Friday, January 21, 2005

Doing Splits

Reformed Presbyterians are foremost authorities on the most painful way to plant a church: splitting up. No matter what part of the country we are living in, during our short stay there we always meet someone who has given up on the local reformed churches and decided to plant a little different flavor of reformed Presbyterianism. It’s now happening here (again).

I’m in no position to cheer or pooh-pooh these actions or to weigh the reasons behind the split. All I know is that too many reformed-types are dissatisfied with their church, and too many try to plant a greener pasture. At least the hope is it’ll be a greener pasture. Usually what happens is a few sheep get shuffled around and the existing reformed churches get weaker.

When I look through the publishing houses of “reformedom” there’s nothing in-print on this. What we need is a wise reformed leader to take on this topic and address questions like, “what are the valid reasons to leave a church and what is only majoring on the minors?” This issue would make a great book project or conference and, if well done, would certainly promote the peace and unity of local reformed churches across this country.


Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

There's a book published by P&R called "Life in the Father's House" that addresses some of these issues. There's also a three-tape series from an old Ligonier conference -- 1995, I think -- that addresses when to leave a church. I recommend both of these, along with lots of prayer, brutally honest evaluation of motives, and *humble* conversation with your church leaders.

By the way, for anyone wishing to contact Ligonier re those tapes, the numbers noted on the tapes, which I assume are product codes, are CSE95.1P, CSE95.2P and CSE95.3P. The speakers are R.C. Sr. and Robert Godfrey.

I agree, though, that the bibliography on this issue is slim pickings. I suspect the biggest problem is that there's so little market for such information. People generally just want to get their own way and not be bothered with thinking about it. We certainly don't want to be bothered with the suggestion that we might be required to shut up, stay put and submit!

I've left four churches, and done so with varying degrees of thoughtfulness and varying degrees of rightness. This last time I think I did fairly well, but lemmee tellya, it's a lot of work and a lot of heartache to do even fairly well!

Tim said...

Thank you, Valerie for a very helpful comment. I appreciate the difficulty you undertook to locate and reference specific casette tapes during your renovation.

We have left only one church by choice (other times were due to moves), but since then we have taken a long time to settle on a church home. I often wonder if we were to be in one location for a long time how that would change our perspective on sticking things out at a particular church.

It does seem that we Presbyterians have discovered more reasons to leave a church than have other groups. I don't see any Assembly of God types splitting over not having weekly communion, etc. Maybe it's a side-effect of caring more than most about getting our doctrine right.

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

Don't give me credit for taking trouble -- I just happened to know exactly where they were, having just sorted tapes and CDs a few days ago.

I also just came across this article -- I haven't even read it myself, so I can neither endorse nor critique it, but perhaps it would spark thought/discussion for anyone who's interested.

Valerie (Kyriosity) said...

Oh, and I agree about that side-effect comment. Not only are AOGers not arguing about weekly communion, etc., they're probably not arguing much about church unity. But I've seen Charismatics that church hop (literally and figuratively!) with the best of 'em.

Amy said...

Would you leave a Pressie church if they hired their pianist and nursery workers from the local newspaper? (no profession of faith)

Tim said...


That is disappointing and an indication of an unhealthy church, but I wouldn't leave just because of that. However, the elders need to explain their actions and attempt to show that this was the best possible course of action. Hopefully, they considered other alternatives before settling on outsourcing a key part of their worship.