Church, Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I tell if a church is doctrinally sound?

Originally published March 11, 2019

 

How do I know if a church is doctrinally sound? Do I base it off their statement of faith?

This is such a great question in a day when you can’t really trust that a building with the word “church” on the sign out front actually teaches and practices sound doctrine.

Because it would be impossible to cover every single aspect of doctrine that churches need to handle biblically, and because many of my readers are new to some of the deeper points of theology, what I want to do is give you some “signposts” to look for as you’re checking out a new church that will help indicate whether or not that particular church is likely to be one that handles those harder to understand points of theology in a doctrinally sound way.

First, check out these resources (and others) under my Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. These should be helpful if you’re unfamiliar with the biblical issues that a church should be handling correctly:

Looking for a Church Home? by Tim Challies

Church shopping? 35 Key Questions to Ask the Church at Berean Research

4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church by Brian Croft

How Can I Find a Good Church? 

Finding a New Church: Starting from Scratch

Six Questions for a Potential Church

If you are a brand new Christian and you aren’t sure what the answers to the questions in these articles should be, ask the person who led you to Christ, a pastor you know to be biblically trustworthy, or a friend who’s a mature Christian to help. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to see if I’ve addressed your question. And, make liberal use of Got Questions? It’s a wonderful website that gives simple, biblical answers to all kinds of questions about the Bible, church, theology and other issues.

A church’s stance on many of these theological issues can be found in their statement of faith, which most churches post on their websites (often under the heading “What We Believe,” “Doctrinal Distinctives,” or something similar). While you’re on the church website, here are some other things to look for that can give you a fuller picture of whether or not the church is likely to be doctrinally sound.

⛪ Be wary of a church with no statement of faith on their website at all, and be cautious if they have a very simplistic statement of faith with few or no Bible verses cited to support it. Generally speaking, in my experience, the longer and more detailed a statement of faith is, and the more Scripture references it has, the more likely it is to be a doctrinally sound church. (Here and here are some typical, good statements of faith, and this one is particularly detailed.)

⛪ A few things to look for in the statement of faith:

•The Trinity: You’re looking for language along the lines of, “We believe in one God in three persons.” If you see three “modes” or three “manifestations,” that’s the language of modalism, and it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches have a section of their statement of faith on spiritual gifts or the Holy Spirit and include wording indicating whether they are a continuationist (ex: “we believe all the spiritual gifts are in operation in the church today”) or cessationist (ex: “we believe supernatural gifts such as healing and tongues have ceased”) church. Generally speaking, a church is more likely to be doctrinally sound if it holds the cessationist view. (No, I am not saying every continuationist church is heretical. I’m strictly talking probabilities here.) If there is anything in the statement of faith that indicates that a Believer will or must speak in tongues in order to be saved or as a result of salvation, or that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” occurs separately from salvation, it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches intentionally indicate that they are complementarian in the “Marriage and Family” or “Church Leadership” section of their statement of faith by stating that the husband leads the family and the wife submits to her husband, or by explaining that the roles of pastor and elder are limited to men. It’s usually a good sign when a church makes a point of saying these things.

⛪ If you find the pastor’s name listed here, it’s not a doctrinally sound church.

⛪ If a church subscribes to a creed/confession/catechism you know to be biblical (ex: 1689 London Baptist, Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.) there’s a better chance they’re a doctrinally sound church. 

⛪ Some churches have a page on their website where they recommend books, blogs, and other resources. If they’re recommending doctrinally sound materials by trustworthy authors and teachers (click here for a few), that can be a good sign.

If they have a women’s ministry page, check out who’s speaking at the next conference they’re going to and who is the author of the Bible study materials they use.

⛪ Check the staff page and make sure they don’t have women serving as pastors/elders. (Be aware that some churches are now using titles like “Coach,” “Director,” “Facilitator,” etc. to disguise the fact that women are serving in unbiblical positions of leadership. Regardless of the way the position title is worded, women are not to serve in pastoral or elder offices or in any position in which they will be teaching or exercising authority over men.)

⛪ Check the sermon archives for a couple of things: 1) to see if they invite women or false teachers as guest preachers, and 2) does the pastor preach mainly expositorily or topically?

