At a recent conference the three of us on the panel (all pastors) were asked the question, “As a layperson, should I start a grassroots movement to change my church?” All three of us basically said, “No.” Following the conference I got a long and heated email from someone who was very upset with my answer. He thought I was guilty of clericalism and gave no place for the laity to know anything, do anything, or ever question the pastor. That was certainly not what I said, nor, so far as I can tell, what most people thought we were communicating. But his concerns got my blogging juices flowing. The initial question about forming a grassroots movement to change a local church is one I’ve gotten in one form or another several times in the past five years. So perhaps it would be helpful to spell out my answer in a little more detail.

The Situation

Here’s the kind of situation I’ve been presented with many times. It’s what I assumed was behind the question at this recent conference.

You are at a church that doesn’t share your theology or seems to be heading in the wrong theological direction. Naturally, you are concerned and want to do something about it. You are sad to see your church change for the worse or sad to see your church less than what it should be. You wonder what you can do to help get things on track.

This situation usually arises for one of two reasons. Either you have recently come to a better theological understanding yourself and now see deficiencies in your pastor and in your church which you didn’t see before, or your church recently brought in a new pastor who is setting things on a different theological trajectory. There are, of course, variations to these two scenarios. Maybe you were brought on staff at a theologically weak church. Maybe your pastor has been drifting in recent years. Maybe your church just allowed something you disagree with (or just disallowed something you agree with). There are several permutations to the problem, but the basic contours stay the same: either you’ve changed or the church has changed, and the result in both cases is that the two aren’t lining up like they used to.

So what should you do?

Seven Suggestions

1. Pray for a humble heart. Make sure you aren’t being censorious. Check for plank-in-eye syndrome. Be sure you are giving your pastor and your church the benefit of the doubt. Ask the Lord for an open heart and an open mind.

2. Take note of your position. How you think about laboring for change in your church, and how you think of whether to work for change at all, has everything to do with your position in the church. Have you been at the church for decades or did you join two months ago? Have you proved yourself as a faithful servant in the body? Are you one of the official leaders of the church? An informal leader? A staff member? One of the others elders or pastors? The more designated authority you have–either by virtue of office, by virtue of maturity, or by virtue of years of service–the more you should do to work for change. The less you have, the less you should try to do.

3. Try to discern the relative importance of your concerns. Are you upset about preferences or about something more serious? Are your concerns about the character of your pastor or his personality? Are your theological concerns weighty or trivial? And if they are weighty, are they up for discussion in your church? If you’ve come to the Reformed faith in the midst of a Wesleyan church you have no business trying to make that congregation in the image of the Westminster Confession. Likewise, people in confessional churches (e.g., Reformed, Presbyterian, Lutheran) should not be surprised when their pastors teach the faith expressly laid down in their historic tradition.

4. Don’t talk up your concerns. Beware of building up an ever expanding circle of discontents. You may have to talk to a few persons for counsel. You may even know many other likeminded persons in the congregation. But your goal must not be to create a church within a church.

5. Consider encouraging your pastor with positive reinforcement. Find what you can commend and commend it. If your pastor is in need of more theological precision and development you may be able to give him good books to read–not usually polemical books championing your agenda, but positive devotional and theological works that give him a taste for sound doctrine. Maybe you can nudge your pastor toward a good conference or even take him to one yourself. If he is young or simply drifting a bit, your pastor may be open to gentle strengthening and redirection.

6. Consider prayerfully the course of direct confrontation. The pastor is not beyond correction. He can make mistakes. He can fall into error. He can get off track. He can grow proud. If after prayerful reflection you conclude that your concerns are serious and the trajectory worsening, set up a time to talk to your pastor or elders directly. I’ve never begrudged anyone coming to me with thoughtful concerns in a kind, humble way. Sometimes I agree with them. Sometimes I disagree. But I’m glad when they come to me or one of the elders directly.

