According to Pastor Corey Dyksta in a sermon posted at SermonAudio.com on the topic of church membership and separation, a Christian is only allowed to withdraw membership from a congregation over profound doctrinal disagreement or error.
But what if an individual can find a church of comparable teaching that is a better subjective or existential fit?
Why should someone in the name of an outdated understanding of ecclesiastical identity renounce other components of overall well being that could increase one’s comprehensive quality of life such as companionship and opportunity?
Many of these rinkydink congregations rank among the same ones that would bash an individual for going to another church for “selfish” reasons and then turn around and slug even harder with the other rhetorical fist these same souls not married by the age of 25 despite there being no one appealing in the congregation or if the person does nothing more than fill a pew in a church where there is only one Sunday school class that the pastor sits in on to shout down anyone that might raise a sincere question or differing perspective still within the parameters of Biblical acceptability.
In this sermon on church membership and separation, Pastor Dykstra insisted that the Christian is obligated to hold formalized membership in a local congregation.
He then proceeded to argue that church membership should be viewed like marriage.
However, nowhere in Scripture is one obligated to be yoked to a human spouse.
If anything, the Bible lists both the glories and downfalls of both the single and married states, allowing the individual to select for themselves the path that they believe will minimize the inevitable miseries of this life while attempting to maximize its fleeting pleasures.
In continuing the marriage analogy, Rev. Dykstra suggested that the ability to pick up and leave a church is a moral outrage comparable to no fault divorce.
Would pastors holding to such an ecclesiology prefer the dissatisfied and disenchanted just remain in the congregation and drag the whole vibe down?
Even more disturbing is the insinuation that one cannot leave without deliberate or explicit fault being assigned.
So if these ecclesiastical potentates had their way, would they smear you with some kind of mark akin to Hawthorne’s scarlet letter where no other church would ever take you in?
So be it.
What is to prevent the clerically dispossessed from banding together to establish their own churches?
And what if these loose associations began bearing spiritual fruit?
In the idealized theocracy or theonomy, would establishmentarian denominations use the weight of law and the use of force commonly referred to as violence inherent to the enforcement of such to destroy these fellowships?
If so, what makes those holding to such a position any better than the worst of the Medieval papalists that those of the extreme Reformist perspective spend an inordinate amount of time railing against?
In the sermon, Pastor Dykstra mentioned a sect from the time of the Reformation known as the Nicodemites, a reference to the influential Pharisee that came to Jesus who, though sincerely curious, came to Jesus in the middle of the night so as not to endanger his status and position as a member of the Sanhedrin.
This label was used to describe those drawn to the claims of the Reformed message but who were reluctant to embrace this interpretation of the Gospel for fear of leaving behind the modalities of worship and religious expression they had known their entire lives.
The term was intended to be applied condescendingly.
However, as conveyed in the Gospel of John, chapter 3, one does not get the impression that Jesus was irritated with Nicodemus for coming to Him secretively indicating potential ambivalence to the implications embracing the Messianic claims would have in the life of such a foremost Jewish voice.
Rev. Dykstra claims the label accurately describes those that waffle as to what congregation it is that they actually want to be a part of.
He goes on to assert that, when one leaves a particular church, what you are saying is that you no longer want to fellowship with the saints there.
It says nothing of the sort.
What about those that stay in the church and get their rearends so high up on their shoulders that they will no longer have anything to do with those that could have their spiritual needs better fulfilled elsewhere?
You don’t need the pastor’s permission to remain someone’s friend.
If you are afraid that remaining friends with someone that has left the church but otherwise still walking in the faith will set minister off, other than a cordial but distance greeting each Sunday, DON’T TELL THE MINISTER THAT YOU ARE STILL THEIR FRIEND.
The world is in a profound state of turmoil and decline.
Instead of complaining about how often a particular visitor is or is not there and whether or not they have agreed to a commitment sufficiently arduous to placate the rigors of the professional religionist, perhaps it might be more prudent to convey the basics of salvation and moral living in the brief time that any particular soul might be brought into contact with a specific congregation.
By Frederick Meekins