Keep in mind, however, that there are lots of churches out there who look perfectly doctrinally sound “on paper” but are not practicing what their website preaches. Take a look at these statements of faith for example: Lakewood (Joel Osteen), North Point (Andy Stanley), and Bethel (New Apostolic Reformation). (You can find out more about these churches/pastors here.) On the surface, and especially to those newly saved or not very familiar with the Bible, these statements of faith look fairly decent (although…notice that no Scriptures* are listed, and they are short and/or somewhat vague), but the practices of these churches may be surprising in comparison. *(Update: Since I originally wrote this article about a year ago, Lakewood has actually beefed up their statement of faith with a few Scripture references.)

Because churches’ practices and teachings often differ – sometimes significantly – from what you see in their statement of faith, you’ll have to dig deeper in order to get a better feel for the church’s doctrine. If the website posts the audio or video of their worship services, listen to several sermons. Make an appointment to go in and talk to the pastor about what the church teaches and ask any questions you might have. And visit the church for a while before joining to see how things actually go. The most a church website can do is help you weed out the churches that are definitely bad. The website cannot tell you that a church is definitely good.

If you’re looking for a new church but you aren’t sure where to start, check the church search engines and churches recommended by my readers at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Stories from Several Sisters 5

On today’s Testimony Tuesday,
several sisters in Christ share their stories.

Tiffany’s Story

My husband and I and family were first at a word of faith/prosperity church, and thankfully God granted us and we continually prayed for wisdom and discernment. We then moved on to an AG [Assemblies of God] church and again, just like the last church, we got heavily involved. The more we read and the more we talked, we realized they weren’t on the same page as us, and it’s only been 3 weeks but we have found a Reformed Bible church. I continually pray that the people in our old church will have their eyes open and begin seeing the truth in the Word. I’m so grateful and thankful to the Father for the journey He has us on. We continually learn and teach our children.

 


Latoya’s Story

As some other women on your site have said: “Yay, women like me! Who believe in The Word! I’m not weird!”

I was born and raised in a Pentecostal church…but have REALLY been having a relationship with God for over one year now.

Thank you for teaching me what a Godly, Bible-based church looks like. . .

One particular article spoke of expository versus topical sermons. I am reading though the Bible (for the first time ever) since last summer. Wow! I can’t say enough of how awesome The Word is! It’s my favorite thing to do: study His Word! Anyway, that article spoke to me. I thought: I’ve never been under an expository preacher, but it sounds amazing! So, out of curiosity (..and because I do feel led to be at another church…although I do not know where yet) I looked under the “searching for a new church?” tab. I found a church one hour away. The sermons are listed. Each Sunday they take a handful of verses in order from each chapter. ((Jumping up and down that this even exists!)). I never knew.

 


Christine’s Story

I grew up as a Catholic. I prayed to God but didn’t understand anything of the Bible or the significance of why Jesus had to die. I attended “church” weekly growing up, but knew nothing of the Bible. I lived a life with no clarity in why I needed a Savior and like so many, thought I was a pretty good person, so I would be fine. In the meantime, I met my husband in college. He also grew up Catholic and led a similar life of sin and confusion. Just before we got engaged, my husband was saved at a Christian service that I did not attend. We got married and continued to go to Catholic service while he was growing in his faith.

My husband then led us to a non-denomination church, which I reluctantly attended. They shared the Gospel regularly and taught from the Bible. It wasn’t until years later, after we had two boys and after my dad passed, that I was saved. It took several years of me hearing the Gospel before I truly accepted Christ and repented of my sins. I am beyond grateful for what Jesus did for me, opening my eyes to His Truth and saving me from my sin. I am also so thankful he saved my husband years earlier before I even realized what that meant. My husband and I have become passionate creationists and are looking forward to an upcoming trip with our boys to the Creation Museum and Ark in Kentucky! Although we continue to be sinners, I hope I can continue to live my life glorifying God and sharing the Gospel of what Jesus did for us, dying on the cross to save us from our sins and reconciling us back to our perfect God.

