Coming Out From Among Them – Part 1

In the past year I went from blessed believer in my church to blessed subtraction. The events leading to my exodus can be traced back to about three years ago. Circumstances culminated quickly within the past year-and-a-half as the veil of deception lifted from my heart. After serving this Assembly of God fellowship for over eleven years I finally came to the crossroad between conviction and compromise. I chose conviction.

So, my family and I have left behind friends, ministries and memories to embark on a new mission that God is leading us into. I am excited for the glories that lie on the horizon, but my heart aches also for those things I have left behind. Leaving a church is akin to getting a divorce from a beloved spouse. You might love her deeply but unfaithfulness must by necessity drive you apart. It is painful; resentment and bitterness can fester on both sides if the Lord is not sought to help heal wounds and forgive trespasses. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can at times be overwhelming. Opposition from those you called brothers and sisters in Christ can suck the life out of you; stirring feelings of guilt and doubt.

It is never a good thing leaving a church. It wasn’t easy for me. I kept finding reasons to stay. I desperately sought out the positive points of our ministry and hid behind them, not willing to look directly at the gargantuan lion roaring in the midst of the sanctuary. The beast is called ‘Purpose Driven’ and it is chained to a massive marble pillar named ‘Church Growth’, whose chief designer and builder is Rick Warren. Warren’s philosophies of church growth are the foundations on which the beast derives his power. At his command the beast decimates the pillars the church were built on: sin, righteousness, grace, faith, wrath, justice, sovereignty, atonement, the blood of Jesus, the cross of Christ, imputation, propitiation, adoption, the Second Coming and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In its place the beast erects new foundations and support columns consisting of the 5 purposes of the church, unity and community, felt needs preaching, high octane entertainment, hot coffee and warm seats, small life groups, spiritual gifts assessments, and positive, uplifting messages sure to never confront the ugly side of human nature. The gospel is transformed from a sword piercing the heart to a feather tickling the ear.

These pillars rose up one by one in my former church, sometimes escaping my notice completely. At least until God awoke me from my slumber, lifting the scales from my eyes and pointing me away from the road to Babylon, back onto the straight and narrow road of life.

Three events, all of which have happened in the past year, finally convinced me that our pastor and church have been utterly transformed by the power of purpose. I will chronicle these events in several upcoming posts. After the last eye-popping offense, I could almost audibly hear the thundering command from heaven, ‘Come out of her. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you’ (2Cor 6:17)

The fork in the road is well marked. The wide path of compromise leads down the doomed highway of church growth heresy while the road of Holy Spirit conviction leads to the Celestial city; that paradise which is the final destination of all who are in Christ. It is the same road that Christian, his wife and children took so long ago in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress.’ I too, will follow that road, even if I must go it alone. I take great comfort in knowing no matter how harrowing a path I trod, the Lord is with me and shall never leave nor forsake me.

Read Part 2

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19 responses to “Coming Out From Among Them – Part 1

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. My family and I are “blessed subtractions” as well. Sharing your story will provide encouragement for those who have been maligned, belittled and writtened-off.

    Leaving a church is is painful, but necessary when it fails in doctrinal purity. God has brought healing and restoration after a season of suffering.

    God bless you and all those who visit your site.

    Jim

  2. Oh my goodness! These are the same exact words the Lord spoke to us,”Come Out of Her!”. Your story is almost verbatim of ours. We left our Purpose Driven church home of 20 years on January 15, 2006. We’re still praying that their eyes will also be opened to the Truth!
    Thank you for sharing–Sandy

  3. Pingback: A Peculiar Pilgrimage « The Great Apostasy

  4. It’s encouraging to hear about how you had to change churches. My family and I just left our church a week ago, because sadly the leadership had decided the church needed a total makeover, which took the shape of becoming Emergent and Purpose Driven.

    We’d been concerned for several moths about some of the fruit we were seeing in the church. We’d hope things would get better, and we tried to be optimistic, because changing churches is never a joyful ordeal. But finally we realized — I think God slapped us upside the head — the poor fruit we were seeing in the church wasn’t going to get better, because it was coming directly from their new purposeful “makeover.” After our eye-opening moment — and several others since –we knew we couldn’t stay any longer.

    ~Kelsey

  5. One small quibble with your post. We really only have a couple of Biblically mandated reason for divorce which are unfaithfulness and abandonment, not irreconcible diferences. So when you use the analogy of irreconcible differences it is really not accurate to your situation. What really is the issue is unfaithfulness or abandonment by a spouse. I am sure in your upcoming posts you will be revealing that your past church has both abandoned and has been unfaithful to Christ and to the true believers with in it. I look forward to reading your further posts.

    Scott O.

  6. Scott,
    Good point. Unfaithfulness fits much better there. It is now corrected.

    You said, ‘I am sure in your upcoming posts you will be revealing that your past church has both abandoned and has been unfaithful to Christ and to the true believers with in it’.

    What – have you been reading my drafts? How do you know this? :)
    I guess since PDL churches are a franchise where every church resembles one another, it makes sense that all stories of opposition are essentially the same.

  7. Yes, it is a horrible mix; very toxic. In a very short period of time, the church’s focus became all about “numbers” and having “religious experiences.”

