Posts Tagged ‘metaxas’

When Do You Leave Your Church?

When is your church so corrupt, or powerless, or meaningless, or empty, or anything—that you can no longer stay? When must you break fellowship, disregard leadership, and abandon community? Or is there never an excusable time or situation?

I’m reading Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas right now and thoroughly enjoying it although occasionally the writing style is too colloquial for me. Occasionally I feel that his research is too apparent—or maybe I have just read too many freshmen research papers and have been “overexposed. ”

Right now I’m reading through the time in the 1930s when Bonhoeffer and his colleagues in the German Protestant church are being forced to choose between Hitler’s perversion of Christianity and what they know to be true faith. Some quite faithful pastors are very hesitant to leave their national church, while others—like Bonhoeffer—see early that there is no alternative but to leave.

Bonhoeffer’s situation is perhaps different from where we might find ourselves in that he must deal with a national organization, whereas, we most often think only of leaving congregations. And yet as I write those words,  I think of the growing number of members of churches of Christ who are leaving the heritage of their youth for everything from orthodoxy to Pentecostalism—but mostly just for what they perceive to be a lively fellowship versus a dying fellowship.

In several conversations recently, Sherrylee and I have posed the following question for ourselves: if we had been common members of the church in 1517 in Wittenberg, would we have left our church to follow Luther’s teachings? Or would we have stayed and tried to preserve the unity of believers—which Luther actually did as well until he was excommunicated by his church.

Does Jesus’ prayer for unity among his followers mean anything to us today? I know we all believe it does, but we have a terrible time defining that unity. Jesus described a united fellowship as built from all who “believe in me” (John 17:20), all who are “in us” (v.21), and all who have received His “glory” (v.22). These transcendent terms sound neither like the basis of fellowship nor like the points of contention that cause people to break fellowship today to me.

Luther’s breach was within the existing church until he was cast out as an outlaw. Even then he himself did not establish a new fellowship. The political and social environment of the time forced people to choose whether they would be Lutheran or Catholic—not God.

Bonhoeffer saw the German state church turned into an arm of a godless political machine. Jesus left the state church, so Bonhoeffer did as well. He followed Jesus—and so should we.

Has Jesus left your church? If so, you should leave too! Have you been excommunicated because of your testimony—officially or unofficially?  Then you have really no choice but to find a new community.

I truly wonder though if my personal preferences, my personal irritations, my personal opinions are any reason at all to leave my church?

I suspect that the part of Jesus’ prayer for unity that is mine to fulfill compels me/requires me to subordinate the petty rests of what are mine to the greater goal of the Greater Unity.

How do you participate in Jesus’ prayer for unity among His disciples?


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