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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, May 29, 2006

Doubts about Your Church?

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - James 1:5-7
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Daily Scripture Reading - Exodus 3

Puritan Catechism
Question #29 - How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

Answer - The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us (Eph. 2:8), and by it uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (Eph. 3:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1646.

Chapter 49 - But in case we find not the magistrate or governing authority to favor us herein; yet we dare not suspend our practice, because we believe we ought to go in obedience to Christ, in professing the faith which was once delivered to the saints, which faith is declared in the holy Scriptures, and this our confession of faith a part of them, and that we are to witness to the truth of the Old and New Testaments unto the death, if necessity require, in the midst of all trials and afflictions, as His saints of old have done; not accounting our goods, lands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brethren, sisters; yea and our own lives dear unto us, so we may finish our course with joy; remembering always, that we ought to obey God rather than men, who will when we have finished our course, and kept the faith, give us the crown of righteousness; to whom we must give an account of all our actions, and no man being able to discharge us of the same.

Acts 2:40, 41, 4:19, 5:28, 29, 20:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; Philippians 1:28, 29; Daniel 3:16, 17, 6:7, 10, 22, 23; 1 Timothy 6:13, 14; Romans 12:1, 8; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Revelation 2:20; 2 Timothy 4:6, 7, 8; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Psalm 49:7, 50:22.

Devotional Thoughts
Pastors often have to deal with doubts! Their own doubts about their ministry and the doubts that church members have about all the things Christians can and will have doubts about. One of those areas of doubt that seems to me to be growing more and more prevelent is an area where church members have doubts about their membership. This has happened in our church and I hear from people by email quite often who are struggling with whether or not to leave or stay in their church.

Let me say at the start of our discussion here that there are many valid reasons to leave a church. But that perhaps should be the topic of another post. Today, let’s talk about doubt and God’s call regarding church membership.

Let's think about the church in which we are each members. When we each became a covenanting member of our church we were sure that God was calling us to the church. As we obeyed that call and joined the church we were so happy that God had sent us to a church home and given us a family. We were looking forward to see what God was going to do with us and through us in the church.

But now maybe doubt has entered the scenario of our daily lives. Perhaps a nagging, lingering doubt about the direction of the church. If other people have recently decided to leave our church then what were the reasons that they gave for leaving our church? Some people seem to visit forever, never committing themselves Biblically by joining the church in the first place. Why would they not join, unless something is wrong with our church?

What are the reasons given by people for not coming back after a visit, not joining, or for deciding to leave our church? It is just an all too common excuse? It is a Biblical, doctrinal, or practical concern? Or is it some selfish, sinful thing that should not even matter when we decide where to join ourselves to the local body of Christ? What are people looking for if they base their decision about where God is calling them on some surface, selfish, or sentimental criteria? What are the Scriptural reasons for picking a church in the first place?

Before I get too off track we must remember that we are talking about doubts. Doubt is a serious result of a lack of faith, a lack of confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we wonder if we should stay at our church there is a thought that perhaps other churches should be visited to see what we might be missing. I have seen people do this - they wander about from church to church for months at a time looking for a church that feels right. All the while they neglect fellowship and accountability with the church that they are members of, all in search of something that fits better. It is almost like shopping for a new sweater. It is actually usually just blatant consumerism!

As we doubt we wonder, maybe it was not God’s call to bring us here and we were hasty to join. Why else would be be discontent? We wonder and question, and we are tossed back and forth from one idea and emotion to another, indeed, like a wave! We have become spiritually unstable. You see, we go back and doubt the very thing that we used to be sure of – that God called us here!

What is at the root of our doubt? We can often prove how we have become unstable in our faith and confidence and begun to doubt by looking closely at the circumstance or situation that lead us into doubt and uncertainty in the first place. Do we have Scriptural reasons to be somewhere else other than where God has called us? Maybe it is that now God is calling us somewhere else. Let me address these since they are important considerations.

First, we need to affirm within our own hearts and minds the truth about whether or not God called us to our church. If we can say yes, that God did call us here, then we must ask a second question. Is God calling us somewhere else?

God does do that! Often pastors and staff members are called by God to go to a new work. And certainly members are called to go to new areas of ministry and service. But in thinking about this I want us all to understand that whenever the Bible talks about God calling someone for a particular purpose, it is always a call TO something and never a call AWAY from anything. God never asks us to hunt and peck for His will, as if it is out there in the shadows and we have to find it by chance or blind luck.

When God called Abraham to go to the Promised Land, He did not call him AWAY from Ur. He called him TO a land of promise (Genesis 12:1). When God called Moses in the burning bush, He did not call Moses to leave Midian. He called him to GO to Egypt and free the people (Exodus 3:10). Then He called the nation of Israel TO the Promised Land. Yes it is true that they left Egypt, but the Biblical pattern is that they left because God called them TO GO somewhere else (Exodus 3:17).

Notice please, He did not call them to wander in the wilderness hoping they would suddenly one day stumble across His will. They only wandered in the wilderness because of their DOUBTS, their lack of faith, and their disobedience. Otherwise they would have been in the Promised Land 40 years before they finally got there!

I could give other examples (Jonah, Samuel, David, the Apostles, etc) but these make the point. As we pray about what God is calling us to do, remember that He always calls us TO something. He does not call us AWAY from a ministry, but TO a new opportunity. If He called us AWAY then we would leave but have nowhere to go. Then we would have to seek where He wanted us. And while some wrongly behave this way, God in the Word never calls AWAY, but always calls TO a new work. Think about the disciples. He called them to leave all and follow Him. He did not just ask them to leave all with nowhere specific to go, but He gave them a specific place to go – “Follow Me.”

So to sum this up, our first big question is this, “Where is God calling us to go?”

We may find that He is still calling us TO our church. We may find that He is calling us TO a new church. The point being that we want to go where He has called us. We hope He is still calling us all to our church, but we also want His will for each other and trust that we will listen and hear and obey His will.

Do we have doubts? What are they based on? Where did they come from? Think about what we would say if we were asked why we wanted to leave our church. What Scriptural reasons for leaving could we give?

Is it a Scriptural reason for finding a new church because a church has more kids or more people our own age? Is it a Scriptural reason to find a new church because there are more classes or programs? Is it a Scriptural reason to find a new church because it is bigger than we have been or might be in the future?

Turning these around, let’s ask it this way, if God is not specifically calling us to go somewhere else, then what Scriptural reasons could we give for leaving our current church? Think about it! Does God call us somewhere based on numbers, size, programs, number of kids, etc? Or does He call us where He wants us to be used by Him for our good and His glory?

As I preached at the first of the year in the messages from Haggai we learned that we must:

1. Consider our Ways!
2. Go (make disciples), Bring (ourselves to the altar of self sacrifice), and Build (the church)
3. Be Strong (confident), Do Not Fear, and Work Hard (at building each other up)

Can we do these things with a heart full of uncertainty and doubt? No. Have we been faithfully doing these things with all our strength in order to be obedient to the Word of God? If not, then our doubts should be with self, not the church! For if we are not living this then we are failing to BE the church that God has called us to be. And if that is the case, then we will doubt no matter where we go to church!!

So let us answer one more question. If we have doubts about the church what one thing is at the root of those doubts?

Now thinking about that one thing, is that a Scriptural reason to be discontent with where God has called us? Or is it something we need to repent of, cast off, and leave behind?

Where is God calling us?

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

What Should I Look for in a Church? and When Should a Person Leave a Church? by John MacArthur
A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership by Mark Dever

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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