When the Church Lets You Down, Sometimes You Have to Separate
This post is part six of our series called, What to Do When the Church Lets You Down. You can see all the posts here.
When the church lets you down, sometimes you are left with no choice but to leave. Sometimes you have to walk away. Whether it is sin that separates or dividing of the truth, sometimes the Lord’s will is to go your separate ways.
I didn’t understand how this was possible, or even probable of the Lord to allow these separations to happen. Why was it necessary to separate from the church body where we had been planted? Why do Christians disagree in such a manner? I quickly learned that people like me fill our churches today and in the past.
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. ~Acts 15:36-41 ESV
Two men, Paul and Barnabas, dear friends and fellow workers in the furthering of God’s Kingdom shared a sharp disagreement. Good men, worthy of praise, and set as examples before us allowed their passions to over take them causing them to divide … split … separate.
This stands as a reminder to us that Jesus is the only copy by which there is no spot or blemish. Because of this truth, we should not be surprised that good and wise men will disagree and even separate.
Even those that are united to one and the same Jesus, and sanctified by one and the same Spirit, have different apprehensions, different opinions, different views, and different sentiments in points of prudence. It will be so while we are in this state of darkness and imperfection; we shall never be all of a mind till we come to heaven, where light and love are perfect. That is charity which never fails. ~Matthew Henry Commentary on Acts 15
Perfection within the church and among the body of believers will not exist until Jesus returns. Oh, come, Lord Jesus, come!
But regardless of what separates, the promise that God works all things for our good and for His glory still remains. You can ask God to make good on this promise when the church lets you down and you go your separate ways.
Paul and Barnabas went on with Silas and John Mark (respectively) to have significant ministries. Each went their own way because of a disagreement, and God used it to spread His Gospel even further!
Separation between those in the body of Christ is sad. It can hurt and if we have allowed idols to take their unworthy seats in our hearts, it can down right shake our faith. But separation doesn’t always mean the Gospel will not prevail, will not go forth, and sometimes, just sometimes, this suffering is meant to take God’s Word further in a way it never could if you had stayed bound to your church home.
So take heart, dear sister, that God has not turned His back on you or the church. God’s heart for the church and for His gospel still remains. And as a child of God, you have a part to play. This testing of your faith is not meant to embitter your heart, but it is part of an overarching plan to make Him known. Jesus is the only perfection by which we must submit ourselves to comparison. This side of heaven there will be disagreements, some that separate the body, but all things will always be worked together for the good of those who love Him and for His glory.
Part 7 – Remember There are Seasons
Awesome! So true!!!!
Amen! It is hard to separate from a body of believers you love and think of as family, and are as close as family. But sometimes there’s changes within the body, a change in format, a change in preaching, something that just doesn’t sit right, and with much thought and prayer, decisions must be made. It’s not a flippant thing to walk away, it’s hurtful, it’s a big decision, but in some cases must be done.
We did this in April of this year. It was hard to let go of the family we’d been in for 5 years, but things had changed beyond recognition of the church we’d known and loved, and some ways had went way non-biblical. I pray for the folks there, for the pastor, but we as a family have chosen to move on to a new “home”. It was hard to walk away, but it had to be done.
Hi, we had to stop going to church when my adopted boy couldn’t cope with groups, starting from last summer. We found we were judged unfavourably a lot by people. We knew what we did was right, it was painful and lonely and I felt terribly guilty. A friend from church said that I needed to remember two things – firstly, everyone in our church are still sinners, not just me and second, that some people have a cardboard cut out of what a ‘good’ Christian looks like. She said that our church tries very hard but still doesn’t really understand the different issues people face.
I have been taught a lot by God this last year. I have learnt to stand my ground in a gentle and tolerant way. I have learnt that Christianity isn’t like a degree course that you graduate from but that we are all learning and making mistakes all the time. I learnt that God is with me always and not just in Church.
My husband and I worked out that our round pegs need round holes, we are tired of trying to squash them into square holes. Three other adopted families from different churches had the same problem as us. We have set up a tiny, family worship group that runs like a playgroup with a story. It is way more work and responsibility for us all but the kids are all thriving and worshiping. We love it. I feel like God has taken very good care of our family in this. After all, if we had stayed in a church that the children were barely coping in we would have missed all of this. It has taken me a year to understand the point of the separation from our church but again I am humbled by what God is prepared to do for us. I am reminded that when I do what my God wants, especially the hard stuff then I am richly rewarded. I just love Him!!
This is exactly what I mean. Sometimes we have to walk away and find that the Lord had better plans for us in the first place! So glad you have found community and can say, “I just love Him!”
We were faced with this situation a year ago. It was a tough agonizing decision. It was where we were saved eight years before and we loved the people. But we found ourselves dreading Sunday and it was effecting our walk with The Lord. The last couple years we were there, there became a big difference in what was preached and what was being lived out. We started to become bitter about the hypocrisy. We cried and prayed a lot and ended up leaving. (Not before trying to resolve the issues though. Hubby tried talking gently to the pastor out of love. But, after realizing it was in vain, we then thanked him for what we learned while we were there, then sadly left). We visited a couple churches and prayed for direction. We are now in a small little country church that has a huge heart for The Lord. Sermons preached are lived out in the lives of the pastor and his family as well in the lives of the little congregation. We find ourselves serving in all sorts of ways and we LOVE Sundays again and adore our times at church! We are so thankful for His Divine guidance! We, as believers, must be watchful for doctrine and teachings that seem “off”. No man is above making mistakes,even pastors. We all have to be willing to acknowledge when we err. If we feel our walk being effected by someONE, somePLACE, or someTHING, we must act. Otherwise we continue to grow bitter and sadly, many people drop out of church and never return. Praying for those in the same situation we were in. It’s not easy, but seek His guidance and you can rest assured He will put you where you need to be. 🙂
“Otherwise we continue to grow bitter and sadly, many people drop out of church and never return. Praying for those in the same situation we were in. It’s not easy, but seek His guidance and you can rest assured He will put you where you need to be. ” <--Well said!
This is great, not just for church situations but also strained relationships. I’ve had my share of BOTH in the recent past…but this really hit home for me for a really close relationship that got so ugly that for a time there was complete separation. I felt so guilty – because I knew that both my family and the other party involved were actively seeking God – but we were just coming to different conclusions on so many different issues. Misunderstandings abounded and everyone was hurt. It was definitely a “sharp contention” and has lasted for months – one of my greatest heartbreaks. Last week we were able to bury some of those hurts and we have all made at least an attempt to move forward. It’s still a minefield that we have to walk out of and I’m doing so with much trepidation…still keeping a bit of distance in the relationship. So thank you for the reminder that sometimes, separation is necessary, and not unBiblical.
Such a true parallel. I’ve walked through those as well, and some in tandem WITH the church issues. Boo! But God is faithful and when we lean hard into Him and allow the Spirit to work, we reap amazing fruit and He is glorified. I’m glad to hear the bridge is being repaired. Praying with you, friend!
Thank you for sharing, I needed this so badly as I have prayed and had to leave a church I had been going to forever at. I had to go, finally, after the Lord’s direction. I felt horrible about it, but now I feel that I just needed to do what I needed to do, and that is okay if God laid it on my heart. Bless you for such an encouraging post!
Ashley, I’m glad you were encouraged! I know it’s hard. 🙁