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" Leaving the Church? "
    "I have given them Your Word; and the world hates them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in Your Truth. Your Word is Truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world." (Jn17:14-18)
Everybody talks about the "church". When Pat Robertson equates Haiti's earthquake to their pact with the devil in 1791, people scoff, call Robertson a whacko, and observe how Haiti is filled with catholic churches; that Haiti, thus, is allegedly not 'pagan' but 'christian'. With the decline in church attendance people like James Dobson proclaim that "christianity has failed". About a year ago one of the 'fundamental' ministries solicited people to fill out their survey with suggestions as to why the youth are leaving the church once they grow up to adulthood, and what can be done to 'keep' them IN-THE-CHURCH. More recently another ministry was suggesting that people entering adulthood are leaving the church because they are not taught sufficiently during childhood that the Bible teaches creation, not evolution. Everybody's got their own theory as to why people are leaving.

On the other hand, while mainline and fundamentalist churches are declining, the emerging charismatic one-world church is blooming, with stadiums full of people, numbering in the tens of thousands.

What gives?

One of the ministries I subscribe to their e-mails believes in the 'local' church, and if it's not the local church, it's not a Biblical New Testament church; that its leaders must be 'appointed' by some -person- of authority. And in keeping with the local church, they also believe in church "membership".

While church membership might be a good thing to guard against outsiders who would seek to infiltrate and subvert [link] is it a 'must' Scripturally? Those who believe this, quote...

    "Then those who gladly received his word were immersed; and that day about three thousand souls were added." (Ac2:41)
But do you see anything about "membership" in that verse?

They see the word "added" and in their minds tag on the words, "to the membership rolls". After all, in their altar calls, along with salvation and re-dedication, one of the points of invitation is to "join the church". That is... their 'local' church where they are presently sitting in the pews. They also take other NT expressions of "the number" (Ac4:4, 6:1,7, 1Ti5:9) and say that "number" actually means "membership"; a 'list' that has been recorded. We certainly see such lists in the OT related to Israel, its tribes and those of the age to go to war and serve in the temple; but I have never seen such a list related to the Church of Jesus Christ, except for the list that God has in the Book of Life. (Php4:3, Re3:5, 21:27, Ps56:8)

Acts 2:41 is their kingpin verse. However, seeing what the words -say-, what happens when something is "added". Does that not mean that there are now -more-. There were about 120 people in the upper room, the Holy Spirit came, the disciples preached, and 3000 people were saved. Now there were 3120 Believers. 3000 were 'added' to the 120. The number (amount/quantity) of Believers was -growing-.

In Peter's message, anybody please show me where he exhorted the people to "sign their names", or "fill out the card", "go forward" and "join the church" as the choir sang "Just as I am". You won't find it. NOWHERE in Scripture! Also, please tell me -where- their "church" was. Well, they were fellowshipping "from house to house". (Ac2:46) But what happened when the days of Pentecost were over? Remember, they were gathered in Jerusalem from many different regions. (vs9-11) Were they required to -stay- in Jerusalem in that -local- 'church', so as not to be guilty of "forsaking the assembling of themselves"? (Heb10:25) Ridiculous! Even those in Jerusalem would eventually be scattered when persecution arose. (Ac8:4) Those who were "added" to the Church eventually went home, wherever they lived, from where they had come to the Pentecost festivities.

What -is- the Church? Is it the -building- where the doors are unlocked at certain times? Who is "in charge" of the Church? Some -person- who is appointed by another person? Jesus Christ is the -Head- of the Church. (Eph1:22, Col1:18) The relationship of the Church to Christ is like the wife to the husband. (Eph5:23) So, is the wife the "member" of the marriage? Where is their "marriage" building? Marriage is not a building nor a membership; but a union of oneness. (Ge2:24) As Jesus prayed the Father...

    "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made complete in one, and that the world may know that You sent Me, and love them as You love Me." (Jn17:22-23)

    "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing into His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn1:12-13)

The Church of Jesus Christ is NOT a building, membership, nor schedule of meetings. It is a living spiritual organism, made up of those who have come to God in repentance and received Jesus Christ as Savior, who are now proving out their salvation by living holy lives. (Eph2:10, Ja2:18) If there are other Believers around them, they are probably also -meeting- with others. But if, like Joseph, Daniel, Elijah, there aren't other Believers around them, they are ALONE in their oneness with Jesus Christ

And so... what about these concerns and questions about people who are -leaving- the 'groups' of people that are claiming to be a "church"?


The question should be: Is the group (in question) truly the [C]hurch of Jesus Christ? If a person is leaving a 'group' of people, are they leaving THE CHURCH of Jesus Christ? Like the old Negro spiritual, "Everybody talkin' 'bout Heaven ain't goin' there"... not everything called "church" -is-. There is ONLY ONE Church of Jesus Christ...