 


Michele’s Story

When my husband and I moved to a new city 13 years ago, we spent almost a year searching for a new church. We settled in a church that seemed to affirm the authority of Scripture while honoring the freedom we have in Christ. We attended faithfully and served in many different capacities. This past year, as we have grown in our knowledge and love of the Bible as well as in biblical discernment, we have realized we were in a purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive church.

We met with the pastor and associate pastor many times, but they were defensive and unhearing. After many months of continuing to serve, to cope, to adapt, we knew we had to leave.

I almost dreaded to process of finding a new church. In our small town, there didn’t seem to be many (if ANY!) realistic options, and I just didn’t want to church shop. I longed to be planted quickly into a fellowship of like-minded believers. I prayed, “You know my desires, Lord, but Your will be done.”

I clicked on your “searching for a new church” tab and scrolled through the items. There were few suggested churches for [my state], and none for our city. Then I clicked on “churches recommended by my readers” and saw the one listing for our area.

I would like to say that it was love at first visit! However, I had been so pampered and pandered to that I didn’t have much patience for the longer service and deep, expositional preaching. However, I was encouraged by the Lord to persist. Our first visit was in April and earlier this month we became members.

I am so very grateful to the Lord for directing us to this precious little church and to your resources. I mean, really.

 


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Quickievangelism, the CRCNA, JMac on the mark of the beast…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Yesterday at the store I had a hard time with witnessing to someone. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was only there for a total of 3 minutes. My question is, how do I witness to someone in such a short time?

It brings me so much joy to hear that you are out there sharing the gospel!

I would recommend using tracts. That way if your time with the person gets cut short, you can give them the gospel “to go”.

I use Bezeugen Tract Club tracts. If you join their “tract club”, they will send you 30 free tracts a month. They are the size of a business card, so they’re really convenient to carry in your purse.

Living Waters also has a great selection of tracts. And, while they’re not exactly tracts, Wretched has some very good online evangelism resources and is currently offering a free evangelistic booklet (you pay only shipping/handling) for giveaways at outreach events.

Keep up the great work of sharing the good news of the gospel!


Is the Christian Reformed Church a church that teaches sound doctrine?

It’s always good to do our due diligence when considering a new church or denomination, so this is a super question.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America is a rather small denomination (230,000 people in membership) that I’m not very familiar with, so I went poking around their website.

There are a lot of things that look very encouraging, doctrinally about the CRCNA. They affirm the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as well as the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. The plan of salvation presented on the website is biblical. In fact, most of what I read at the CRCNA website seemed solid.

However, a few red flags jumped out at me as I explored the site:

🚩 The heavy emphasis on “justice”. There’s something about “justice” on nearly every page of the site. Certainly Christians should uphold biblical justice, but many churches and denominations today have bought into the secular social justice movement, which is decidedly unbiblical, as it promotes feminism, normalization of sexual perversion, and unbiblical methods of addressing issues like racism, immigration, poverty, etc. It appears that the CRCNA at least leans in the direction of the social justice movement.

🚩 The role of women in the church. The CRCNA’s position reads: 

All congregations in the Christian Reformed Church in North America may allow women to serve in the office of minister, elder, deacon, or commissioned pastor. The CRC recognizes that there are two different perspectives and convictions on this issue, both of which honor the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God…

This is unbiblical, not to mention self-contradictory. Either Scripture allows women to serve in these capacities or it does not. (And it clearly does not.) Both positions cannot be true at the same time. If a church adopts the unbiblical position, it is not “honoring the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.”

🚩 Some of the CRCNA’s position statements have a “squishy”, progressive, or blatantly unbiblical tilt rather than an unflagging commitment to Scripture. For example:

Creation care (environmentalism): “We are compelled to address human-induced climate change as an ethical, social justice, and religious issue…”

Ecumenicity (unity with other churches): “[The CRCNA] also wishes to engage churches of other traditions such as…the Roman Catholic Church, and Orthodox churches.” (Catholicism and the major Orthodox traditions hold many unbiblical views including an unbiblical soteriology. Scripture forbids Christians from unifying with such organizations.)

