Dr. Caldwell recommends a couple of resources that will be helpful for people to navigate some of these things. 9Marks Ministry has 9 short videos (9Marks.org/about/the-nine-marks/) and a book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, along with several other resources to assist believers in this endeavor. Tom Pennington has written a book, Three Hallmarks of a Biblical Church Member, regarding faithful church membership that will also be helpful. Additionally, linked below are sermons that Dr. Caldwell has preached on this subject:
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What is The Right Time to Leave a Church?
In evangelical circles, there are all kinds of questions about leaving a church. Occasionally, you will hear of people who have left churches over some rather strange things, like a disagreement over paint and carpet choices, there wasn't a choir, they don’t sing out of hymnals, sermons are too long, there aren't pews, they don't have a coffee shop, and so on and so on. These seem to be choices based on personal preference rather than biblical standards and convictions. How can believers rightly understand what a healthy church should look like and whether they should stay or leave the church that they are in? Today on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Josh Philpot asks Dr. Richard Caldwell to help us consider if there are rights and wrongs about leaving a church. They seek to help us think through what are good and valid reasons for leaving a church to be part of another one, also if staying home and doing church 'online' is an option for believers.
Dr. Caldwell reminds us that every believer needs to be part of a true church. That church in your local area may be healthy or unhealthy. It may be a good church, it may not be the best church, but it’s a church. He also reminds us that even the churches referenced in the New Testament had problems that had to be addressed regularly. There isn’t going to be a perfect church this side of heaven. Local churches will always have issues of different sorts that have to be dealt with. He says that sometimes the standards we apply to churches can cause us to be too quick to leave when we would be better off sticking in there to allow the Lord to do His work in that church or even in our own hearts and minds.
Having shared this, Dr. Caldwell also reminds us that when the New Testament was being written, the church had not grown to the extent it has now. Believers did not have the ability and ease to leave their church to go be part of another one. But today, there’s a plethora of churches we can be part of. So if the church you’re attending isn’t healthy and you have the ability to go and be part of a healthy church, that’s something to be considered. However, if the church you’re a part of isn’t as healthy as it could or should be, and there isn’t a healthier church in your community, that isn’t a reason to leave, then stay at home and do church 'online'. Watching church services online, whether streamed live or recordings of church services, is not participating in a church body. As long as the church you're attending is a true church, even though it’s not the healthiest church, you need to be a part of that church. You can supplement with faithful teachers online and all the rest, but you need to be part of that church. Outside of salvation itself, there’s nothing more spiritually impactful in the life of a family than the church it belongs to.
Dr. Caldwell says reasons for considering whether to stay or leave a church need to be centered around solid reasons for what a healthy church is. Some of those things are: Is the church doctrinally sound? Is there doctrinal and theological fidelity? Is the Word of God taught faithfully, without apology, systematically so that you and your family are learning the Word of God? Are the leaders qualified? Are the biblical standards for eldership applied to its leaders? Is sin dealt with in the congregation? Is there church discipline? Or is sin ignored?
Churches can have solid-sounding statements of belief, confessions they adhere to, doctrinal statements, and so on, but do they practice what is said in those statements. There are churches, for example, that affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, but how things are conducted in the life of those churches reveals that there is no connection with the sufficiency of Scripture. They can have the right words and say all the right things doctrinally on these statements, but how they practice life in the household of God isn’t faithful. The Word of God needs to have first place in the life of the church. There needs to be doctrinal fidelity hand in hand with the proper philosophy of ministry, the application of Scripture, and the primacy of preaching that takes place in the church. These are the things that ought to be evaluated when looking for a healthy church.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.
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