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Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?

Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor: Did God Really Say Leave The Church?

Two years ago, my wife, Angel and I put our pride, reputation and comfortable lives on the line to start The Body Church in Atlanta, GA. In this blog series we highlight the top twelve lessons we learned and are still learning along the journey. For the full list of all twelve points, click the following link, "Confessions of a Young Atlanta Pastor - Top Twelve Lessons Learned". Today, we are highlighting the second point, "Some people need to hear from The Lord to join your church but don't need to hear from The Lord to leave."

Setting: Local grocery store.

Circumstance: Awkward run-in between local pastor and a member who's been M.I.A. (Missing In Action) for some time.

Pastor: "Hey, how have you been? Is everything alright? We haven't seen you at church in a while?"

M.I.A. Member: "Hey pastor. I didn't expect to run into you out here. Umm... well.. I heard The Lord saying that it's time for me to leave your church."

Pastor: "Did He also tell you not to let us know you were leaving?"

.......silence.........

Exodus 20:7(NLT) - “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

This story can have two alternate endings. One is what we will call the "Acts 5" ending which comes out of Acts 5:1-11 and goes something like this.

Alternate Ending #1

Pastor: "Why do you think it's okay to lie to The Holy Spirit? Why would you misuse God's name and say He told you to leave when you know He did not?"

.....Thud!... Member hits the ground... THE END!

Alternate Ending #2

M.I.A. Member: "Pastor, to be honest I just chose to leave. I was offended by some things that took place and didn't want to be there anymore. My family's needs also weren't being met."

Pastor: "Oh really? Well I appreciate your honesty. If you want to talk about it now, I'm all ears. If not, just let me know and we can make an appointment."

M.I.A. Member: "OK! Thanks."

..To be continued....

People in church know that if they say that The Lord said something there's no way to dispute them. Even as a pastor, the last thing any of us ever want to do is contradict God's instructions. However, isn't it a coincidence that God's instructions to leave a church many times coincide with our desire to do so also? How is it that when we really want to leave it's easier for many of us to hear God's Voice saying leave instead of His Voice saying stay. At those times of agreement, it's interesting how His Voice tends to sound allot like our own as He says exactly what we want to hear.

1 Corinthians 12:12-18(NLT) - The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

Do you understand the analogy of The Church as The Body of Christ? Today, we're going to focus on 1 Corinthians 12:18 which states that God has put each part just where He wants it. What does that mean? If you're a part of The Body of Christ, God has a place for you and if He puts you there that is where He wants you to be.

If you choose on your own to leave your place in The Body of Christ and go somewhere else, it would be the same as a part of your body leaving where it is and reattaching somewhere else. In other words, not only is it a problem for you when you are out of place. It's a problem for the entire body. Hence, if you know God has put you somewhere it would behoove you to stay right there until He puts you somewhere else.

Ephesians 4:15-16(NKJV) - but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

How do you know God put you in a church?

1) You fit. - The same way each part of your body fits into the space where it is attached, so it is with The Body of Christ. There is a specific space in The Body of Christ for each person. If you don't fit where you are, perhaps God didn't place you there. You will know when you're in the right place because you will feel like you fit.

2) You function. - Another reason why each body part fits in a certain location is because that is where it functions at its best. If your hand grew anywhere else in your body it wouldn't be in the best place for it to function. In the same way, when you find the place you fit in The Body of Christ you will be able to function at your absolute best.

So if you're sitting in a church for years and can't use the gifts and talents God has given you there, stop wasting your life and find the place where you're supposed to use them. There's a church up the street fasting and praying for The Lord to send you there. In the same way, don't say God told you to leave a place where you function in your gifts and go somewhere where you cannot.

3) You feed. - People in a church don't only feed off The Word of God they get from the pastor, they feed off each other. Every joint supplies something to The Body and when every part does its share, we all grow. That's what church is about. When you're in the right place, you will feed off The Word, The Anointing and The Love from those around you.

What's the best sign that you're receiving good spiritual food? Spiritual growth. Regardless of your level of spiritual maturity, if you're in the right church you'll keep growing. You should be a better Christian this year than you were last year. In the right church, you will always be challenged to be better. As a result, don't get offended and leave the right church for you because you've been challenged. Remember, that's a good thing.

It's true that God sometimes tells you to leave a place and go somewhere else. That's not at issue here. What is at issue is when He does not and you claim that He does. That's never good. It was your decision. Don't bring The Lord into that. Now let's see one way this can be done right.

Acts 16:6-10(NKJV) - Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Sometimes God directs you the way He did Paul and Silas. He tells you not to go to certain places and calls you to somewhere else. In Paul's case, God responded to the prayer of someone in Macedonia and took Paul away from where he was and sent him there. Perhaps, there are people in a church praying for you to come help them. Listen to the Voice of God, get up from where you are and go help those people. Don't go where you want to go but go where God sends you because if He sends you somewhere, you have an assignment to carry out there. God knows how to direct people so there's no need to make stuff up and attach His name to it just wait for His direction.

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