Homosexuality: “Homosexuality [is] a condition of personal identity in which a person is sexually oriented toward persons of the same sex…for which the person may bear only a minimal responsibility…The church should do everything in its power to help persons with same-sex orientation and give them support toward healing and wholeness.” (Homosexuality is not a “condition of personal identity” any more than adultery or thievery is. It is a sin that the person is just as responsible for as the adulterer or thief is for his sin. We would not speak in terms of “support toward healing and wholeness” for an adulterer or a thief, we would speak in terms of repentance and mortification of sin, just as we should speak when someone’s sin of choice is homosexuality.)

Pentecostalism (charismaticism, sign gifts, etc.): “Acknowledge the gift of prophecy today…Think of prayer as a dialogue, not a monologue, and be attentive to what God is saying as you pray…be willing to engage in scripturally sound deliverance ministry against demonic powers…”

If you are considering attending or joining one of the CRCNA churches which does not allow women to serve in unbiblical roles, I would recommend setting up an appointment with the pastor to carefully and seriously discuss these issues at length, along with any other questions you may have. If you have the option of joining with a non-CRCNA church that has a more solidly biblical stance on these issues than your local CRCNA church, I would encourage you to go with the non-CRCNA church.


John MacArthur has said, that it’s possible to take the mark of the beast and still be saved? I notice that you endorse him, do you believe this is correct? 

I think a lot of people have stretched what Dr. MacArthur said wildly out of context and out of proportion. So the first issue here is to make sure you have a clear understanding of what he actually said and meant from Dr. MacArthur himself, not from random bloggers or people on YouTube. You can read Dr. MacArthur’s position statement on this issue (written by spokesman Phil Johnson) here.

As for my opinion on Dr. MacArthur’s position, I think it’s biblical and well-reasoned, but this particular issue – as with most detail-oriented eschatological issues – is not something I feel compelled to expend much time and energy on. When Christ returns, events will unfold as laid out in Scripture. Until then, we have a limited understanding of what will transpire and the order in which things will transpire, and much of what constitutes eschatology today is educated guessing. I think it is much more fruitful to spend our time evangelizing the lost and discipling the saved so that the church will be spiritually ready for the return of Christ. Whatever may happen in the days surrounding His return, we know that none of His sheep will be lost.


Since my last “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, I’ve heard back from two of the readers whose questions I addressed, and I wanted to share their responses with you:

From the discouraged husband I asked you to pray for:

I am extremely encouraged by the people who are stepping forward and praying for me…Thank you for your encouragement and prayers. They reach into the darkest places and are invaluable.

From the lady needing help with her nursing home ministry:

Thank you Michelle for answering, I’ve been thinking of finding a church. I have to be truthful, it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for, but it is the answer I think I needed.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Church, Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I tell if a church is doctrinally sound?

 

How do I know if a church is doctrinally sound? Do I base it off their statement of faith?

This is such a great question in a day when you can’t really trust that a building with the word “church” on the sign out front actually teaches and practices sound doctrine.

Because it would be impossible to cover every single aspect of doctrine that churches need to handle biblically, and because many of my readers are new to some of the deeper points of theology, what I want to do is give you some “signposts” to look for as you’re checking out a new church that will help indicate whether or not that particular church is likely to be one that handles those harder to understand points of theology in a doctrinally sound way.

First, check out these resources (and others) under my Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page. These should be helpful if you’re unfamiliar with the biblical issues that a church should be handling correctly:

Looking for a Church Home? by Tim Challies

Church shopping? 35 Key Questions to Ask the Church at Berean Research

4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Church by Brian Croft

How Can I Find a Good Church? 

Finding a New Church: Starting from Scratch

Six Questions for a Potential Church

If you are a brand new Christian and you aren’t sure what the answers to the questions in these articles should be, ask the person who led you to Christ, a pastor you know to be biblically trustworthy, or a friend who’s a mature Christian to help. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to see if I’ve addressed your question. And, make liberal use of Got Questions? It’s a wonderful website that gives simple, biblical answers to all kinds of questions about the Bible, church, theology and other issues.

