A Response to Bill Muehlenberg’s Essay, “On Leaving Church”

On Leaving Church

The essay in the link above addresses the possible causes of people leaving the church. I think it should be noted that this problem does not exist in countries where It is illegal for Christians to gather together. They are desperate to assemble, despite the risk to their lives. Authentic Christians will be in fellowship with other believers, even if it’s in home churches. There is a huge difference between those who are disillusioned by the modern-day Church and those who refuse to be part of a church that has the appearance of godliness but denies its power. Thanks be to God for Grace Presbyterian Church, which is a refuge for all who are looking to Jesus, has a pastor, Bob Vincent, who unashamedly preaches the gospel from an attitude of humility and gratitude, and does not deny the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, whose works are as alive today as in Acts.

In the past, when I was not active in church or seeking the fellowship of Christians, it was because I had not yet trusted Jesus with my life. I had some very precious people who loved and prayed for me during that tumultuous time. I didn’t want to “play church,” but I wasn’t ready to turn control of my life over to Jesus. I saw peace in the faces of those who loved me unconditionally and wanted that for myself. Once I had nothing to lose, I surrendered to the lordship of Jesus and joyfully became part of a local church. Words from hymns I had grown up singing mindlessly now jumped off the page and gave me encouragement in my journey. His Word became alive to me, as the Holy Spirit gave me understanding.

Out of my gratitude for the peace and joy that Jesus gave me when I deserved hell, I served in that little imperfect church. There were times I wanted to give up and leave, but God used those imperfections to refine me. When I would return from chaperoning a youth conference or camp, I would cry out to God to make our worship services more authentic like I had experienced with the youth. I longed to see people openly embrace the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Once, as I was bearing my heart to the Lord about the lack of life in our church, I felt Him tell me that I was a missionary there. It changed my whole perspective and still does to this date. It’s all about Him, not our preferences.

I was wooed by the Holy Spirit to turn my life over to Jesus, but God used church people who loved me unconditionally OUTSIDE the church to cause me to want what they had. For over 20 years, I believed I was a Christian because of an emotional experience. Being supposedly “saved by grace” and living in the flesh to live up to a biblical standard did nothing but exasperate and confuse me. Obviously, I could not live a Christian life out of my own strength, so I gave up. Who wants to go to church and feel like you’re the only one who is a failure? Preaching the partial gospel which denies the power of the Holy Spirit to help us persevere in holiness to the end leaves us with an irrelevant Church. Thankfully, God showed me the truth in His Word that He saved me by grace and keeps me by grace. I love being with others who have been set free from trying to earn favor with God. Praise God for His indescribable gift!


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