I prefer vanilla ice cream with a warm brownie. Don’t get me wrong, a brownie by itself is just fine, but I prefer eating it with vanilla ice cream. I prefer Coke over Pepsi. I prefer driving a new car to driving a used car. I prefer the Christian rapper Lacrae over the Christian singer Chris Tomlin. I prefer preachers that will yell at me to get a point through my thick skull over those that always have the same tone. Preferences, preferences, we all have preferences, don’t we? We make a lot of decisions daily based on what we prefer.
WE ALL HAVE PREFERENCES
What about what local church we attend? Is our decision on whether to stay at a local church or leave a local church based on our preferences? Is there anything wrong with that? Since I prefer Christian rap over Christian contemporary, should I leave and find a church with Christian rap? Since I prefer a preacher who raises his voice over one that doesn’t, should I leave to find that?
Our human nature and our culture screams consumerism. They say we should base our choices on what makes us feel good, what tastes good, what sounds good to us. So it’s easy to look at our local church the same way. But is that the way it should be? Or, did God set up something different?
SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. – Hebrews 13:17
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. - Romans 13:1-2
When you become a member of a local Bible believing church, there are authorities and leaders established by God who will be held in account for how they led you. Hebrews says we are to obey and submit to these leaders who Romans says were established by God.
CONVICTIONS – NOT PREFERENCES
So when is it right to leave a local church?
Recently in a meeting with John Parkey, he shared the process of coming to the realization that he needed to leave Okolona Christian Church to plant a church in Mt. Washington, KY. What stood out to me is when he said, “I realized that if I didn’t go, to me it would be a sin.” (James 4:17) So he presented his conviction to his authorities (the elders) and they confirmed and supported his decision.
John shared a conviction, not a preference. If Parkey followed his preferences, he would probably have stayed in the comforts of what he has known for 17 years. Instead, Parkey followed his conviction from God to go and spread the gospel in Mt. Washington which was confirmed by those placed in leadership above him.
Every year people move from church to church or stop going to a local church based on a variety of reasons. My prayer is that we all seriously consider the choices we are making. Perhaps, before you leave you should ask yourself, “Is this conviction from God and for God, or is this my preference?” Now, if you are convicted that your local church is not doing something right, follow the guide given in Matthew 18:15-17 and present your concerns to the leaders of your church established by God. Give your leaders, a chance to change what is wrong and then if they do not change based on your biblical conviction, then you should prayerfully follow God’s conviction wherever it may take you. But let us never treat God’s church with preferences as that of a fast food menu.
I found this observation of the Church in a reference to Steve Brown's book, A Scandalous Freedom:
My friend Mike Glodo… said that he went to Jesus once to complain about the church. He said to Jesus: "They are a mess. They are uncommitted, mean, and lazy. They don't care what you say or even about you and your honor. They are a stiff-necked people, and they don't deserve your love."
"Mike," Jesus answered, "be careful … she's my wife!"
Let us all be careful. Let us be careful to follow our Holy Spirit conviction, submitted before the authority established by God. Let us all let Biblical conviction, not preferences, be our guide.