7. Consider when it is time to leave. If your new theological convictions are out of step with the entire history and identity of the church, it’s best not to strategize for underground change. If a new pastor has come in and is moving things in a very different direction–with the full knowledge and blessing of the elders and with enthusiasm from most of the congregation–it’s best not to start a grassroots movement for reformation. If you’ve tried direct communication and the pastor or leaders tell you, in effect, “Thank you, but we see things a different way,” it’s best not to fight them tooth and nail. If David did not lay a hand on Saul as the Lord’s anointed, we should be very cautious about launching a guerrilla movement to take down our duly-appointed pastors and elders.

In rare occasions where the theological differences amount to heresy (or are clearly out of bounds with your confessional documents), or when your personal concerns relate to scandalous behavior, you may pursue church discipline and file charges, but only if you are following the steps of Matthew 18. In most cases where members are concerned with the direction of the church, the issues are important but not so egregious as to merit a formal process of discipline. In these instances, after working through steps 1-6 (and doing so with patience, not in a fit of passion), the concerned church member can either peaceably submit or quietly leave.

Summing Up

Please hear what I am saying and not saying. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk to your pastor or work for change. I’m not saying the local congregation is the personal fiefdom for the pastor. I’m not saying pastors can’t learn much from laypeople in the congregation. What I am saying is that practically you should not spend your life trying to do what has very little chance of success, theologically you should obey and respect your leaders, and spiritually you should not be divisive.

And lest this sound like I’m trying to protect my turf as a pastor, let me make clear that I am not addressing this question because it is a live issue in my congregation. I’m thinking of good folks in other churches who largely share my theology and have the very good desire to influence their local church for good. That’s what I took to be the context for the question at the conference. I want to commend these brothers and sisters for their discernment and encourage them in prizing theological depth and integrity. But we should also remember that seeking the things that make for “unity, purity, and peace” (as our membership vows put it), sometimes entails being peaceable enough to find unity with another body that has the purity you are looking for.

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45 thoughts on “Should I Start a Grassroots Movement to Change My Church?”

  1. A Naive Elder says:

    Dear Kevin – as always – sensitive and pastoral:

    “If your new theological convictions are out of step with the entire history and identity of the church, it’s best not to strategize for underground change.”

    Thanks for that.

    As well – wow! – this is so good:

    “In these instances, after working through steps 1-6 (and doing so with patience, not in a fit of passion), the concerned church member can either peaceably submit or quietly leave.”

    But (there had to be a ‘but”, eh) – think for a moment about the mixed ecclesiology in this summary statement:

    “seeking the things that make for “unity… sometimes entails being peaceable enough to find unity with another body that has the purity you are looking for”

    Another “body”? Whose? There is only one body – it is the body of Christ. He doesn’t have multiple bodies anymore than He has multiple personalities. The statement reflects umm, schizophrenia? I’m not really sure. Regardless,, to say Christ has multiple bodies is actually heresy – one which you definitely do not believe!

    So again, it only begs the question, “whose body” are you sending the conscientious objector to affiliate with?

    I know, I know. Let’s replace the word ‘body” with “church” and move on. But the two things are coordinated in the NT. Paul tells the one church in Corinth: “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). There was no other body in Corinth to go to except idolatry.

    So where do we go today? We ought to merge churches into one body around the clear precepts and examples given in the NT – this alone is the “foundation of the apostles and prophets” the church is built upon (Eph. 2:20-21).

    How does that work? Simple, really….

  2. Paul Goodfellow says:

    Perhaps we should all start grassroots movement to change ourselves and let the Lord take care of the rest of the church body.

  3. Dan says:

    Helpful comments that would’ve been more helpful a year ago! I know we didn’t handle our departure without blame and sin, but did thankfully try to adhere to some of the above points.

    I see this being a major issue in coming years within the nonconfessional, nondenominational, (sort of) reformed church plant movement. Many lay people like me and my wife found ourselves studying ecclesiology and other things that we didn’t expect to and suddenly found ourselves in the situation you refer to. How do we ask the right questions/encourage better theology/sound preaching? moved to…How do we leave in peace? How do we seek counsel without creating a faction/church within a church? Etc.

  4. Very passive aggressive that people would rather attempt a coup rather than apply Matthew 18:15. Thanks for sharing.

  5. david carlson says:

    Should I start a grassroots movement to change my church?

