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Evangelist, Baptist, Husband, Father, Mid-30's.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Explanation of Leaving

After months of prayer and endless hours of meetings, I came to a painful decision last week. That decision was to leave my church. This blog post is to answer questions and hopefully encourage church members to call for a godly change in their leadership.


There has always been a disdain towards my theology, but I thought that over the years I would show that the truly God-honoring theology is that of Sovereign grace; I sought to do so through evangelism, teaching, discipleship, and charity within the bride. Unfortunately this did not accomplish my desired end among the leaders and influential persons of the church, but rather did the opposite. I never sought to make Calvinism vs. Arminianism a topic of debate and purposefully sought to teach the Bible expositionally instead of in light of the tradition of Calvinism, even using the term as sparingly as I could, which was very very rarely. Of course, this always produces Calvinists, and several of my disciples discovered through listening to Paul Washer and others, that they and I were Calvinists.

Tensions got a little heated in light of theology and the making of disciples who actually were born-again and fulfilling the Great Commission. Deeper study followed, and the first time I remember really ruffling feathers was for quoting a single Bible verse, "You [God] hate all evildoers." (Psalm 5:5) As a person who has always sought to teach the true intention and meaning of the Bible, I did the unthinkable, I taught what the Bible says, that God hates all evildoers.

Not much later I quoted Psalm 58:10-11 in precisely the right context, and was radically opposed by those who did not know their Bibles; including similar events in the New Testament. This began a painful few months of opposed preaching of the whole counsel of scripture, showing that true love is actually holding fast to the good, and abhorring evil (Romans 12:9). I began at this point harder than ever to push for biblical evangelism and discipleship, taking students on local missions trips weekly, and rejoicing in the growth they were showing in both holiness and grace. Making radical disciples exposed an idol which when agitated turned and rent us; we had insulted comfort-driven Christianity and we could not be allowed to continue. We had engaged our culture and made our neighbors think that we were a church body that cared where people spent eternity; this could not be allowed to continue.

Over several months I continued to preach the gospel and sustain disciples, which infuriated many. I refused to edit the Bible to make it pretend you can live anywhich way you want and preach any message you want and still be ok. Over the past five months I have rarely heard the gospel preached from the pulpit, and even rarer is a genuine exposition of a text. Three sermons especially were as heretical as if Satan himself had preached them, yet those in leadership refused to acknowledge that sin is deadly and did not confront nor prohibit these men from defiling the pulpit again.

Myself on the other hand was prohibited from teaching, disagreeing, or discipling. Let me exceptionally clear in this point: If I were not muzzled, then I would not be leaving, I would be fighting as hard as ever to turn the rudder towards Christ and would face any consequences of this action. But, I have found myself in an interesting dilemma that my tongue within the church is required to be in agreement with the leadership, however I desperately do not want to sin with my tongue by agreeing to such sin.

So I am writing this to list a few grievances, I am leaving out personal affronts and will keep this to just three major areas, in hopes that these issues will be addressed and the church can continue the work she began several years ago to be a gospel-driven church.

No Gospel and No Ministry

My major concern as of late is that when the gospel is not preached and the Word is not exposited, a church ceases to be a church. Literally over the past three months or so I have not felt I was going to church in the morning, but to a funeral. I implore you to call your elders to do the job they are entrusted to do, to train you in the fear and admonition of the Lord. On Sundays I want to go to a church that loves Jesus and seeks to do his will in the community instead of a Sunday-morning social club with outrageous dues.

John MacArthur recently preached a fantastic sermon on why young children must not be allowed to eat whichever foods they want, because they can't distinguish between what is good food and what is not even food; it's up to those appointed over them to ensure they have a healthy diet. It is not necessarily your fault that when outright heresy spews from the pulpit that you do not discern it, since discernment comes through constant practice, and we have not had that constant practice in a long time.

Lack of Church Government

In the history of the church-universal there have been three main governments that work well, episkopol, presbyterian, and congregational. Unfortunately, we have a sort of congregation inside of a presbytery with no episkopos (bishop); it's confusing and so I won't try to explain it here, but while it's not an unworkable system, it is a system that currently does not work. After five months without a pastor, you should have a new pastor, not just now be deciding on whether the pastor search criteria is adequate. Beloved church, call your elders to appoint an episkopos, a senior-pastor, who will lead you in the truth. With a senior-pastor in place, the rather unorthodox government which the bylaws call for actually can work, even if the titles and positions are strange. Call this group to lead you in the truth, to preach and teach the word faithfully, and to worry more for your souls than the financial future of the church.

Lack of Fruit

I was once under the impression that we produced fewer false-converts than most churches, but in May I watched a mostly apostate senior class walk out the doors of our church; most of them never to return. Their blood is on our hands (yours and mine) for failing to teach them about the God of the Bible. I was once delusional to think that if a few select teachers were teaching the truth, that it would make up for those who taught opinion and vegetable stories, but I have realized that a healthy church must have a commitment to teach the Bible in a way that exalts Christ and deflates man, and this must be a decision from the top and not from the bottom.

Several times over the past year I have been puffed up by my disciples, thinking that I had discovered something that the rest of the church had missed, but I was quickly humbled in realizing that every Christian is to be making disciples who make disciples, and so I ask, where are they? I was required to stop making disciples because I showed that in the Bible Christians are passionate, can get angry, and make a difference in their world, being the means of grace by which God calls lost sheep home. Disciple making is hard, but it is the greatest joy a person can have (3 John 4).

It's a radical thought, making biblical disciples, but I encourage you to try it. The church is not to sit around its whole life and never offend anyone! Let's take the message to the nations, let's go outside the camp like Christ did, let's endure the reproach of him who loved us and died for us. I will be in the area for about the next year, I will be going on mini-missions trips regularly, and I would love to have you come with me. Very few ever did while I was your pastor of evangelism, many students did and were edified (Philemon 6), so I pray that you will realize you are both being disobedient in this matter towards your King, and also robbing yourself of the joy of labor (Psalm 126:5-6).


I cannot sit in a building that does not preach the gospel, that does not care for the souls of its people, and which sends its children out into the world without the faintest idea of who Jesus Christ is. None of these are unfixable problems, or even problems that are very hard to fix, but they are currently unresolved. I implore you to call those who are responsible to repentance, to tell them you want the Word preached faithfully, and that you want to be a witness for Jesus Christ in your community, and not just a presence.

The Lamb who was slain is worthy, he is faithful. Beloved, I call you to be hearers and doers of the Word, to be a church once again, and to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ who called us out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

With love and hope for the future,


Michael Coughlin said...

I had to leave a church too. It was the church I attended at the time I was born again. It was a really hard thing to do...(I was a very new Christian at the time)...and I loved the people there. But I felt disobedient to God by being a part of their 'deeds.'

Love you, bro, keep up the good work.

Wayne Dawg said...

Prayers going up my friend -