“We’ve been looking for a biblically sound church for seven years.”
“There isn’t a church that preaches sound doctrine within a 90 minute drive of our house.”
“My husband and I have given up on church.”
It was heartbreaking to read these and scores of similar comments responding to my recent article “Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church.” On the other hand, it was encouraging to hear from so many women (and even a few brave men!) whose love for Christ and fidelity to His word have moved them out of apostate churches and set them on the hunt for a body of believers which worships Him in spirit and in truth.
Even though most commenters already seemed to know this, I wanted to go back and clarify for everyone that leaving an apostate church is not the end of the story. God is quite clear in His word that we are not to abandon meeting together with other Christians for fellowship, worship, and the preaching and teaching of God’s word:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, NOT neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Look around. Read the paper. Watch the news. Do “you see the Day [of Christ’s return] drawing near”? I do. God says that makes it even more important for Christians to stick together, meeting regularly to encourage each other and stir one another up to love and good works. We need each other. But how can we meet together, when it’s so hard to find a church that teaches and preaches sound doctrine?
1. Make sure you’re only leaving a church for essential reasons.
There are biblical issues and then there are issues of preference. You may not like the genre of music at your church, but is it theologically sound? Perhaps you’d prefer that your pastor wear a suit instead of jeans, but does he rightly handle God’s word?
If you’re a member of a church that is, generally speaking, doctrinally sound, you should probably stay, even if – or maybe especially if – you see some areas that seem slightly “off,” biblically. It may be that God has placed you in that church to shed some light on the situation and to be a catalyst for bringing things back in line with Scripture. Sometimes when a church member or leader bobbles a little it’s simply because they don’t know that what they’re doing conflicts with Scripture. See if you can come along side the person and help out. Remember, there was a time when you didn’t know any better, either.
2. Leave no stone unturned.
If your church is apostate and you do have to leave, you should immediately begin looking for a doctrinally sound church to join. Staying home from church for a while just makes it that much easier not to go back. Ask trusted Christian friends about their churches, look on line, drive around town, but look. Don’t give up your search until you’ve checked out every single church you can possibly get to.
Keep in mind that you may have to make some sacrifices to find a church that adheres to God’s word. It might not be very close to your house. They might meet earlier or later or be bigger or smaller than you prefer. You may have to choose a church of a different denomination than you grew up in. That’s OK. Keep looking.
3. Think outside the steeple.
It seems impossible, but some people, even in populous areas, leave no stone unturned and still can’t find a church that rightly handles God’s word. (Unfortunately, we are going to see more and more of that “as the Day draws near.”) If you absolutely cannot find a doctrinally sound established church you may need to begin meeting with other Christians outside of the established church: in homes, community centers, after work, etc.
I want to be clear that I advise this only as a last resort after exhausting every possibility of joining a biblical established church. I have known of people who withdrew from established churches because of doctrinal problems, and instead of searching for a sound, established church, decided to form a house church, which then fell into other doctrinal problems of its own. House churches can be very vulnerable to doctrinal error.
If you must meet with other believers outside of an established church, make sure whoever is pastoring the group is biblically qualified to do so, and that your home church carries out all of the components of a biblical church: Bible teaching, worship, prayer, care for members, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and church discipline. There are many wonderful, trustworthy resources such as sermons, Bible teaching, and Bible study lessons available on line for free. Take advantage of them. You may also wish to contact your denomination’s headquarters, a reputable missions organization (such as NAMB or IMB), or a doctrinally sound church planting organization and ask about the possibility of a missionary or church planter coming to plant a new church in your area.
4. Can’t find other Christians to meet with? Make them.
I say that somewhat jokingly. Of course you should not evangelize for the sole purpose of having other Christians to meet with. You should already be sharing the gospel with others simply because you are a Christian. Every Christian, regardless of her own church situation, is called to take the good news of Christ to those around her. However, whereas you might previously have shared the gospel with someone and then invited her to church with you, now you might invite her to your home church.
Yep, it’s a pretty radical idea, but we still have the freedom in the U.S. to move to any area of the country we want. If you absolutely cannot find a way to meet together with other Christians, you might want to prayerfully consider moving somewhere else. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and obeying Scripture is worth any sacrifice. Yes, it’s that important.
God’s word says we’re not to forsake meeting together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. God wants you to obey His word. If you want to obey His word and you ask Him to make a way for you to do that, He will answer that prayer. It might not be in the way you’re hoping or expecting, but He will provide a way for you to obey Him.
God wants you to be in fellowship with other believers. I know it can be hard to find a biblical church, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. God’s will. God’s way. It’s my prayer that each of you reading this will find that biblical place of worship, fellowship, and teaching so that each time you get ready for assembly you can say with David:
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
20 thoughts on “Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly”
Amen thanks for this lovely post
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You’re welcome :0)
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The Lord showed us tremendous grace. We found our church in five weeks, and it’s a wonderful church! For the first time ever, I feel at home.
