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Pointers along the way #657

Beyond the local church

- Jacob Ninan

There may be times when we have to move from the local church because of serious errors in doctrine (about God, Christ, salvation, etc.) or in practice (spiritual abuse, excessive control, immorality, etc.). But we should not be leaving every time we see something we don't like or agree with because then we would not be able to stay anywhere! Let us face the fact that no local church is perfect because none of us is perfect. But staying in an imperfect church need not limit our own growth if we learn to look beyond it to the word of God.

Some people say that what was good for their grandparents and parents is good enough for them. But that is a retrograde stand. We need to be always going in the direction of perfection, correcting errors and mistakes in our own lives and also learning from the mistakes of others. The way to do that is to keep looking at the 'perfect law of liberty' as we study God's word (Ja.1:25) and submit to it. That way we can go personally beyond the errors and lacks we notice in the local church. Each one has to decide whether the differences he has with the church are serious enough to risk a confrontation with the church or walking away from it, or if he just needs to bear with them as with other human limitations. This is a mental and spiritual exercise that we should be engaged in, which will help us to become more mature and which may also become a blessing to others.

It is natural that as we grow in experience many questions will rise up in our mind about whether certain things we have been doing were right or good, and also similarly about other people. These questions may be about doctrines and their practice. We would be totally off course if we place ourselves in the position of an all-knowing, all-sufficient person and judge others (Ro.14:10). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be thinking about what others say and do so that we can learn from that (1Co.2:15). By the same token we should be open to receiving correction from others even if it comes in a crude or accusatory form, because we stand to benefit whenever we get corrected. God's primary purpose in giving us salvation is to lead us to the place where we will be without blemish before Him. This cannot happen without a continuous striving towards perfection even as we exist in a state of imperfection (He.6:1).

If we are the kind of people who are content to receive all their spiritual food second hand from their church, it only shows that we are not really serious about our spiritual life. We would not do this with our physical food!

We have an opportunity to become more obedient to God in our personal lives whenever God shows us something from His word, even if our local church does not teach that particular matter. Not all local churches will permit us to do this, fearing that we might disrupt the functioning of the church. That is when we need wisdom! But the fear of man should not prevent us from fearing God!


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