Tuesday, June 25, 2013


A few years back Mary and I were feeling a need to make a change in our local church affiliation in the town where we live. There was no particular reason other than we believed we needed a different direction for us personally, and a dear friend had joined the staff of another fellowship in a town not too far from us and we believed we might be of some assistance to him. The group we were considering leaving was a wonderful and gracious group of people with whom we still share worship experiences and meals together once in a while.

We talked, thought, prayed, and grew in our appreciation for the fellowship that had called our friend, as they were also facing a theological issue that was close to our heart. We wanted to join in the search for an answer for which they were looking in a theological area that many local churches avoid examining. We liked their courage and heart for scripture.

We went to a Sunday service and left knowing we wanted to join them, and did the next week. That was six years ago. We may have that sense again sometime in the future and would do it again if it were to be needed. Who knows! By the way, the issue they faced? The resolution to it was not according to our personal viewpoint, but we didn't go for a particular resolution, just an appreciation for  their willingness to look at it.  [We were of some assistance to our friend too, by the way.]

Not long after that, I received an e-mail from someone asking my counsel on leaving the local church where they were presently affiliated and going to another. They were facing somewhat of a difficult problem however, and needed advice on how to do it in the very best way possible. I wrote to them and shared basically what I'm about to say on this post. I believe this is a good way, whatever the motivation for the doing of it. So, I thought I'd share it with a much wider audience. [All two or three of you who read my blog. ;) ] 

I'll start by admitting that I have a real belief that the body of Christ is larger than any one denomination or even a local congregation and I probably think of moving to a new fellowship as nothing really THAT significant. I guess that's because I see building relationships is what Kingdom stuff is all about anyway. So, if anyone, as an individual or as a family, sees a need for a change and it can be done without creating problems where they're leaving or where they're going__go for it__if you would like to__is my personal view.

I would hasten to suggest that you NOT be looking for or expect to find any fellowship or anyone in any fellowship, that is perfect and without problems, They don't exist. We all need to realize when we move, we're just really moving into an experience of new friendships with members of the body of Christ who have their own unique set of problems and struggles.

 It is ALSO important to remember that we're always to be a specific help wherever we go, along the lines of our giftedness and, while sometimes it may be more for us than them that we move, we are to enjoy the new fellowship and be a benefit along the way. No affiliation with a local fellowship is ever to be for the purpose of hiding. [Though sometimes healing is needed.] And any healthy relationship is to have a measure of reciprocity about it, I believe. It is never healthy when it is ONLY one way. Even local Church relationships.

[You can have a relationship with a surgeon where he/she is the only one giving, but that isn't what I call a healthy relationship in the sense of the word as I'm using it here. Thank goodness they know how to give what's needed... relationship or not...right?  Come to think about it, you reciprocate financially even then, don't you!] 

So my simple three suggestions would be...

1___Leave still in love with the people left behind, so you can return and enjoy fellowship once in a while, if at all possible.

2___Go in gracious acceptance of any new people and love them where they are, warts and all.

3__Always see the church as an ORGANISM instead of an organization, so that you never cut off or isolate yourself from ANY group, past or present, so you are able to maintain relationships with God's people wherever you find them.

If this rings your bell, great. If not, maybe the next subject will.

[You'll notice I hope, that my picture of a "local church" at the top is NOT  a building, but people.[

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

Right on, brother (he said, revealing to a large extent how old he is....).

Two times we left a church for another stand out in my mind. One was leaving an extremely liberal denomination .. which had stated in their SS material that Jesus may have been the son of Mary and a Roman guard, but it didn't make any difference. When they tried to make my best friend and me teach that stuff, we shook the dust off our feet the very next Sunday.

The other time, we had been part of the group founded a PCA church here. It was a terrific place with terrific teaching and terrific people and terrific missionality. But one day at lunch, I saw our (current) pastor having lunch with a gent I recognized from his attendance at City Council meetings. I thought "Sure would be nice if I could have lunch with the folks I go to church with (our church was 25 minutes away)".

Backing out of the parking space the very next Sunday, I stopped the car in the middle of the drive and said "Something's wrong". Peg said "I know ... what is it?" I said "I think we need to go to church where we live. With the people we're living around". She said "I agree" and I responded "We'll come back next Sunday and say goodbye".

We did. That was kind of a shocker as I was head of the Missions Committee, sang in the choir, and was one of their charter elders.

That was in 1981. We landed at FBC Pelham, and have been there ever since.

People who say God doesn't speak to us any more are looney. And probably missing a lot of real good stuff, too.

Bob Cleveland said...

One other thing (again revealing age...):

My take is that I never use a gift for the benefit of someone else. I always use it in obedience to God, and for its contribution to the abundance of my own life.

I say that because what I do doesn't have an effect on folks, or else all would react the same and learn the same things and show the same results. I can plant and I can water, but if any increase ensues, that's all up to God.

That's a reflection on how good your post is. That's the only thing my curmudgeonliness could find to pick at.

Paul Burleson said...


Good comments. Thanks.

You said...