    People were being promoted to church leadership who knew so little about the Gospel message itself that I wasn’t even sure they were saved. The pastoral staff was talking about how they weren’t sure they were going to continue having Bible studies at church, because they didn’t think it helped with the numbers. It’s never a good thing to eliminate all Bible studies, but this church was already one of the most Biblically illiterate churches I’ve ever come in contact with.

    I think the final straw was when we found out the senior pastor had bought at least one (possibly more) sermons from Willowcreek and had past it of as his own, and this coming from a man who has his doctorate in hermeneutics. Talk about becoming a “McChurch.”

    Although, I dislike church shopping as much as the next person, I already feel relieved to be out. :-)

    ~Kelsey

  8. Sandy,
    It is truly sad when you are forced to leave a church you have served for so many years because of the misguided purpose of Rick Warren.
    You are right, despite all our intense opposition to the movement we must continue to pray for those in leadership and in the congregation who are blind to it. I did not come out the darkness for over three years!

  9. We are blessed subtractions too, as of a year ago. If you click on my name, you will find a nearly identical story to the others. It is very sad. And nearly all the churches here have gone purpose driven now. My husband teaches us at home now, and it is so wonderful!

  10. This article says exactly what I’ve wanted to say and just didn’t know how to say it. We also left our church a few months back and it is like a divorce. The emotional ties are extremely difficult to break. I am grateful for this website!!!

  11. thank you for this blog. I am, as of this morning’s man-pleasing service, coming out of “purpose church”. It is so difficult because we are called to love one another, but the first commandment is to Love God. If you are not loving Him first, nothing else will be in line. A word to those thinking about leaving but not sure: in my situation the Lord showed me it was my pride that kept me there the past year (“how could I be wrong about this pastor, this place?”). I think I was also partly blinded and share to warn others: the church I was in claimed that the theology of r. warren was wrong, so “we’re editing the material where we differ, but we think we can learn from some of the good things in it.” I was skeptical but wanted to believe the best about the situation. Now, after a year, I’ve sadly come to the realization that if you are not trying to please one Person, namely Almighty GOD the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, you will depart from the Truth. God bless you and enable you to stand firm until the End.

  12. One of the things purpose driven churches do is pander and flatter its members. Since the purpose driven mentality is basically humanistic, catering to the members ego goes with the menu. My husband and I belonged to a PD church for awhile. I got turned off by the high pressure to join this or that group or sign up for a psycho babble class to determine my “shape” and thus discover my purpose, purpose, purpose.
    At first it was great, different from traditional services. But then I noticed the music seemed designed more for entertaining the church goers and to whip them up into an emotional frenzy with repetitive and faster and faster rythum.
    It was not reverant towards God. It was more like he’s our bud.
    The concept of a holy and mighty God got lost. To make a long story short, I stopped going to the church and my husband continued going there. He became quite impressed with himself because of the flattery they were showering him with, that he became self righteous and starting letting me know how supposedly spiritural he had become, those people told him so, and apparently I was not. He started making belittling comments until one day I just exploded and he got an earful.
    That was a couple of years ago, and he has taken a few steps off his high horse, but I am still dealing with the twisted things they taught him at this PD church. His men’s group seems to be as equally destructive, as he started imitating the three times married group leader using a disclaimer that makes saying offensive things ok’ “well, gee I was just throwing it out there”.
    It was obvious that they considered it a problem that I was no longer attending thier “church”. He was hearing about it and that is part of the reason he turned into a self righteous jerk.
    The other reason was he had fallen into the trap of loving the praises of men. They told him everything he wanted to hear, even gave him a scapegoat for his insecurities, me, something that is still causing us problems today. My husband never acted like this in the 20 plus years we have been married, until this PD church. So it continues to rear its ugly head every so often because he worships the ground these people walk on.
    They can do no wrong in his mind. He loves them. Why does he love them…because they told him everything he wanted to hear. He made the decision not to go there anymore after so many heated discussions. I think he is angry that he had to leave because of me…again, everything is my fault. and I am angry at what that church did to him. I once told a friend that if we wind up divorced over these purpose driven idiots, I will find an ambulance chasing lawyer to sue their church and ruin it. I know that the punishment for preverting the Word of God is God’s place, so I must try to resist the temptation.

    Like the quick fast growth of these PD churches, I hear many are failing because once the thrill has worn off, people stop going. Now you have large buildings that were built, that still have to be paid for, so the pastors are under increasing pressure to get their members to give $$$. This creates an ugly atmosphere which of course results in more people leaving.

    The result of sinful man trying to do only what God can do,
    change sinful hearts.

    God’s natural order of things may well be the best judgement.
    These churches will simply die and wither away .

  13. I’ve never been a fan of traditional catechisms, but as I watch the world leak into the church (Tozer’s words) I’m beginning to see some wisdom in them.

    Purpose? Our purpose “is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

    Though this is the shorter catechism, it clearly and succinctly expresses our purpose.

    Outside of the chief end of man lies the realm of Satan’s deceptions to distract us from our God and from godly pursuits.

    Like many who have already commented, I too was faced with a similar situation. When I confronted the head pastor, I was asked to leave. I doubted that my accountable communication with him would correct the trend, but at least when I led my family out of that local body, I knew I had made the attemt and could go to the altar with my offering after attempted to “reconcile” with my brother.

    God bless,
    Dan

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