    Yes

    Work to implement Mark 10:42-45. Do not tell anyone. Let your actions slowly infect those around you, till they also join your movement.

  6. Judy Ford says:

    I think this says it all. Fact is, you can do this exactly by the “Book”, of course, the Bible, and still find yourself on the outside. We saw certain issues which we knew to be a problem, and leadership chose to ignore them until they blew up. We knew we did not have authority to make these changes, but because leadership did not deal with them, we lost faith in them. For two years I attended church, supporting a pastor I could not follow. I was a bundle of anger, guilt, confusion – finally just went to the elders and told them I knew they had prayed and studied scripture and wanted the best for the church as I did. I said I knew I was supposed to love and forgive, and thought it was time for me to move on. I would not involve myself in church issues to that extent again. Problem was, I was too involved. I clerked, and sang in the choir, and taught Sunday School, and served on committees, you name it. I burned myself out, and often did things just because someone asked me to. Sometimes I was showing off. I knew pretty much everything that was going on, partly because I was there when it happened. I was also close friends with an elder and his wife who were not happy with leadership. The Lord has and will continue to deal with me about this issue.

  7. El says:

    What I am saying is that practically you should not spend your life trying to do what has very little chance of success, theologically you should obey and respect your leaders, and spiritually you should not be divisive.

    What does this say about Martin Luther?

  8. Stephanie says:

    If you begin with suggestion one and keep praying and listening to God then you will be able to make it through the process in a way that will bring honor to God. Sometimes people will be open to hear and discuss and possibly change. Other times this will not be possible. Over a period of seven years we walked carefully through this process and eventually left a fellowship where we had served and our children had grown up. God changed us and we were no longer able to have unity on some important issues. Thankfully we are all a part of the Body of Christ and we still have a good relationship with this fellowship of believers. As difficult as it was for many years, we are thankful we took our time and trusted in what God was doing in everyone! We love God and we love His Body and we look forward to the new Heaven and Earth when all of this sadness will pass away.

  9. A Concerned & Frustrated Pastor says:

    How do you best work for change if you’re the pastor and the opposition comes from older lay elders in the church? If you can’t get the elders to follow you & support you, but a large number of people in the church do support the vision you have for the church, what do you do? Does it matter if you’re convinced that the elders are not spiritually qualified for their office or do you just accept that they have their office and authority by the sovereignty of God? What if you’re convinced that the church is being limited in its growth and service to God’s kingdom by the spiritual immaturity and narrow-mindedness of some key elders?

  10. A Naive Elder says:

    Dear Concerned and Frustrated,

    Have you confronted, in love, and personally, those men in leadership who are unqualified? Have you shown them where they fall short specifically so they know what to repent of? If so, and they have not stepped down and are still unqualified, have you – for the sake of their souls – taken this matter of sin to Mat. 18:16? What happened then?

    And if you have not confronted them on how they fall short of God’s qualifications, but yet let them think they are qualified, are you in fact qualified?

    BTW, would you mind sharing – are the leaders in your church voted into office?

  11. Ryan Howard says:

    Kevin previously posted an excerpt from a Martin Lloyd-Jones address, on the question of church secession (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/10/18/martyn-lloyd-jones-on-the-question-of-secession/ from October 18, 2012). Some very valid questions on that post, that we could ask ourselves in this context.

  12. Flyaway says:

    What began as an uneasy feeling when I saw a move on .org bumper sticker on the car of an assistant pastor turned into a debate by e-mail with that pastor and then with the senior pastor. They saw no harm in supporting abortion. The assistant pastor would not tell me if he was for gay marriage. I prayed, I talked to some members and former members, I gathered articles for the church board to read, and then when I realized up to 1/2 the congregation accepted abortion, I decided to leave.

  13. Barb says:

    What does this say about Martin Luther?

    He wasn’t initially challenging the Pope, was he? Perhaps my history is off a bit, but I thought he was at first just trying to warn the Pope about the abuses going on in the land, unaware that the Pope was behind it all. Those 99 Theses were posted innocently enough, and according to the way things were handled then in the theological and educational circles he was a part of. Once he was excommunicated, though….

