Shall I Change Churches?

June 27, 2012

Shall I Change Churches?

Thousands of Americans are considering and reconsidering a difficult decision.  It is a decision that may cost them some of their friends or, if they live in a small town, even their standing in the community.  That decision is, “Should I change churches?”

These are not the gadfly people who go to church to be fashionable.  They go because they have a hunger in their heart for a closer fellowship with God.  Furthermore, they expect their church to strengthen their moral convictions.  When they find their church is not meeting these needs they become discontent. They begin looking around to see if there may be other churches or even other religions that can meet their need.

The younger generation no longer feels a burden of loyalty to their church or denomination.  Time was, when people felt that since their grandparents were Methodists and their parents were Methodists, it would be a disgrace to their ancestors for them to ever leave that church.  They seldom even gave it any consideration.  The only thing that could move them to do so was a contemplated marriage with one of another denomination,

Things have changed, but it is still not an easy decision. There are a great number of things that must be taken into consideration. How will this move affect my family, the church Im leaving, my friends, my relatives, my community, my business? Can I accept some doctrinal truths that are contrary to what I have always believed?

What Motivates People to Change Churches?

Reasons for changing churches are legion. Some are legitimate, some are not. Some decisions are carefully thought out, others are made within the short span of a church business meeting.

There are a number of common causes that motivate people to make this move.  The most common cause is that many churches have degenerated to the place where they no longer meet the spiritual needs of their people.  The fact that people have spiritual needs seems to be blindly ignored by multitudes of modern clergy.  Their attention is completely taken up with man’s social needs.  They attempt to treat the symptoms and ignore the cause. They would send out teams of workers to fix the leaky roofs of Kentucky hillbillies when they should be sending out missionaries who can point the residents of Appalachia to God who, in turn, will help them get victory over their drinking and other bad habits so they can be responsible citizens and fix their own roofs.

Many church goers find that the sermons they hear are a complicated composition filled with much religious verbiage but they fail to contain anything practical that they can apply to their own personal lives.  They leave wondering what they have received  that made the time spent there worth while.  People who think for themselves find it hard to accept a church that takes their time and money and gives them little, if anything, in exchange. Many have rightly thought of their church as a sacred institution and therefore have been extremely reluctant to voice any criticism.  They finally realize that they can no longer exercise restraint. When they finally find the nerve to express some concern they are surprised to find others who feel the same way.  There are two courses open to them. They can remain in the church and try to stem the tide and correct the evils, or they can leave and go to another church where things are better.  There are many who try for years to change their church and finally give up in desperation.

Many leave their church because what they hear from the pulpit is blatantly and unmistakably contrary to the Bible. They have a healthy respect for the Bible and cannot stand to hear it berated or constantly misinterpreted.  There is, on the part of many, a hunger for Bible teaching.  They want to know what the Bible teaches on any number of subjects.  They take their questions to their pastors and get no intelligent answers so they start a little private investigation on their own. Often groups get together with the sole purpose of studying the Bible.  There are thousands of people who are active in such groups across the country.  It is refreshing to them to find that the Bible has intelligent answers to many problems in everyday life.  Their study uncovers new questions so they go on searching and finding.  When such people find that there are churches that take the Bible literally this way and teach it and preach from it as a source book for everyday living they are naturally attracted.  They find it hard to continue to have respect and appreciation for their old church.

When the Bible is offered as an authority by which people can judge which church is right they often reply that “It all depends on how you interpret it.” Let’s turn that thought over and over in our minds and see where it leads us.

1.        Let us first of all admit that it is possible to misinterpret the Bible.  Every mans reasoning and understanding is limited by the extent of his mental power and. education. The man who thinks that the word “tribulation” comes from the two words “tribute” and “congratulation” will think that “tribulation” means to give tribute with congratulations. Needless to say, he will be miles from the true meaning of the word,

2.        Sornetimes the one who says lt all depends on how you interpret it” means to imply that he wants to have the right to make it mean whatever he would like for it to mean. This approach has been with us ever since Augustine.  He began what is called spiritualizing.  By that is meant that the true meaning is not in the words themselves but they only illustrate some spiritual truth.  For example; many Bible commentators assume that Israel is a type of the church.  Therefore, whenever they find Israel in the Bible they make it apply to the universal church.  When the Bible is used, or abused this way, it ceases to be a standard for measuring truth and is little more than something to illustrate thoughts and theories already formed or being formulated.