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That’s great! So happy for you, Debbie!
I greatly appreciate this article, however, it brings great pain as well. I have followed most of what you have stated except for leaving. I have to be very careful how much I reveal because others might recognize my comments. It’s terrible having to “hide and heal” because of emotional abuse within the marriage, family and church.
I have tried; truly tried to re-enter the churches. I left years ago after being quite involved with “the church” … Apostasy and spiritual abuse keeps me away and just two Sundays ago I cried out again to the Lord because of not having true Christian fellowship and being told that my abusive spouse would be very welcome within this particular church. It brought great fear and sadness as I realized, once again, that here was another “c”hurch not willing to protect me.
I appreciate being spiritually nurtured by sound Biblical preachers/teachers via the internet but like you have stated – the Lord would desire us to assemble together.
I am older now; weakened in health and yet must perhaps have p/t employment due to a pending separation/divorce.
I covet the prayers of the saints that He would provide a way of escape for me.
I would love to move to where there is a ‘true church’ … but it is very difficult when you do not have friends or family that can help you. There are many more of “me” out there in other communities. Being held in bondage and isolated.
I earnestly desire to please the Lord with all of my life; and for how ever many days I have left. Thank you for caring.
I am so sorry to hear of the terrible things you’ve been going through. Have you found a safe place to live?
Safe as can be – can’t say much more. The Lord is faithful and yet because of “the past” I have became shall we say more discerning and now exhort all Believers to be wary of letting our guard down. Keeping on the whole armour of God and gaining much encouragement from ministries like yours.
Praise our precious Lord for providing a church for DebbieLynn. 🙂
I understand. I’m taking a moment to pray for you right now. Stay safe and keep trusting Jesus.
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My wife and I were called out of the traditional church a number of years ago and haven’t looked backed since.
Interesting. What are y’all doing for worship and fellowship now?
Tony, If time permits I’m sure many would like to know “your story”. At least you have your wife for fellowship. There are many fractured marriages because of HIS Name. That’s okay. I often wonder why the Lord has me without a church at this moment in time? I have grown stronger in my desire to evangelize and also waiting for His return:-) … but whoa, the shunning and snubbing is difficult at times. I’m discovering that ‘tradition’ plays a major part in many lives.
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What I have come to find is that this indeed is a lonely road that we walk. I have had many dreams and visions of what will happen to the organized church. As well as what is going on in churches and what I am seeing that church is supposed to be like. One such vision is one I called the Puzzle vision.
1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be
done so that the church may be built up.
The Lord showed me a vision 02/26/2013 and in this vision I saw people gathered around an oval table. The table was low to the ground so that you had to sit on the floor. The people I saw sitting there around the table each had a piece of a puzzle. As they all worked together, the image on the puzzle began to take shape and when they were finished, the picture was of Jesus Christ. He was the center of the meeting. Each one had to do his part in finishing the puzzle and it was not left to one person to do the work of the group. This is how real relationships are built and what church done Jesus’ way should foster.
This is church.
The only reason for the gathering of believers was to re-assemble the body of Christ with each part, I.e., the foot, the hand, the eye, etc. doing its part so that the church, Christ’s body on earth may be edified and that Christ may be glorified.
They did not gather because of a charismatic leader, I.e., a pastor.
They didn’t gather because of church programs.
They didn’t gather because of the worship team.
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Tony, you seem like a great guy with a great heart, so I really hate having to say this to you, but my love for you and for Christ and fidelity to His word demands it. It seems as though you have done what I mentioned in the article about walking away from an established church, forming a home church, and falling into false doctrine as a result. Let me take you back to Scripture to explain why:
1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
This tells us that Scripture is not only trustworthy because it is breathed out by the Holy Spirit, but Scripture is sufficient for everything we need to know about life, the Christian walk, and the church. We do not need subjective dreams and visions. We have God’s sure and certain word. To say that we need to have dreams and visions to tell us about the church or anything else is to tell God that He was wrong when He said His word is enough.
2. Not only do we not need, nor should we seek dreams and visions, God is clear in Hebrews 1:1-2a that He no longer speaks to people that way, He speaks through His Son, Jesus, the Word (John 1:1):
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,”
3. Because we know that the Bible is God’s word, and that God never lies (Titus 1:2) and cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), we can know for certain that God a) would not go against His written word and speak to people in dreams and visions, and b) even if He did, He would never tell someone something, or call someone to do something, that conflicts with His word.
This is how we know, just for one example, that God does not call women to be pastors. His written word forbids this, and he would never call someone to do something that He, Himself, has already forbidden.