    "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Eph4:4-6)
Jesus said...
    "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (Jn14:6)
If some entity (or 'group') is based on anything other than Jesus Christ or His Word, the Bible, it is NOT the TRUE CHURCH of Jesus Christ.

Thus, if people are -leaving- 'groups' of people, it is actually a different set of questions:

There are two reasons why people "leave the church".

1) If they are not part of -the- Church of Jesus Christ. Until children reach the age to "reject the evil and choose the good" (Is7:15) while they are under the umbrella of their -saved- parents, they are "holy" (saints) (1Co7:14) But if Salvation is not in their -own- heart/s, and they go to college, and "leave the church"; that "leaving" indicates the true state of their own individual heart before God. They do not know the Lord. For all the years they lived at home, and dutifully went "to church" with their parents, and perhaps even participated in "church activities", and put on their dutiful smiles, and knew how to parrot all the right words and expressions "of salvation"; in truth, in their own true heart-of-hearts, they do not know the Lord. -That- is 'why' they "leave the church". They are not 'part' -of- the Church of Jesus Christ, thus they also leave that which represents the physical appearance of the Church, where it meets. They are not part of God's Kingdom. They are not saved. Thus, why -should- they stick around? They shouldn't. They DON'T BELONG. They left because they never were to begin with. (1Jn2:19)

If such a person "leaves the church", what Believers need to do is not to coerce them to come "back to church" (the meetings); but seek their Salvation! And no! The two are NOT the same thing! They do not need to be up at that (baptist) 'altar' at "invitation" time; they need God's Holy Spirit in their hearts! Not the "circumcision" of the flesh, but "of the heart" (Rom2:28-29)

    "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, so that the evil days do not come, nor the years draw near, when you shall say, I have no pleasure in them." (Ec12:1)
2) The other reason to "leave the church" is: if the "church" being left is not really the Church of Jesus Christ. If the person leaving truly -is- part of The Church, they are being obedient to the call to "come out of her My people" (Rev18:4)

In both cases, the "leaving" is justified, proper and right. In the one case, because the unbeliever is leaving where Believers meet, and doesn't belong. (2Ch23:19, Ezk22:26,etc) In the other because the one leaving -is- a Believer, but the group is not (2Co6:17)

However, it should not be confused: leaving a 'group' of people is not the same as leaving the church of Jesus Christ. The only way a Believer can -leave- the Church is to "draw back" (Heb10:39); by putting the hand to the plow and "looking back" (Lk9:62); by becoming "partakers of the Holy Spirit" (which is the definition of Salvation Rom8:9) and then to "turn aside". (Heb6:4-6)

Please be clear in this understanding. Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ has NOTHING TO DO WITH -other- PEOPLE, either saved or pagan. It has to do with a person's standing before God. And if a person leaves, it is "impossible" to renew them to repentance. It's not like the group can put the person on their prayer request list and 'pray' for them to come back. Such a person is gone... permanently and forever.

But also, such a person might not be missing from the -physical- meetings. A person who has left the [C]hurch might actually be regularly attending the meetings of the 'church'. So... what does it -look- like? What are the appearances? Jesus said...

    "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (Jn7:24)
It is -God- who "knows the heart" (Ac15:8) He "knows those who are His" (2Ti2:19)

If a person leaves the Church of Jesus Christ by "drawing back", that is not necessarily something the other people can 'see'. On the other hand, the person they 'see' who doesn't happen to be meeting WITH 'them' in 'their' meetings might actually be a faithful Servant of the Most High. And in how many cases is it the case that 'they' are the -lost-, and the one they are 'praying' for is actually the True Believer. Again...

    "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (Jn7:24)
And who are the ones Jesus said would bring opposition to the Believer? Those from the synagogue. They -think- they are in "service" to God. But in truth...
    "...they do not know the Father nor [Jesus]" (Jn16:1-3)
This is -the- 'church' that persecutes the True Believer. The 'church' persecutes the [C]hurch of Jesus Christ. Just because they claim to be "christian" doesn't make them so. As Paul said of Israel...
    "For not all those of Israel are Israel" (Rom9:6b)
The True Church of Jesus Christ is NOT OF THE WORLD. The world's 'church' is of Nimrod's Babylon, out from which the clarion call is issued to...
    "Come out of her My people, so that you not share in her sins, and so that you not receive of her plagues" (Re18:4)
Dear Believer...
If 'they' chide you for not fellowshipping with 'their' -group-, and they do not understand your Scriptural reasonings, do not feel condemned by them. Those who are True Fellow-believers will understand. Those who are not, won't.
    "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error." (1Jn4:6)
And those who used to be in Bible believing groups, and are now leaving? I suspect if a person could follow them, one would find them in the one-world mega churches. They left... why?
    "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that not all of them are of us." (1Jn2:19)
And how are we assured of Truth?
    "Your [God's] Word is Truth"
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