A church’s stance on many of these theological issues can be found in their statement of faith, which most churches post on their websites (often under the heading “What We Believe,” “Doctrinal Distinctives,” or something similar). While you’re on the church website, here are some other things to look for that can give you a fuller picture of whether or not the church is likely to be doctrinally sound.

⛪ Be wary of a church with no statement of faith on their website at all, and be cautious if they have a very simplistic statement of faith with few or no Bible verses cited to support it. Generally speaking, in my experience, the longer and more detailed a statement of faith is, and the more Scripture references it has, the more likely it is to be a doctrinally sound church. (Here and here are some typical, good statements of faith, and this one is particularly detailed.)

⛪ A few things to look for in the statement of faith:

•The Trinity: You’re looking for language along the lines of, “We believe in one God in three persons.” If you see three “modes” or three “manifestations,” that’s the language of modalism, and it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches have a section of their statement of faith on spiritual gifts or the Holy Spirit and include wording indicating whether they are a continuationist (ex: “we believe all the spiritual gifts are in operation in the church today”) or cessationist (ex: “we believe supernatural gifts such as healing and tongues have ceased”) church. Generally speaking, a church is more likely to be doctrinally sound if it holds the cessationist view. (No, I am not saying every continuationist church is heretical. I’m strictly talking probabilities here.) If there is anything in the statement of faith that indicates that a Believer will or must speak in tongues in order to be saved or as a result of salvation, or that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” occurs separately from salvation, it is not a doctrinally sound church.

•Some churches intentionally indicate that they are complementarian in the “Marriage and Family” or “Church Leadership” section of their statement of faith by stating that the husband leads the family and the wife submits to her husband, or by explaining that the roles of pastor and elder are limited to men. It’s usually a good sign when a church makes a point of saying these things.

⛪ If you find the pastor’s name listed here, it’s not a doctrinally sound church.

⛪ If a church subscribes to a creed/confession/catechism you know to be biblical (ex: 1689 London Baptist, Westminster, Heidelberg, etc.) there’s a better chance they’re a doctrinally sound church. 

⛪ Some churches have a page on their website where they recommend books, blogs, and other resources. If they’re recommending doctrinally sound materials by trustworthy authors and teachers (click here for a few), that can be a good sign.

If they have a women’s ministry page, check out who’s speaking at the next conference they’re going to and who is the author of the Bible study materials they use.

⛪ Check the staff page and make sure they don’t have women serving as pastors/elders. (Be aware that some churches are now using titles like “Coach,” “Director,” “Facilitator,” etc. to disguise the fact that women are serving in unbiblical positions of leadership. Regardless of the way the position title is worded, women are not to serve in pastoral or elder offices or in any position in which they will be teaching or exercising authority over men.)

⛪ Check the sermon archives for a couple of things: 1) to see if they invite women or false teachers as guest preachers, and 2) does the pastor preach mainly expositorily or topically?

Keep in mind, however, that there are lots of churches out there who look perfectly doctrinally sound “on paper” but are not practicing what their website preaches. Take a look at these statements of faith for example: Lakewood (Joel Osteen), North Point (Andy Stanley), and Bethel (New Apostolic Reformation). (You can find out more about these churches/pastors here.) On the surface, and especially to those newly saved or not very familiar with the Bible, these statements of faith look fairly decent (although…notice that no Scriptures are listed, and they are short and/or somewhat vague), but the practices of these churches may be surprising in comparison.

Because churches’ practices and teachings often differ – sometimes significantly – from what you see in their statement of faith, you’ll have to dig deeper in order to get a better feel for the church’s doctrine. If the website posts the audio or video of their worship services, listen to several sermons. Make an appointment to go in and talk to the pastor about what the church teaches and ask any questions you might have. And visit the church for a while before joining to see how things actually go. The most a church website can do is help you weed out the churches that are definitely bad. The website cannot tell you that a church is definitely good.

If you’re looking for a new church but you aren’t sure where to start, check the church search engines and churches recommended by my readers at the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: My husband wants to stay at an unbiblical church.

 

There are unbiblical things happening in my church. I want to leave and find a better church. My husband wants to stay. Do I submit to him and stay at this church or go against his wishes and find another church to join by myself?