"My take is that I never use a gift for the benefit of someone else. I always use it in obedience to God, and for its contribution to the abundance of my own life."

I understand what you mean and agree somewhat.

But I don't think that negates what the scripture says about all of us being a gift [In our giftedness] to the whole body. 1 Corinthians 12 says that each of us has been placed by the Holy Spirit where we belong like members of the human body and each of us is uniquely necessary to the body and all the other members.

Differences in gifts and functions are part of being a body, and if we reject each other or refuse to perform our own functions, the whole Body suffers.

The opposite of suffering is healthiness. So I believe we do add to the health of the body when we function in our giftedness. [Even a local body]

Ephesians 4:16 says as much when it says "the whole body is edified." [To be edified means" to be instructed and improved especially in character."] 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 says much the same thing.

Small point but a little different take.

Bob Cleveland said...

I think we're agreeing to agree disagreeably or something.

Yes, gifts are given "for the common good" .. but it's the Holy Spirit acting in the life of the individuals Who gives any increase. I say that partially for selfish reasons .. if I take any credit whatsoever for what happens as a result of exercising a gift, I know where that'll lead me. And I don't want to go there, so I attribute any positive results to God.


Paul Burleson said...


i would certainly concur that no one SHOULD, and I'm assuming neither of us, WOULD, take credit for any results of anything that is accomplished through the use of or investment of any spiritual gift we might have which has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and even anointed by that same Spirit.

My point is not WHO gets credit for any result. That's a given. My point is simply WHAT that result might be.

I join you in not wanting to tread on a false boasting of self achievement in the Christian life. [And any boasting would be false.]

Aussie John said...


Oh! Yes! It rings my bell!

Great conversation between you two "old" (blame Bob) fellers.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I noticed Bob started the "old" stuff and now here you are carrying the torch. I was trying to forget that fact too. ;)

Chuck Andrews said...


Speaking as the pastor, at the time, of the local church that you and Mary moved your membership from, it is important that as members of any particular body we remember to trust the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the lives of every other member. Even when trying to handle leaving in the most healthy way possible, to those who are staying it can feel like abandonment. This is when emotions and thoughts must be called into obedience of Christ. We must remember and be committed to, "God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired." (1 Co 12:18). When pastoring I tried to lead the church into an attitude of trusting every members walk with Christ and rejoice in HIS orchestrating HIS Body. Even when we don't understand when He moves one away from our local fellowship.

When leaving we can and should handle it, as you and Mary did, in the healthiest way possible. Also, when we are the ones staying we can and should, as Grace Fellowship did, handle it in the healthiest way possible.

In my past experience, too many times when someone would leave there would be a braking of the relationship by the ones staying. When that is the case we need to remember, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Ro 12:18).


Paul Burleson said...


I couldn't agree more my friend.

And it's good to see that what you say now is exactly what you practiced back then. About that I'm not surprised one bit. Your saying and practicing have always matched up.

Victorious said...

Interesting post, Paul. I must admit I'm a bit envious of those who feel bad about leaving friends and acquaintances behind when moving on to a new fellowship.

I do qualify for the "old" ager's club here as I just celebrated my 70th birthday. But while I've been divorced for 32 years, I've not found a church that is the least hospitable to "old," divorced, and female all in one outside of a friendly smile at the front door.

I've given up, but am not sad about it. Churches seem to be very fragmented in their ministries; i.e. nursery, children, teens, married, single, divorced, and "old." :) I just wanted to be part of the gang but got shuffled over to those I would supposedly have more in common with... but didn't.

I don't mean to whine...because I've found the most wonderful Echurch and the pastor blesses my heart and often brings tears to my eyes as He so beautifully expresses the scripture and holds Jesus as His focus.

If I lived in Oklahoma, without a doubt I would attend his church and feel certain I would not encounter any discrimination whatsoever.

Blessings to you and your wife, Paul. I'd be willing to bet there are many more who read your posts than you're aware of. If they don't....they're missing out on wisdom that comes from life's experiences and age!

Paul Burleson said...


I don't think I've ever read anything that you've ever written in this blog comment section or any other place that would qualify by definition as "whining."

Insightful, honest, wise, scriptural, needed, and a whole lot of other things. But "whining" isn't one.

I LOVE the way you are your own person and own your own thoughts and feelings and how you express both with integrity.

What you say and how you say them reminds me of the finest Christian woman and greatest person I know, which is my wife, Mary.

There is nothing I could say that would be a better or higher compliment to you than that. It is also quite true. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Aussie John said...

May I applaud, and concur with, your gracious words to Victorious?

Victorious, in reading what you wrote you reminded me of Mary in the following words of Jesus:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Those who are "....least hospitable to "old," divorced, and female all in one..." are Martha.

Victorious said...

Thank you for that wonderful compliment, Paul. Know that I am honored to receive it. I guess I know a little about your wife now just because of who I am! Hope that makes sense.

And thank you as well, Aussie John for the scripture about Martha and Mary.

By the way, my name is Mary as well!

Rex Ray said...


Somehow, I always knew you were a ‘Mary’.