When Christians Walk Away

When I stop to think about it, I haven’t seen that family at worship in a few weeks. Now I’m told they are attending another church. I can’t help but feel defensive, even a little betrayed. My immediate impulse is to justify myself and the congregation of which I’m a part. But am I thinking correctly? Who’s really to blame when Christians walk away from a church?
On the one hand, it is the church’s responsibility to look after the welfare of all of its members. The words of Hebrews 13:17 lay a serious charge at the feet of those who lead the church: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (NKJV). Elders particularly have the charge to “watch out” for souls under their care. As spiritual shepherds, they must be ever alert to situations that might weaken the faith of Christians. If no one is watching, wolves easily slip in and do damage to the flock.
But it’s not just elders who have an obligation to be on the alert; every Christian is expected to take part. Consider these words from that same Hebrew epistle: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). In those three words — “consider one another” — is the principle of close Christian fellowship, the kind of fellowship that picks up on signs of fatigue or struggle. It notices when one forsakes “the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). When brothers and sisters don’t consider one another, no one notices another’s absence from the assembly — until it’s too late.
The church has a great responsibility to keep watch over those who make up its membership. It’s a responsibility shared by leaders and members alike.
But there’s also responsibility on the part of those who feel neglected or offended. Before they make the decision to leave their spiritual family, they must make honest efforts to address the problem.
Look again at Hebrews 13:17. The primary charge of that passage is to members, not to the leaders. “Obey … be submissive … Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable to you.” Have I spoken with the elders about the problem with which I’m struggling? Have I given them a chance to deal with it? Or will I walk away and leave them to guess about my reasons for leaving?
Serious problems were present in the church at Jerusalem. Some widows were being left out of the daily distribution of food. How easy it would have been for the Hellenist Christians to pull out of the church and begin their own congregation. To their credit, though, they took their complaint to the apostles and gave them a chance to address the problem. The imperfect system was corrected and a stronger congregation was the result. (The full account is in Acts 6:1-7.)
No congregation of the Lord’s church will be perfect. Someone will be slighted while someone else’s needs are overlooked. But when brethren recognize their mutual responsibility, they will work together for the good of the church. God’s ways are always best!

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Tim Hall

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One thought on “When Christians Walk Away

  1. This article open hit nerve with me. We left a congregation because the preacher told me I was too old to do things, my husband was no longer wanted because he had the first stages of Parkinson disease (he still could do things) and I spoke out to the preacher when he announced one could attend any kind of church and be saved. The church church I attended before I was seroiusly injured and told the reason I got injured at the church ( I fell on a slippery floor because my husband voted in business meeting not to go to system where the preacher makes all of the decisions. Also both churches of Christ believe one man can make all of the decisions. My family decided to leave and go to other congregations. Churches do not find out why people leave. At least they rid them themselves of people that do not want go along with their
    error

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