  14. Mark says:

    Excellent advice! A few years ago I didn’t follow those guidelines very well and it didn’t end well. I learned that one of the best ways to be faithful to true doctrine and still submit to your pastor is to simply explain your differences to him and quietly exit. I made the mistake of first trying to (arrogantly) convince him of my view. When committed members leave for doctrinal issues it IS a grassroots movement, but not one that damages a church.

  15. Eric says:

    I think the very fact that people ask “What about Luther?” betrays the grandiosity that has infected evangelicals in recent years. You are not Luther, and he did not form a bible study or accountability group in order to undermine the leadership which tends to be the way it plays out in most church coups. Luther went to the sources, he did not launch a shadow campaign against someone.

  16. Cody Brobst says:

    Yes, I think the Luther comment is indicative of the wrong perspective. God often works in normatives and ordinary means. There are exceptions to every rule, but you are probably not one of them. The principal in place is this. God will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It should be up to a church body holistically (more specifically the leadership of the church, and I say this as a lay person), to decide the direction theologically, spiritually, etc. and not just one or two individuals. If you have done everything to love your church and serve it well, and the people won’t budge, and the clergy and elders won’t budge, you do more harm then good to stick around and you honestly make a bigger statement by leaving and demonstrating that you want to belong to truth at even the cost of leaving your home. This ought not to be your first answer, nor is DeYoung promoting church-shopping and hopping, but stirring the pot when you stand alone is most times unhelpful. Also, a principle to always apply is majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. There is no reason to turn a church upside down because of their convictions on how to observe the Sabbath, but I would definitely be willing to speak up if my church didn’t buy into the authority of Scripture or questioned the Trinity.

  17. AJ Holmes says:

    Pastor Kevin,
    I’m wondering if your answer remains identical in the situation that the concern of a layperson has primarily to do with church policy or method, not theology. Granted theology should be the pot that these things grow out of.

  18. mark says:

    “If your pastor is in need of more theological precision and development you may be able to give him good books to read–not usually polemical books championing your agenda, but positive devotional and theological works that give him a taste for sound doctrine. “I think this advice is treading on thin ice as it were.

  19. Justin Garcia says:

    I think in general, unless heresy is being taught or gross sin is being tolerated, there really is no reason that a member must leave their church. That being said I think Pastor Kevin gives some really good advice that probably would serve to prevent most church splits and grass movements that undermine God-ordained leadership.

    As a lay member of my church I see no distinction between myself and the leadership God has placed over me in regard to Kingdom work and obedience to Christ. When standing before Him at the Bema judgment I cannot say “my pastor told me to.” I have a personal relationship and duty to Christ my God. So if there is something that is amiss or being neglected in my church I have an obligation to do something about it. But that starts with me. Am I doing what I know to be right? Do I serve? Do I evangelize? Do I obey authority?

    I think as Kevin points out we too often fail to pray for our leadership and seek to be a blessing and encouragement to them. When I approach leadership I don’t want them to think “oh what does he want now?” It “what issue does he have today?” I want them to think “Oh good. Here is Justin. I really could use his encouragement today. I wonder what help he is offering today.”

    I want to be a joy to my elders and yet at the same time recognize that they are imperfect and may not see things clearly. For this they need much prayer and much encouragement to keep fighting the good fight and to have the support of their brothers in Christ.

    I think if we have this humble servant-like attitude then when we do have an issue to bring to the attention of leadership we now have their ears because we have shown to be faithful, teachable and a servant to Christ.

  20. Tom says:

    It is concerning that the post, “Why We Have Been Silent About SGM Lawsuit,” published on The Gospel Coalition website by DA Carson, Kevin DeYoung, and Justin Taylor blocked readers from posting comments. The history of the lawsuits against SGM is complicated with numerous examples of the depravity of men. The number of electrons burdened with ill reasoned, slanderous, and cowardly accusations pertaining to SGM over the past several years could fill a NASA supercomputer (before sequestration). It makes practical and Biblical sense not to open another electronic forum that may encourage the continuation of a trial that has been disallowed by the appropriate civil authorities. Disallowing comments to these authors’ letter is an altogether different consideration.

