Coming And Going: A Pastoral Letter

Dear Members and Friends,

Have you noticed that, with the multiplicity of choices open to them, American christians are often leaving one church and heading for another? Sometimes this is a reflection of the low level of personal commitment in our society; other times it is not. But, it is always a difficult experience for a congregation and for the person making the change. The love we have developed for one another is strained by such choices.                                       

Churches after all have different constituencies, different philosophies, different ways of being organized, and different emphases in worship. These are very real differences and often even churches in the same denomination will vary greatly. We may even think that other churches are not quite as close to the Biblical ideal as we are, and yet we recognize that there is a legitimate variety. Our conscience as instructed by God's word may not allow us to do what somebody else is doing, but we don't necessarily have to make an issue of it.

For us, as for most churches, this coming and going is a two way street. For better or worse, people leave for options they prefer, and people come because they find in our church what they are looking for. And people do change in their preferences or priorities.

I'm not going to tell you that I think such decisions to come and go are always wise. I remember a family that left another church and came to ours many years ago. After a while with us they decided to return to the church they came from, and they credited my teaching for showing them that they had left the first church for the wrong reasons. And I was just preaching the Bible. Others have left churches and returned to them later for a variety of reasons. Such decisions are a fact of life. Whether they are made on the basis of the right priorities or not, in the end, often, God alone can judge if the right path has been taken.

Your elders attempt to prayerfully and wisely govern our local congregation to minister to as wide a spectrum of our society as possible. We endeavor to maintain doctrinal integrity and our Reformed distinctives. We attempt to have a ministry that serves the congregation and the community in a way that preserves what is best in our Presbyterian and Reformed traditions and yet is open to legitimate change and the needs of contemporary Christians. We cannot please everyone, nor should we. But we can and do seek to obey the Word of Christ and lift up His Name. We always appreciate inquiries and suggestions from the congregation, and we try to give them very serious consideration and very honest answers. In the end, however, as you know, it is Christ to whom we must answer as to whether we were faithful in His House.

And so, some will continue to come, and some will continue to go. Sometimes for the best, and sometimes not for the best. We need to pray and not be discouraged. We are not the sole arbiters of the truth, neither is some other church. The best your elders can do is to have our consciences captive to the word of God and void of offense to men. Beyond that we commit ourselves to the judgement of our Sovereign God. The best that you can do is graciously accept differences with your brothers, don't gossip or pass on rumors, and always come to the Session with your heartfelt concerns.

Sincerely in Christ,  Your Pastor