If you have attended the same church since you were born, perhaps this isn’t an issue with you. Perhaps you don’t have a conflict with anything your church teaches. Some people say aren’t “doctrinally oriented” and don’t even see an issue here. Perhaps you believe what your church teaches about how they are the only true church or believe that you were called to that church.
It just makes sense that if you can participate with a church, and maintain your integrity, then that’s the ideal, as long as you’re sure that your church is teaching the true word of God.
As Jesus passed by from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax collection office. He said to him, “Follow me.” He got up and followed him. As he sat in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. But you go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mat 9:9-13 WEB)
I am interested in talking with people that know that there are problems with a lot of what is taught in the churches.
The Apostles Tradition Mandate
The Apostle Paul wrote specific guidelines for believers to follow in determining which church to follow:
So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)
Tradition is both beliefs and practices. Here Paul sets a priority for evaluating which doctrines and traditions to follow. He says to follow the tradition that he and the other apostles taught. Now, with all the different doctrines, traditions, denominations, and churches out there today it might not be clear at first if a church is really practicing the traditions that Paul is talking about here. That is especially true with all the claims of churches and denominations to be either a continuation of the first-century church or led by the Spirit in all their decisions. See Churches, Teaching Differing Doctrines Claim They Are Led of the Spirit or Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today for more written about that topic.
In fact, Paul goes further in his charge about this subject of following the Apostle’s traditions, and this next verse is extremely challenging:
Now I beg you, brothers, look out for those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. (Rom 16:17 WEB)
Now, when Paul says “the doctrine which you have learned” he is referring to the Apostle’s doctrine as seen in the epistles, not whatever doctrine each twenty-first century person has been learning in their denominational or non-denominational church. Here is what is challenging: as we attend services and receive instruction from a church we are charged to make what Paul and the Apostles taught supreme to the extent that if you find yourself being taught something contrary to what the Apostle’s taught you need to leave. This is not an easy charge, and no one is saying to do this lightly.
What complicates this so much are the teaching and reasonings that Churches give to prove that what they are teaching is the Word of God.
For example, a number of churches promote that they follow the bible as their sole source for truth. They also teach that speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracles, healings, and the like were just available while the Apostles lived, they were part of the new church that Christ started when he died, rose again, and sent the Comforter on the day of Pentecost. Yes, according to this argument, there are occasional miracles today including healings and other signs but the manifestations as described in I Corinthians chapter 12 and other places were just for that time. And of course, there is a prophecy in that section that says that prophecies and tongues shall cease at some time:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will be done away with. Where there are various languages, they will cease. Where there is knowledge, it will be done away with. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete has come, then that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known. (1Co 13:8-12 WEB)
The “that which is complete has come”, according to this doctrine, refers to the coming of the New Testament. So, when the New Testament was canonized in 386 AD that marked the fulfillment of the coming of that which is complete, and spiritual manifestations ceased.
However, along with this coming of that which is complete is the metamorphosis into beings who know fully, who know as they are known. That state is what will happen when we get to live with Christ after he comes for us. We have had the New Testament for some 17 centuries and people don’t know fully, they don’t know as they are known. People today still see dimly, knowing in part and prophesying in part
Since “that which is complete has come” is still in the future the manifestations of the spirit have not ceased. And teaching that they are ceased is contrary to the traditions we have learned from the apostles so we must look out for and avoid people and churches pushing that doctrine.
Each believer must decide on their own whether what they are being taught is part of the Apostles’ traditions or not
Some churches give people the opportunity to discuss issues with the pastor, and other spiritual leaders. Whenever you have an issue with something that the church preaches and/or practices, then you should attempt, at least, to resolve the issue with whoever you can.
You may be surprised to hear that your concern is shared by other people attending the church and that the pastor is sympathetic to your case, in which case, you may feel that you can participate with the church in good conscience. And while it may be rare, there are cases documented where churches changed their position based on what someone brought up to them.