4. So, because we know these things, we can know that while God does not want us to join with an established church that teaches false doctrine, He does not “call people out of the traditional church” altogether. In fact, one of the verses I cited in the article, Hebrews 10:24-25, says the exact opposite. We are not to withdraw from a doctrinally sound, biblical church. That’s what this whole article is all about.
5. Your belief that God speaks to you in dreams and visions, plus the way you’ve misunderstood Scripture in the “Puzzle Vision” (see below) is a clear indication that you need to be in a Bible-believing, doctrinally sound church where men trained in the Scriptures can teach you how to properly handle God’s word so that you can properly teach it to others.
If you’ll look at 1 Corinthians 14:26 in context, you’ll see that it is not about everybody having a piece of the puzzle to contribute, it’s about Paul laying down a structure for order in the church because things had gotten so chaotic in their worship services. Further, your paragraph beginning, “The only reason…” is incorrect. This was not the reason the church assembled.
Again, if we go to Scripture, not dreams and visions, we can know with certainty why the church assembled, because Acts 2:42 tells us plainly:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
Tony, I promise I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. Like I said, you seem like a great guy with a great heart, but right now you are also, unfortunately, in great error. You may be hearing from a spirit, but it is not the Holy Spirit. And that is a frightening thing.
I would urge and encourage you to find a biblical church in your area (if I knew where you were I might be able to offer some suggestions), join it, and sit under sound biblical teaching. In the mean time, I’d encourage you to listen to some biblical preaching on line. I would suggest John MacArthur (http://www.gty.org/) or perhaps Steve Lawson (http://www.onepassionministries.org/) to start.
God bless you and thanks for reading :0)
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Michelle, you have given excellent exhortation.
It was preachers like John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Alistair Begg, etc that proved to me just how apostate my local churches had become. For many, many years I have either been shunned or made to feel that I am totally “off” … and lately, you just can not say anything negative about Beth Moore. 😦
I can understand why some House churches start but it should never be because of a vision.
Justin Peters is also an excellent resource when it comes to false teachers and doctrine. Just discovered another series on Youtube posted May of 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB4QFkl-aIA commences with #229, part 1 – #237.
FYI: I am not being super judgmental – literally all of the churches in my small community have embraced women in the pulpit and mystical experiences. 😦
The Alpha Course introduced a very ecumenical mind set and it was only a matter of time before everyone was condoning each other’s shortcomings — Sin, Repentance are taboo words – I am considered a perfectionist or legalistic for desiring purity within the church in order to worship a very holy and awesome God.
I was told that Jesus is our ‘friend’ and would be embarrassed if I bowed down to Him.
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I’m so sorry to hear about the churches in your area. Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more common, as are the nasty remarks about those of us who insist on purity of doctrine. Justin Peters is, indeed, a wonderful teacher. One of my favorites. :0)
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Michelle, my understanding from your writing, with scripture as your basis, was that women should not teach men in the church. But, you contradicted yourself by preaching to Tony, who is a man. Please forgive me. It just did not seem consistent for a woman to teach that women should not preach to men and then turn around and clearly preach to a man.
I think you may be confusing “preaching to men in the gathered body of Believers” with “having a conversation in the comments of a blog post”. They’re not the same thing, so my comments to Tony here do not contradict Scripture.
First Timothy (where the prohibition against women preaching to/teaching Scripture to men and holding authority over men is found in 2:11-3:7) is what’s called a “pastoral epistle”. It is a letter from Paul to Timothy (and all other pastors) about how to run the local church. So, in its proper context, we understand that women preaching to/teaching Scripture to men and holding authority over men is prohibited in the gathering of the church body. It prohibits women preaching the sermon, teaching a co-ed Bible study class, holding improper authority over men on a church committee – things like that. It does not prohibit things like discussions on social media, writing a blog, a chat about the Bible between friends of the opposite sex, etc., because those things are not the gathering of the church body. Those things are far more similar to the discussion Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos had in Acts 18, in which Priscilla and Aquila taught and corrected Apollos’ theology.
I think my Rock Your Role series (particularly “Jill in the Pulpit,” “Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by ‘Teaching’ Men?” and “Rock Your Role FAQs”) will help you to sort out this issue and understand it better.
Wow! I’m so impressed by how you are handling these questions, comments in a biblical way. I first came to this sight because a book I am about to study had a red flag because of the writer aligning themselves with false teachers. I love the discernment you are showing and the biblical responses you have for various situations. I love my church and have grown so much in the last 10 years because of proper biblical teaching. I desperately need help though in practically reaching out to family who have many of the unbiblical issues that you address…. many blessings to you and prayers that God would sustain you s you serve Him!
Hi Emilee- Thank you so much for your prayers and for taking the time to encourage me with your kind words. It is my joy to serve you in Christ. I’m glad the blog has been helpful.
In case you haven’t run across it yet, you might find my article The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? to be helpful (including the additional resources at the end of that article) when approaching your family members about false teachers and other issues.