Not to rehash old wounds, but the Scott Phillips news blunder (see my earlier post here) brings another question into the light that is definitely worth discussing.
Phillips said that he and his family were called to another church. We hear this kind of language all the time. So, what Biblical precedent do we see for being called to a local church body by God? This is what we will tackle today. (Side note: I am NOT referring to Scott in this article. I simply wanted to use his example as a jumping point into the issue. Please do not misread me.)
[churchpack_superquote]None…there is a lack of clear Biblical precedent for God specifically calling anyone to a local body of believers as we know them today.[/churchpack_superquote]
In several places, God calls people to do many things. Paul is called to preach and church plant among the Gentiles. Peter is called to preach and church plant among the Israelites. Others were called to share the gospel in specific regions or cities. People are called to use their God-given gifts to glorify God at different places. Keep in mind that this conversation is not about the calling of the pastors. That is quite different from the lay church member. But there is no specific calling to a local body in the sense that we say it today. So why do we say it?
Unfortunately, I have been involved in conversations where it was used to validate church hopping. After all, who can judge God’s calling on my life? Other times, it does seem more legit and sincere. But the matter remains that most of us will not be called in that way to a local body as opposed to another local body unless one church is not honoring God in preaching and practice.
1) Our purpose in church
So then, we are left with our purpose in the local body of believers. We are called to serve one another in love above and beyond petty preferences and squabbling. This is clearly seen in Galatians 5:13. In fact, this verse is given to us right after Galatians 5:12, which shows how serious Paul is about serving one another in love, forsaking ourselves. The issue in the church at Galatia was additions to the grace of God in Jesus. Some where adding circumcision to the gospel. Paul overemphasized that not only should this not be believed, but why would you cause such a division in the church. If you want to be circumcised so bad so as to cause division, then just cut it all off. WOW! That’s quite a statement. So our ultimate purpose is to be actively serving in the church body of which we are members.
2) Reasons for leaving
There are legitimate reasons for leaving a local church for another local church. 9Marks did an awesome article here on that. I’ll give the main reasons in short here:
-Are you “counting others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:1-4)? If you did, would that change your outlook?
-Have you been demonstrating an “eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the body of peace” in the church (Eph. 4:3)? If you did, would that change your outlook?
-Are you being fed by God’s Word?
-Is your family being fed by God’s Word? (This is different than asking “Is your family being entertained?” A teenage son might find the youth program “boring”; but that’s a different matter than whether or not he’s being fed.)
-Are your concerns about the new direction biblical or cultural?
-Have you spoken with an elder or pastor about your concerns? If so, and you’ve not been “heard,” is there chance that you’re now personally offended, in such a way that your judgment is clouded?
-By the same token, is there anyone at all you need to forgive? Any sour relationships?
-Who would be affected by your departure?
-Are you looking for “the perfect church”? That is, are you demanding a level of perfection that is unreasonable to expect in this world?
-Would your leaving help to protect the gospel (because your faith will be hurt in this church and you would not encourage others to stay either) or hurt the gospel (because, as a professing believer, you should be pursuing patience and forgiveness, not an easy out)?
Powerful stuff to consider in the midst of being called out of a church to another church. After all, if you leave one you should at least be headed to another. I think that if most gave a hard look to these reasons they would not leave.
3) Am I called to this church?
The only way that we can say that we are called to a specific body is if we are able to serve that church. Church hopping will most likely not be the result if we consider the churches needs and the wise questions posed by 9Marks above. Basically, you don’t have a reason to leave a Bible-believing, Gospel-proclaiming, Christ-centered church where you are able to serve faithfully unless a sister church needs the help more. That clause at the end is something I have actually never experienced yet in my years in the church as either pastor or member.