    Disabling reader’s ability to respond to the author’s letter is akin to traffic enforcement officers telling the witnesses to a horrific car wreck that their testimonies are not worth collecting. Are inappropriate comments and observations going to be posted by readers? Yes. That is why this web site has content editors and mediators. Are these authors implicating the site’s editors with incompetence and inadequate skill in determining what is appropriate and what is not?

    Many of this site’s readers are concerned about the multitude of faith issues inherent in the SGM tragedy and want to learn from Scripture and faithful teachers how to respond if these events arise in their own worshipping community. No matter where someone sets down in thought about the events surrounding SGM over the past five years or more, there is much to be discussed for the health of individual saints and the greater body of believers.

    When a subordinate officer in US Army GEN Stanley McChrystal’s command made offhanded comments about President Barak Obama to a Rolling Stone reporter, GEN McChrystal resigned his position as ISAF commander and Commander, US Forces Afghanistan. He immediately retired from active military duty in order to return America’s focus to the mission of protecting this country and prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. GEN McChrystal, West Point graduate, Special Forces qualified, Ranger qualified, Airborne qualified, former commander of US Special forces Command, subordinated his career, personal goals, and professional calling to the greater mission. Did GEN McChrystal do anything wrong or behave in a way that brought dishonor to the United States of America? No he did not. GEN McChrystal took personal responsibility for the failings of subordinates under his command and removed himself as a distraction to the successful accomplishment of a greater goal.

    GEN David Petreaus, West Point graduate, former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, author of American counter insurgency doctrine, head of the CIA, resigned when his personal leadership failings distracted from the mission for which he had been hired to execute. At the time of his personal moral failure was he still eminently qualified to successfully perform the task for which he was paid? Yes. Did his personal role in the prosecution of the mission for which he was hired require him to be above reproach? Yes it did?

    The head of the IRS resigns after six months on the job in order to mitigate the distraction his personal involvement in alleged misconduct may present to the return of integrity to this country’s tax collecting agency.

    And on and on it goes. In business, government, and the American military, leaders get out of the way of the mission when their involvement becomes a distraction. Why does there seem to be more integrity among the secular leader’s prosecution of the missions of business and government than among the men entrusted with Gospel proclamation? Is not Gospel proclamation a greater undertaking than any of the tasks entrusted to these military, business, and civic leaders? Does the value of vocational ministry friendships and relationships override the integrity of the Gospel? Do preachers, church leaders, and anyone of us not have to die to ourselves when we become a more compelling story than Jesus The Messiah and His Redemptive suffering and death?

    If the leader’s of this country’s wars understand that leadership integrity must never be undermined, why are we so willing to accept a lesser standard within the church? Maybe the Church is not at war.

    I encourage DA Carson to discuss with his son, a US Marine, what must be sacrificed personally in terms of ambition, self-reliance, and independence when a man goes to war. Kevin, if the thoughts you express in this post have veracity, open up the comments so that the world will see that faithful brothers and sisters can undertake the hard conversations that make up much of life this side of all Glory.

    Open up the comment section and let the uncomfortable discussion of the tragedy that surrounds SGM begin so that we never repeat these same mistakes.

  21. Steve says:

    Like someone else asked, what if the issue is not theology? Rather it is a profound difference in vision and purpose. The pastor content with a status quo, inward focus and almost blatant dismissal of the lost and needy in the community. Compare that to a number of believers on the other side of the coin feeling led to reach the community with the Gospel. I am sure we are not alone in this struggle and our church is not unique. Again, this is not theology. The preaching addresses the lost, but the actions from the pulpit are something else entirely. Reading Isaiah 58 makes it clear that God’s plan for believer’s spiritual development is to give ourselves completely, serving the lost and hurting with the full Gospel of Jesus as the only hope for salvation. This is the worship that God asks of us. So, if the leadership of the church is content with the Spirit-less show; Sunday after Sunday, and the body has people who feel called to inspire and challenge for change, why wouldn’t we do that? Are we really supposed to just leave instead of challenging the congregation to repent of our collective lack of caring. Lukewarm faith will NEVER make an eternal difference in the lives of people that need the Gospel. How can we not extend grace to the lost in the same way it has been extended to us? So, if your church is without a vision, why would it not be right to try and change that? If anyone has advice please offer it.