I receive some variation of this question several times a year, which absolutely breaks my heart. Normal, everyday disagreements in marriage are hard enough, but when it’s something this important that involves such a huge part of your life, it can be excruciating.

It’s also an impossible question for me to answer a) since I’m so far removed from the situation, and b) because every situation is different. All I can do is ask some questions and provide some resources that may help as you make your decision.

◊ Is the issue at your church actually unbiblical? Just because you don’t like something (the genre of music, that women wear pants to this church, that there are/aren’t age-segregated activities, etc.) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unbiblical. Search the Scriptures. Is what is happening at your church clearly violating a chapter and verse, rightly handled, in context passage of Scripture?

◊ Are you fairly certain your husband is saved? Does he usually make godly decisions as he leads your family? The answers to these questions may give you some insight into your husband’s perspective on this church and help you understand his side of things better.

◊ Is this a “We must obey God rather than men” situation? Carefully examine that passage. Scripture has always been clear that we are to obey those in authority over us, and the apostles knew it. The only reason they disobeyed the authorities is because the authorities commanded them to do something that clearly conflicted with God’s Word. Is that the situation you’re in at this church? If not, Scripture is clear that you’re to submit to your husband.

◊ Don’t underestimate how greatly your submission could impact your husband. Scripture says it can make such an impression that God can even use it as a tool to draw unsaved husbands to Himself for salvation. If submission can soften an unsaved man’s heart toward salvation, perhaps it could soften your husband’s heart toward finding a better church.

◊ Is it possible that in obeying God’s instruction to submit to your husband in this circumstance God is keeping you in this church in order to give you an opportunity to serve Him by bringing biblical truth to bear on the unbiblical situation (in a godly way, of course)? Sometimes the solution to a problem at church is not to cut and run, but to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

◊ Submitting to your husband doesn’t mean you can’t pray for him and the situation at church. You should definitely be praying that your husband is making the right decision and that God will change his heart and mind if not. You should also be praying that you would have the right heart in this situation, praying for your children if they are also in the church, and praying that God would change the situation at church. Pray fervently about everything.

◊ Have you and your husband actually sat down and talked this through? If not, set aside some uninterrupted time in a pleasant environment, and carefully, prayerfully, and objectively (no histrionics) explain – citing clear Scripture – what is bothering you about the church. And then listen to what your husband has to say in response. If he is anything like my husband, he’ll probably bring up at least one good point you hadn’t thought about, but need to.

◊ Would it be helpful to bring in a third party to bounce the situation off of? Maybe a pastor friend you both trust, a spiritually mature couple you’re friends with, your parents or in laws, even a biblical counselor? Sometimes a fresh, objective set of eyes and ears can help.

◊ Is there a solution you and your husband can work out besides the two options of you staying or leaving? Do some brainstorming. Is the unbiblical situation at your church self-contained enough that you could arrange your attendance habits in order to avoid it? (For example: The women’s ministry only offers classes using materials by false teachers. Solution: You don’t have to attend those classes. Or, you could volunteer to teach a class that studies a book of the Bible. The “contemporary” service at your church uses Bethel and Hillsong music. Solution: Maybe your husband would compromise and go to the “traditional” service with you that only uses hymns.) Maybe your husband works a lot of Sundays and would be OK with you going to another church on those Sundays. Perhaps the two of you could reach a compromise of going to the doctrinally sound church you like every other Sunday, and the old church the rest of the time. What about a trade off? “If you’ll switch to this new church for me, I’ll do ____ for you.” Think outside the box, ask God for wisdom, discuss it with your husband, and see what you can come up with.

◊ Keep the perspective that God is using this situation in your life (your husband’s too) for his glory and your good. Maybe God will use this situation to grow your trust in Him, to strengthen your prayer life, to give you more practice in submitting to your husband, or to train you in the Scriptures. Whatever His purposes, He is doing it for a good reason. He loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t abandoned you. He’ll bring you through this.

Conflict over church can be rough on a marriage, and the solution is not always easy. Pray without ceasing, obey God’s Wordseek godly counsel, and trust God to lead you.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.