Leaving Church

Well once again it has been far too long between recent blog posts. Unfortunately the pressures of employment demands have consumed the majority of my thoughts and time, and whenever I have a minute from thoughts of work, the upcoming missions trip steals the rest of my time. The past month of near-full-time employment has only confirmed my belief that I’m not meant to work your usual 9-5 cubicle job in your everyday office. Don’t get me wrong, the paycheck is sure a lot nicer than those I’ve had in the past, but something about being able to sleep in til 12 every day just feels like summer. The fact that as I’m sitting here typing I’m sweating due to the heat and humidity… that feels like summer.

So since my past few posts have been very inconsequential in their subject matter, I’ll share some thoughts here on recent events.

I’ve tried my very best to shy away from making explicit political endorsements or critiques of specific candidates in this election process. Too many Christian “leaders” stand up and make specific proclamations of God’s blessing upon a specific candidate, claiming that such a candidate is God’s “chosen vessel” to bring out nation out of the black pit it has descended into thanks to godless liberals. So the point of this is not to support to bash any specific candidate, rather to address the issue brought up by recent events in the political campaign.

The whole issue of when its appropriate to leave a church and under what circumstances has been a bit of an intellectual struggle for me. Much of that is probably due to the fact that I have spent the majority of my life attending the same church every Sunday, to the point that I should probably receive some sort of perfect attendance medal or something like that.

Even to this day I find it hard to not think poorly of individuals who leave the church I attend, as if they have “fallen away” and in leaving the church I attend they are therefore leaving the Church as a whole. Granted a few individuals leave because they stop caring about it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone leaving the church does so for negative reasons. Such an outlook denies the universality of the Church as a whole, one of the weaknesses of Baptist theology and methodology that I have had issues resolving in my own head.

Back to this specific case, where Obama decided to leave Trinity, I do not know Obama to be able to ask him whether his reasons for leaving were genuine or not, so I can’t make a call on his choice to leave. I would say it is politically expedient to do so at this time, but I also think that his choice to leave was justified, not so much due to the message of the church, but due to his life in the political spotlight and its impact on the atmosphere and congregation at Trinity. Whether or not he agrees with the message of Rev. Wright at the church is unimportant. What the majority fails to understand is that just because he attended Trinity does not mean he agrees with everything bring preached from the pulpit. A church with the size and message of Trinity would be appealing to the politician in Obama, appealing to the social justice side of the Christian message, a side which Obama whole-heartedly embraces. Its work in the area of social justice and community outreach is admirable, although its message is not. All churches have their positives and negatives.

It is probably a fault in my thinking and viewpoint to see those who leave my specific church as somehow betraying me or God or something weird like that. The more I think about it the less I feel betrayed, but rather liberated in some way. I realize the faulty thinking that holds the local church as autonomous and isolated. Its all part of the same universal Church. True, in the New Testament the Church met in local congregations, but such meetings were local more by the demands of technology and economy rather than by a desire to set a precedent meant to be followed by future generations. In the Mediterranean society in which Christianity was birthed, transportation was limited to any distance greater than a few miles. Were I living in that society today, I’d be going to church in the center of my town, rather than driving ten minutes to attend a church with people who come from upwards of 30 miles away. Such a wide reaching church was incomprehensible to the early Church. Even up into the past century such a church was limited. There would be one church is a town, and those who attended church went to that one church. Today transportation lets us drive a while to attend the church of our choice (granted, gas prices limit that, but we’ll disregard that for the time being). All that to say, the view of the local church being autonomous and holding its own I don’t think holds up anymore. Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to experience the universality of the Church as a whole. Places like lifechurch.tv are reinventing how church is done, drawing people from all over the world into one church body.

The local church isn’t so local anymore. We have the means to bring larger groups together under the banner of Christ, rather than dividing over trivial things. There isn’t one church that dominates a specific area. There are choices in what we can have in a church, but to say that one church is the right church misses the point. Its not wrong for an individual to choose one church over another, if done for the right reasons. Yeah it can at times feel as if the person is leaving you and the people in the church you attend, but such an outlook misses the point. Those who live under the banner of following Christ aren’t limited to one church or one denomination. Heaven isn’t a Baptist-only club (or any denomination for that matter). A lot of people are going to be surprised with who they’re going to spend eternity with.

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One thought on “Leaving Church”

  1. I think you are very right. There are going to be a lot of very shocked people in Heaven when they realize that it was not just about them. Heaven is for those that have chosen to follow Christ, not those that go to First Baptist, First Methodist or any other denomination you can think of. Good post.

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