3.        Many mistakenly assume that every church bases its teachings on the Bible.  Since the teachings of churches are often contradictory, they assume that when theologians set down to study the Bible they come up with widely differing interpretations.

If the truth were known, these people would find that a great body of the teaching of many churches does not find its source in the Bible.  Their minister may imply that what he is preaching comes right out of the Bible but if he were ask to give chapter and verse he would have none.  It has become fashionable to say “Jesus taught” and then launch out into some wild pronouncement that may be far removed from anything Jesus ever said.  They do not quote his exact words. Neither do they cite a reference where Jesus is supposed to have said it. He assumes that his congregation will be naive enough to accept it without question.

4.        Many who are saying, “It all depends on how you interpret it,” are not making any attempt to interpret it themselves.  They are using this as an excuse for their neglect in reading it. In their mind it has lost its authoritative voice.  They have replaced the “Thus saith the Lord” with “This is what I think it means.”  Since they have no assurance that their interpretation is right or any better than someone else’s, then why bother to read it?

5.        Ágain, the It all depends on how you interpret it” is used as an escape mechanism so they won’t have to face the plain truth of what the Bible says.  They hear a sermon that points out the facts of sin and their own wickedness and they say “Well that is just that preacher’s interpretation of it.”  They

assume that the next person who reads it may interpret it entirely different.  Therefore, they won’t get alarmed about what some Bible quoting preacher says because they aren’t sure he has the right interpretation of it.  They will just interpret it to suit themselves and go merrily on in their sin and hope to avoid the embarrassment that would be theirs if they were to accept the preacher’s interpretation.

6.        These people are saying that if the Bible is in any measure from God, he has given us the liberty to make of it anything we want to.  Therefore, some say it is a record of man’s search for truth.  What was accepted as truth by Moses is not meant to be accepted as truth today because man keeps searching and finding new truth.  They are saying “It is something like a history of the automobile.  Just because they put gas lanterns on cars in grandpas day doesn’t mean we feel any compulsion to do it today”.

This theory rejects any notion of divine inspiration.  It is nothing more than a record of man’s groping after truth.  It leaves us with no authoritative divine revelation.  The Bible is no better than the mind of the man who attempts to interpret it.  If his mind is twisted and warped by years of hatred, that will be reflected in his interpretation.

7.        In the final analysis, it does all depend on how you interpret it.  If you approach the Bible as a divine revelation from God you are not going to be satisfied with a superficial reading. You will want to study to be sure you have come to the correct understanding of it.  Often the Bible does not need to be interpreted but merely accepted.  Someone has said, “If the plain sense makes sense seek no other sense.”  The level of intelligence of the average person is sufficient so that if he just literally accepts what it says he won’t go far wrong.

The Bible is a book to be studied.  If you find a word you are not familiar with, look it up in a good Bible dictionary. There you will often find the word traced to its source in the original language of the Bible.  If you do find a portion that you need to interpret, it again calls for some study.  Get some good Bible commentaries to see how others have interpreted it. You will often find a great deal of agreement among the commentators.

The Bible is both simple and profound.  The simplest of men who know how to read can read it without feeling that they are wading through sometime much too deep for them. On the other hand, our wisest of scholars can give a lifetime to a small portion of it and still not plumb the depths of it.  If the Bible were all simple, intellectual people would say, “That book is just for low class uneducated people.”  If it were all complicated, the simple people wouldn’t try to read it.  They would say it is just a book for scholars. God is no respecter of persons.  He wants all to read his revelation and profit by it.  The gospel writers take us through the fields of the farmer, down by the sea side where fishermen come and go and into the fold of the shepherd amidst the bleating of the sheep.  Dare you say that you can’t understand that?  If so, you better stop reading this article because you won’t understand it either.  The New Testament authors also take us in a flash across the ages of time and give us a glimpse of the future.  Upon our minds they cast pale horses and vials of woe dumped upon the earth.  Come students!  Exercise your minds and learn of that which is yet to be.

“It all depends on how you interpret it.” Will you use that as a switch to turn off the man of God who tells you of the glorious things God has for those who love Him? Will you use it as a cloak to cover up your spiritual ignorance? Will you use it as a justification for continuing to attend a church that denies the great fundamental truths of Christianity and justifies sin as virtue in disguise?  The choice is yours. Unfortunately, the consequences will be yours also.

 

Our E-mail address is rusandmargaretgeorge@windstream.net

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