Posts Tagged truth

How to Leave a Church

I met yesterday with a friend who is leaving our church. We had a good conversation about his reasons for leaving (they are legitimate) and then some discussion about how he can “leave well.” I told him that, based on my experience with people leaving our church or coming to our church after leaving another one, most people don’t leave well.

Here are a few ideas on how to leave a church well:

1. Have a good reason for leaving. Before you go, evaluate whether your reasons are good, legitimate and God-honoring. Here’s a thought-provoking post exploring good, possible, and bad reasons for leaving a church (and here’s a discussion about this post). I don’t think this list is comprehensive, but it’s good to make you think. If your reasons are good, go. If not, stay.

2. Communicate your decision to leave with the appropriate leaders. If you’re an active part of the church, leaders will need to know you’re leaving. If you are serving, communicate it to your Ministry Team leader. If you are in a Community Group, communicate it to the leader. If you are connected with an elder or pastor, communicate it with them. Personal communication is preferable to written communication, but make sure you communicate.

3. Tell these leaders the truth about why you’re leaving. If you have legitimate reasons to leave then you have nothing to hide or worry about. If the reasons for leaving will sting church leadership, deliver it in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Scripture commands us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), which means you don’t couch the real, sometimes difficult reasons behind a bunch of spiritualized nonsense. God may use your reasons for leaving to help the church or its leaders. I’ve had at least one “exit interview” that was immensely helpful to me as a leader — some of the truth of it stung, but it helped me grow. Whatever you do, don’t just leave without telling your leaders.

4. Appropriately transition or conclude your ministry commitments. If you’ve been an active part of ministry, your role will need to be transitioned. Hopefully you’ve been training and developing somebody to take your place anyway, but if you haven’t, give your leaders an appropriate time to find others to serve in your capacity. This period shouldn’t drag on, but you also should not just drop the ball on the people you’ve been committed to.

5. Leave graciously. In Ray Pritchard’s post on this topic, he writes:

“[Leaving] graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.”

If you’ve read this post and realize that you didn’t leave a church well in the past, it might be wise to circle back to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. If you have gossiped or stirred up division, you should make it right, apologizing not only to the leaders of that church but also to the people to whom you gossiped.

In the end, remember that Jesus loves the church you’re leaving and the one you’re going to — His blood was shed for both. Both churches are part of his bride. Do his bride the honor of leaving well.

Question: Is there anything else you’d recommend for somebody leaving a church?

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10 Lies Christians Believe

Yesterday at Second Mile, we studied the majority of Colossians 2, where the apostle Paul challenges his readers to cling to Christ. In Colossians 2:8, he warns: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” With that in mind, we took a look at 10 Lies Christians Believe. These are things that make common sense to lots of people, but just don’t square with Scripture.

1. “God wouldn’t want you to be unhappy.”
Many horrible decisions are made with this rationale. The truth is that God would rather us be obediently suffering than disobediently happy. One of the worst things I’ve heard that flows out of this thinking is, “Our kids will be better off if we just get divorced. It wouldn’t be good for them to be around all this fighting. We just want what’s best for them.” What’s best for us is to obey God, because he loves us and tells us what is best.

2. “Just follow your heart.”
The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). This means that, even if we’re made new in Christ, our hearts are notoriously untrustworthy. Rather, we should say, “Just follow the Bible.”

3. “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”
It’s possible to be sincerely wrong. It doesn’t matter if I sincerely believe I can fly like Peter Pan — I can’t. Nobody was more sincere than the 9/11 terrorists and nobody sensible would congratulate them.

4. “If somebody hurts you, you deserve to get even.”
The gospel frees us to be forgiving to those who have really hurt us deeply. As unnatural as it feels, forgiveness is the right thing. I’m reading a great book on this right now by Ray Pritchard, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.

5. “You have to take care of yourself or nobody else will.”
This is a sensitive one because many people have been genuinely hurt in deep ways by those who were supposed to provide and protect them. But remember that God is the provider and protector. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” God will take care of you. Trust him.

6. “It doesn’t hurt anybody, so it isn’t a problem.”
This is just flat out wrong. All sin hurts. Even things that don’t hurt other hurt ourselves, like injecting your heart with poison.

7. “Nothing is more important than your family.”
Family is important. God is more important. Many are willing to sacrifice their relationship with God in order to provide money or experiences for their families. Tragic.

8. “Education is the key to happiness and success.”
Education is also important. But it’s not the key to happiness. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God is the key to happiness.

9. “You can’t help it—it’s just how you were raised (it’s just how you are).”
Though we should be true to our personalities, we must remember that we are often warped and sinful. We don’t get a pass on sinful behavior because it’s how we were raised or because it’s part of our personalities. We are responsible and God will hold us accountable.

10. “God must be punishing you for something you did (or didn’t do).”
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This means that God doesn’t punish us if we are in Christ. If Jesus has wiped away our sins (Col. 2:13-14), then we are forgiven. He chooses not to remember our sins or hold them against us. We must believe the gospel and get free!

What else? What are some other lies that we tend to believe?

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My Thoughts on “Healer”

Lots of great discussion this week (both on and off the blog) about the recent post asking whether we should sing the song “Healer.” Thanks to so many of you who took the time to comment and weigh in. A number of people asked me this weekend what I thought about it, so here’s my answer to the question, “Should we sing this song at Second Mile?”

Briefly, my answer is, “Yes.”

Here’s my reasoning:

1. I like the song from a musical standpoint. This is not the most important reason, but I do like the song. I think the music is stirring and I love songs with big “anthem” type choruses.

