingly to confront the true reasons for our leaving. You see when we are meant to move on our leaders will release us because there is a Kingdom purpose for it. Beloved when we take it upon ourselves to leave our appointed places, we risk coming under ungodly authority, giving ourselves over to false doctrine and antichrists who are already in the world. (1 John 2:18)
I have said for years that Satan is extremely uncreative. He tells the same lies over and over and the people of God continue to listen, acting on those lies and then giving errant credit to God for their decisions. For nearly three decades, I have watched and listened to stories of people leaving churches and ministries because of self-motivated lies. How can I tell it is a lie? The story line remains unchanged and we even hear the same phrases from people who leave churches. In fact, so obvious are Satan’s tactics we can fairly accurately predict who will be leaving a church though the time it takes them to leave may vary. But the attitude and actions are predictable and painful as people unknowingly and unwittingly cave in to the schemes of the evil one, while at the same time believing God is leading them away. The Word of God speaks volumes about deception, how easy it is to be deceived, and about the prevention and remedy for this disease. Yet, Christians continue to be deceived, choosing to “figure it out” on their own, forsaking the family of God in lieu of thinking they are following the Spirit of God, finding themselves in a desert place where He did not take them. Christians by and large have bought into Satan’s lie that they need to “find themselves” and “find the place God has prepared for them”.
Beloved, when you accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you found yourself in Him, and there is nothing better. When He placed you in the family of God, either through your biological or spiritual family, you found the place God has prepared for you. We make it much more difficult than it is, and we forsake family and church in order to discover something else, which we rarely find. The results of this deception are evident as we look at the Church in America. We have not only forsaken our first love like the church of Ephesus but we have shipwrecked our faith as a result of looking at our own needs, wants, desires, expectations instead of finding ourselves completely in Him. The church in Ephesus served the Lord, labored, demonstrated patience, stood against evil, and did not become weary. Yet, they left their first love. How often have we started out doing all things pleasing to the Lord and at the same time were unaware that we had fallen, not to mention forgot where we fell from? We leave our first love, Jesus Christ, by focusing on ourselves, our own efforts, and our own needs. (Revelation 2:1-7) If we will commit to repentance and returning to our first love, we will find ourselves completely immersed in Kingdom work right where we are at and refuse to look elsewhere, at least until we have completed our purpose and left a place better than we found it.
I have spent years watching the decline of the true Church, at times being frustrated, sad, and feeling helpless as I observe people slowly drift away from their roots, families, and churches. Confronting them has done nothing to stop the outflow. Knowing I have done the same thing did not make me feel any better. Recently after nearly fifteen years of intercession the Lord began to pour out revelation concerning this epidemic, convicting me of my own sin, and sharing with me what is happening to His Church. He did this by revealing the tactics Satan uses to get the attention of God’s children, and then after that, it is all about choices we make. The devil uses lots of “D” words to discourage and disrupt our faith in the body of Christ. But God uses lots of “A” words to remind us of the absolute victory we have in Him and the importance of investing in the church He has placed us in.
The next teachings will address these “D’s” and “A’s” and prayerfully reestablish the truths of God’s perfect and inerrant Word for the Church today!