  22. K says:

    Steve, I don’t have advice but am in the same predicament. I have found a good church in the next town and am considering making a move. If everyone there but me is happy with the way the church is, maybe it’s not up to me to change them but to move on.

    Thanks for the helpful insights. This article is really an answer to prayer.

  23. Maria says:

    This is, of course, becoming an increasingly common scenario as biblical, historical, orthodox doctrine is now readily accessible online. For me radio played a major role in my journey from Pentecostalism to Reformed theology.
    Even though I generally agree with the content of the orginal post and do appreciate the tone in which it was offered, I would like to share my experience as a “reformed” believer in an A/G church.

    When my husband and I came into this local body 25 years ago we fit in quite well and it wasn’t long before we were both involved in various ministries. It pleased the Lord to take me through a process of discovery and transformation which culminated in my fully embracing the doctrine of the sovereignty of God some 15 years ago. For several years I oscillated between frustration and prayer for change. Leaving was not an option as my husband saw no reason to do so.

    The time came when I simply asked my Father to either work in my husband’s heart and move us on or give me the grace to serve Him joyfully where He had sovereignly placed me. He chose the latter and it would take a book to tell of all the amazing and beautiful and “impossible” changes I have witnessed over the past decade.

    Our pastor (to whom we gave a subscription to Tabletalk magazine 15 years ago) commonly refers to the sovereignty of God, quotes extensively from reformed material and promotes books by reformed authors (John Piper is a favorite.)

    There are several people in our church who are fully reformed and many more who have come to embrace the sovereignty of God but aren’t even familiar with the term “reformed.” My preference is not to emphasize (extra-biblical) labels and rather teach (in our ladies’ groups) the Word of God which is alive and powerful and accomplishes more than arguments ever could.

    When I look back over the years (with the help of my journals) I am truly amazed at the grace of God. He took a legalistic, self-righteous, proud bigot and painstakingly worked in me, causing me to understand my depravity and my need of mercy and grace. Should I be proud of the mercy and grace I have received? Should my awareness of the sovereignty of God make me arrogant and cause me to look down on those who have not yet understood what God graciously imparted to me? Heaven forbid.

    I pray daily for wisdom and humility. I desire nothing more but to be a conduit for the mercy and grace I have received. If God is sovereign, and He is, He is sovereign even in and among those children of His who have not yet grasped this truth. May those of us who find ourselves in churches where this is not “official” doctrine learn to trust Him as He accomplishes His eternal purposes in us and through us.

  24. Dave McCarthy says:

    The bible speaks for itself on the topic.

    Eccl 9:15-17
    “15But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. 17The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.”

  25. Dave McCarthy says:

    Is the poor wise man being despised? Should this be condoned? These are questions to ask for one sinner can destroy a lot of good.

    Pastoring is about empowering people to seek God, building people up in their faith/beliefs, and equipping them for ministry. Defending a fifedom outside of these goals is something else all together.

    Likewise, we all stand before our own Masters, and He is able to make us stand. The command is that -you- be careful how -you- build for the day of testing will disclose it. Some with straw, wood, stone… The corporate responsiblity falls more heavily on pastors. You just have a duty to raise an alarm.

  26. Ruz says:

    There is a tendency that I have noticed towards laziness. (I call it the laziness principle – and it can be used to explain all kinds of stuff!) It is really the basic principles behind the laws of motion. There are forces of friction that provide drag and if not countered, eventually bring things to a stop.

    So, if you are involved with a church and that church gets into a rut of some sort, it is very easy for it to slowly veer off track towards an inconsequential set of repetitious actions. What happened to the grand vision of the church plant, or the last re-purposing, etc?