However, at some churches, especially with some issues, that will not be available. The Roman Catholic Church is not going to change their position on the celibacy of the priesthood, infant baptism, abortion, even birth control, or a host of other issues if you attempt to talk to one of the priests about it. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church, and a number of other large denominational churches, are not going to change a thing just because a parishioner brings something to their attention. However, there are churches that are sometimes open to some input. But, if my experience holds true, you are just as likely to be told that you are just confused, or worse, for bringing up your topic. So it is clearly an area where you need to walk carefully and pray for wisdom.
Still, a lot of people have problems going to a particular church because they sincerely disagree with some of what the church teaches. In fact, some people stop going altogether because they don’t want to be taught things that they believe are not supported by the Bible or anywhere else. For example, they don’t want to be taught that they have to tithe when they believe that tithing ended with the law. They don’t want to be taught that women can’t teach when they don’t believe that the Bible or anything else truly supports that position. In my experience, it is usually not just one thing that is the source of disagreement, it’s often a number of issues.
Other people go to church, and because they believe in the advantages of membership, they acquiesce on church doctrines, perhaps taking the stance that doctrine isn’t important, or that the church has got to be smarter or more spiritual than they are so they must know better. (See Yo-Yo Christianity for more.)
Indeed, there are valid arguments for both becoming a member of a church, and/or attending the same church for a long time. In some churches, only members have input in decision making at church business meetings. Families with children need the continuity and trust that is built by having the same people in the same church teaching the same things over the years.
But there are options for people to go to a church to fellowship with other believers and avoid doctrinal conflicts and not be a Yo-yo Christian:
Find a Church that doesn’t have Membership
If membership requires that you pledge to leave all decisions about what is true doctrine to the pastor or a church board and you are not comfortable with that, one option you have is to find a church that doesn’t require membership. I personally have found that a lot of churches don’t require membership to attend.
Don’t be afraid to try different venues when looking for a church. In fact, you may have to go “outside of the box” to find a church that you can work with. There are small churches that never get their names into telephone books. There are house churches and small independent groups. You can start by looking online doing a search for “house church”.
Become an Attendee Instead Of a Member
If you do go to a church that requires members for its charter (a legal requirement, not a biblical one), you can choose to not be a member and still attend faithfully. You will probably not be allowed to lead any groups, or teach if you choose this option. This may not be a problem if your gifts don’t include teaching or leadership. You may be perfectly happy to serve in capacities like childcare, greeting, cooking, administration, or physical plant services.
Parachurch Ministries Offer Opportunities That You May Not Get In Your Local Church
Parachurch means “alongside the church”. Parachurch organizations help the church by specializing in areas often at levels other than that individual church can do on its own. The vision of parachurch ministries is that each church in the world can have resources from people not in that church as any one of these parachurch ministries acts to come alongside the people in that Church and increase the level of service available to people in the church.
Parachurch ministries include organizations like radio and TV teaching ministries, counseling ministries, Evangelistic Crusades, discipleship ministries, services to the elderly and disabled, Christian Motorcycle clubs and other interests, ministries to the poor, bible distribution ministries, prison ministries, pregnancy ministries, marriage and family ministries, and more.
You may find an opportunity for ministry and even leadership at one of these places that you won’t find at your local church.
Jesus Said the Spirit Would Guide You
This includes helping you find places to worship and fellowship.
I am certainly not saying that you should not become a member of your local church, volunteer at your local church, or in any way become as involved as possible in your local church, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T ACT LIKE A YO-YO AND JUST GO ALONG WITH WHATEVER THE CHURCH SAYS IT’S JUST SO THAT YOU CAN BE INVOLVED. Remember Paul’s charge to follow the apostles’ traditions and avoid those who teach traditions other than the apostles’ traditions
But, if you do find yourself in the position where you realize that you no longer want to be involved with a church because of possible doctrinal conflicts, remember that you have other options.
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