2. The words are true. God walks with us through trials. God heals all our disease — sin in this life (and sometimes our bodies) and our broken lives completely in the age to come. God is the portion of believers. Jesus is more than enough for us. Nothing is impossible for him. These words are in line with biblical truth and helpful for God’s people. When I hear them and sing them, I am reminded of good things that my soul needs to hear.

3. It’s impossible to find songs written by sinless authors. God chose to use an adulterer/liar/murderer to write a good portion of his songbook, the Psalms. A number of the commentors mentioned this same idea. While I am saddened and grieved by Mr. Guglielmucci’s deceit and sin, I do not expect the songwriters of our songs to perfectly live out the truths that they write about. This past Sunday, we sang songs by Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Charlie Hall, and Elvina M. Hall. I suppose that if we were to know them personally and examine their lives, we would end up disappointed in some points.

4. The song serves as a helpful warning. It is possible to honor the Lord with your lips and have a heart that is far from him. You watch Mr. Guglielmucci sing this song with passion and fervor and it is a helpful warning that you too can have moments of real passion while harboring sin in your life. When I hear this song, I think to myself, “Luke, are your outward expressions of praise and adoration to God simply outward, or is there actual truth and integrity to the things you say, sing, and do?”

5. I can relate to the inner struggle of seeking to believe truth even when I’m not believing it. I suppose there are two ways to view Mr. Guglielmucci’s motivation to the song. The more cynical among us will say that he intentionally wrote a story that would be compelling in order to sell thousands of albums and that he’s just a pure huckster. The other, more optimistic, view is that he was battling the guilt of his life-dominating sin (pornography) and wrote these words as a way of preaching truth to himself and trying to talk himself into believing what is actually true. I’m not sure that we’ll ever know his motivation. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both. But I’m intrigued by the idea of the second view because I often find myself trying to preach things to myself because I’m having a hard time believing them. For instance, I regularly pray things like, “Jesus, you’re all I need” — even when I’m living as if what I really need is some kind of comfort or food or entertainment or approval. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if this song was a kind of self-pep-talk for Mr. Guglielmucci as he tried to overcome the sin that had overtaken his life. Perhaps it was the truth of this song that eventually led him to come clean and confess his duplicity (as far as I can tell, he confessed on his own rather than being caught). Who knows. But I can relate to the need to preach truth to my heart that is “prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love” (in the words of another songwriter who struggled to live out the truth of his lyrics)

6. I would enjoy teaching the lessons from this situation to our people. A number of people commented that they would be a bit distracted by this song if we were to sing it on Sunday. I understand that feeling and did feel distracted when I sang it at another church recently. But the distraction was thinking over things like the points above and remembering that Jesus is the satisfying portion I need every single day. I think teaching this might serve as a warning to those who need to be warned, might help expose those who need to be exposed, and might encourage those who need to be encouraged.

So, those are my thoughts. I’m not saying that they’re right or best, but I have thought them through. Matthew and I have not even really discussed whether this will be a song we sing at Second Mile, so stay tuned. Either way, I hope you’ve been challenged in your thinking and encouraged to walk closer with Jesus. He is more than enough.

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Should We Sing This Song?

Have you heard about the story of the Hillsong hit song “Healer”?

Here’s a quote from an article that explains the controversy:

He preached to thousands about his terminal illness and tugged at hearts with a hit song. The problem is the pastor wasn’t dying at all.

Michael Guglielmucci, who inspired hundreds of thousands of young Christians with his terminal cancer “battle”, has been exposed as a fraud…

Earlier this year, Mr Guglielmucci released a hit song, Healer , which was featured on Sydney church Hillsong’s latest album. The song debuted at No. 2 on the ARIA charts. It since has become an anthem of faith for believers, many of whom are suffering their own illness and were praying for a miracle for Mr Guglielmucci, who has claimed for two years to be terminally ill.

Below, you can watch YouTube clips of both the song and a news story and interview after the truth came out…but the big question is, should we sing this song at Second Mile? Why or why not? Leave your comment below. I’d love to hear what you think and why.

The song…

The scandal…

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Free Online Seminary Courses

One of the great blessings of technology is the access that we now have to top-flight resources. For those who desire to learn biblical truth at a deeper level without the cost or time of seminary, you can now access tremendous content for free online. Here are two great examples:

1. Covenant Seminary Worldwide Classroom
Covenant, based in St. Louis, is an excellent reformed seminary and is the official seminary of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). This website has 20 courses, all of which have downloadable lectures, notes, and study guides.

2. Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunes U
RTS, where I am currently studying, has a few dozen classes, chapel messages, and conferences. Of particular interest to you Tim Keller fans is his “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World” seminar. All of it is free as long as you have iTunes (which is also a free download here).

Enjoy!

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For the City

I was recently challenged with the question, “Does the city exist for your church or does your church exist for the city?”

I think this is a great question. Ultimately it’s asking whether the church will try to use the city for its own benefit or bless the city for the good of everyone in the whole city. Our ambition is that Second Mile Church would be for the city, greater Phoenix as a whole and Gilbert, Queen Creek, Mesa, and Chandler in particular.

This means that in addition to solid Bible-teaching and loving those within our church, we work to make everyone’s lives a little bit richer and better — whether they agree with us or not. We have an attitude that seeks to give rather than receive and serve rather than take. This really is what Jesus was talking about in his Sermon on the Mount:

Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

I’m praying that God would use us to demonstrate to the southeast valley what his kingdom is like.

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