    That said, I would second the comment above from David Carlson to implement change by your own actions as in Mark 10. Not a movement to replace elders, leadership, vision statements, constitutions, or anything like that. Instead quiet action doing what is right, giving up the “self” ideals that seem to characterize so many of these movements.

  27. Justin says:

    Great article. One thing I would add, if I may, is that so many times grassroots movements are started because of impatience. Let Piper speak to us, http://solidjoys.desiringgod.org/en/devotionals/strength-to-wait
    Pray, speak, and work for “Big-God” theology while not undermining the theology of the pastor and be patient for God to move.

  28. Melody says:

    Steve

    If I can point out there is nothing stopping those of you that feel led to reach out to the community from doing so.

    My church is large enough that it uses small groups to help the members to feel connected to a smaller body. The small groups tend to end up being like minded people grouping together. While you might find yourself uncomfortable with a very cerebral group there is always another group that is more about praying or another that is more about outreach.

    Nothing to stop you unless you belong to a church that is intent on remaining small and so is unwelcoming to anyone new that might force it to grow. Then I would say that you are not in a biblical church but one that is pretending.

  29. Steve says:

    Melody, That is exactly where we find ourselves. A number of people feel led to outreach and who already are involved and missional locally with multiple converts by God’s blessing the effort, but we are met with outright resistance from the pastor.

  30. As a pastor I truly appreciate what Kevin is saying. Often when I hear people speaking of “changing the church” they have a “We’ve got it all together/right and need to fix these other ‘dead weight/wrong’ people in our church” attitude…and humility has been laid aside in favor of being “right”. However…I don’t hear much about people wanting to change the church.
    What I fear is that because changing a church is such a difficult and arduous process…most young pastors, leaders and lay people simply don’t see the point in it.
    Here in the Bible Belt, starting a new church, planting a church etc…is the preferred method rather than working for change. There are churches on top of churches, across the street from churches and yet new churches keep popping up…mostly because people didn’t get over night change at their church and think “I’ll do it right at MY church” and then proceed to circumvent trying to bring about healthy change by simply giving up and moving on.
    Not that their isn’t a time to do that….but the evidence here is that surrender and starting new is the modus operandi not praying/working for change within.

  31. Nick Bulbeck says:

    As an Englishman, I find this post + comments especially interesting; following the Charismatic Renewal in the 1960’s and the subsequent rapid emergence of the house church movement (as it is known) during the late 1970’s and 80’s, the analogous question “should I stay in my traditional church, or move to a new church that does not reject what I’ve experienced from the Holy Spirit” frequently arose. There was no one-size-fits-all answer then either. I do have a couple of observations, though.

    “You’re not Luther” – true, but only half the truth. Your eldership isn’t the Papacy either, and nor is your local church the dominant religious and political superpower of Europe. It may or may not be appropriate to attempt to change a (usually small) congregation, but either way, changing it is hardly going to re-enact the Reformation. So I agree, a sense of perspective is important.

    It’s also worth pondering: when and how was your church congregation itself founded? One or more believers must’ve somehow felt moved to begin it, for some combination of reasons. Do those reasons still apply? Do the same things that once moved the founders, move you now?

    Thirdly, since Jesus calls his sheep (you included) by name, what is he saying to you? And has he finished speaking? I think many of us – myself included – have made the mistake of preaching to others what God was actually saying to us, especially if we haven’t let him fully explain it. Sometimes this is over-enthusiasm, sometimes pride; I suspect it’s usually a bit of both.

    And fourthly, unless you’re in a very small town, the church in your locality is certainly bigger (sometimes far bigger) than your own congregation. What is God doing, now, in our city, and where does your church (in the everyday sense) fit into the local church (in the usual new testament sense)? By extension, what has God called you to do, and alongside whom can you best do it? Have you any business changing your own small corner when what you hunger for is already represented nearby? Supposing it were true that we’re all one Church, might God simply be calling you to work alongside a different part of it?

    Finally, and please forgive my exaggeration to make a point here, are you absolutely certain that your theology/praxis (new or old) really is the latest word in God’s revelation of himself to humanity, and that everything else is a failed version of you? If so, is that certainty warranted?

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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