A Christian Response to the Refugee Crisis

This refugee crisis has exposed an “idol” in my heart; the idol of “security”.  I love the safety of our home and I’m grateful for the security our local police and Armed Forces provide for us each and every day.  But my love affair with “safety and security” has made me susceptible to fear.  The moment I begin to make decisions primarily out of fear, is the moment I must admit that I’ve made a god out of security.

If I’m honest, I don’t want to open the borders to the refugees from the Middle East because I am afraid.  I am afraid that there are ISIS soldiers who have infiltrated the ranks of the refugees.  I am afraid that our government won’t be able to adequately identify them.  I’m afraid that they will move in next door to me.  I’m afraid that they might harm my family or neighbors or community, like they did in Paris.

But I don’t want to react out of fear.  And clearly, the Lord doesn’t want us to react primarily out of fear either:

Matthew 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

2 Timothy 1:7 – for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

But idols are tricky.  They often appeal to a noble or moral concern, and then twist it into an absolute.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect your family and neighbors.  We’re told to provide for our family (1 Tim. 5:8), and surely provision for one’s family would include the provision of safety from harm, as much as one can affect that.  We’re also told to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Luke 10:27), and if I wouldn’t open my home to a potential ISIS soldier, then how can I support a plan for my neighbor to do so?  Besides, with news reports surfacing of Syrian refugees with fake passports attempting to enter the US, is it really that implausible to suspect that ISIS-influenced terrorists may be among the refugees headed our way?  Are we really so naïve as to believe that our government will be able to fully vet and/or track these refugees once they’ve arrived?

So, there is a noble ethic at play when someone desires to look out for the safety and security of one’s family and neighbors.  But, at some point, that noble ethic becomes the all-encompassing absolute from which all of my decisions are made.  At that point, I’ve made safety and security an idol, and I’m at risk of operating out of my sinful nature, rather than out of the redeemed nature of one rescued by grace through faith.

And so, this issue is complex, not simple.  Simple answers are likely to have neglected thoughtful considerations such as these sobering questions:

To those in favor of inviting refugees in, are you willing to open your home to them?  Like literally, invite refugees into your home to live for several months as they wade through immigration paperwork and look for employment? What reason might you give for not doing so?  Not enough money?  Not enough space?  Not enough time?  Not willing to risk the safety of your teenage daughter?  If you succumb to any of these thoughts, are you being driven by sinful fear, or by an earnest desire to protect and guard your family?

Conversely, to those in favor of keeping the refugees in “safe havens” and helping from a distance, are you willing to go over and help them?  Like, literally, leave your home and job and spend a month in Greece helping refugees re-settle?  What reasons might you give for not doing so?  Not enough money?  Not enough time?  Not my problem?  If you succumb to any of these thoughts, are you being driven by a genuine desire to protect and guard your family and country, or by sinful apathy for the suffering of others?

Thoughtful Christians will see the inherent hypocrisy that is possible from both positions.

Security and compassion don’t always need to be antithetical.  Working to keep our families and neighbors safe and secure on the one hand, and showing compassion to those suffering are not mutually exclusive pursuits.  So, how can we do both?  How can we appropriately protect our family and neighbors from an evil intent on harming them, while at the same time displaying the kind of compassion Jesus expects of us?

At this point, we’re all just part of the conversation.  Sure, we can and should seek to influence the decision-makers (whether they be our governors, our legislators, or our President), but in the end a decision will be made either to open the doors to the refugees, or close them.  The critical moment for each of us will be what we do once that decision is made.  If the doors are open, what will we do to love, welcome, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with these new sojourners while not letting down our guard to protect those people whom God has entrusted to us to protect?  If our country shuts its borders, what will we do to extend the reach of radical Gospel love across the seas to demonstrate that we truly care about their plight?  What will I do?  What will you do?

Until then, I’ll keep fighting against the idols in my own heart with the strength that Jesus supplies, and praying that God would grant me wisdom and courage to face this crisis with bold confidence, firm conviction, and genuine compassion.


Devotional Resources for the Christmas Season – 2013

This past Sunday, we began a new sermon series during this Christmas season entitled “Shine The Light”. (Listen to the first message in this series here)

Since this is going to be more of a sermon series about the missional aspect of Christmas, I wanted to pass along some recommendations for you and your family to use that will help us focus on some of the things we more readily associate with the Advent season. Advent officially starts today, so this is a good time to start.

Scripture readings for all four gospels – Although we typically turn to the gospel according to Luke for the Nativity narrative, all four gospels speak about the first advent of the Messiah; from different perspectives and focusing on different aspects of this beautiful story. Petar Nenadov, who serves on staff at Lakeside Christian Church in Akron, Ohio, has provided a series of Scripture readings from all four of the gospels.

Good News of Great Joy, by John Piper – John Piper has compiled a collection of daily devotional readings based on a variety of passages from the Bible, focusing on the birth of Christ and it’s ultimate meaning and purpose. This ebook is a free download from desiringgod.org.

Behold The Lamb of God, by Russ Ramsey – This resource is a retelling of the Biblical narrative of the birth of Christ. Not necessarily a devotional resource, but a wonderful way to be immersed in the story of the first advent of Christ. Follow the link above to a short review of this book on the Gospel Coalition blog.

Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson – A great resource for family devotions.

Gospel-Centered Advent Devotionals – Another great family devotional resource, but this one is FREE, and can be downloaded immediately.

May The Lord lead us to think intently on the birth of His Son during this season, and how that wonderful truth can make a difference in how we live for Him today.

2013 Bible Reading Plans

This is the time of year that many think about making commitments to read the Bible more regularly in the coming year.  I highly encourage everyone who desires to radically follow Christ in 2013 to prayerfully consider ways to engage the Word of God more regularly.  One of the tools that many have found useful (including myself) is a Bible Reading Plan.  There are a myriad of plans available, and Justin Taylor just posted an article this week on the Gospel Coalition Blog giving lots of helpful advice about following a Bible reading plans, as well as several links to some great plans.  (see that article here)

Several years ago, I created my own Bible Reading Plan, and have been using it ever since.  Everyone needs to find a plan that will fit them, and since I didn’t find one, I created my own.  For those who are interested in it, you can find it on our website HERE

Here are the essentials of the Bible Reading Plan I created, and use:

1. It covers “about” 2 chapters a day 

2. it goes through a complete book of the Bible at a time (so you’re not jumping from book to book day after day).  When you start a book, you’ll stay in that book until you finish it.

3. it switches between OT books and NT books.  In other words, after you finish an OT book, then you’ll start reading through a NT book.

4. between books, you’ll spend a few (2 or 3) days in Psalms and Proverbs.  Some don’t like this but I like it for two reasons.  One, going through Psalms and Proverbs all at once is like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.  They were meant to be absorbed in shorter, more bite-sized sections.  Two, these days give me a moment to pause and reflect over the previous book, and spend time in private worship before moving into the next book.

5. It is a two-year plan.  In two years you will go through the NT (and Psalms and Proverbs) twice, and the OT (and Revelation) once.  Why?  Again, this is mainly just my personal Bible reading plan, and the NT books, and Psalms and Proverbs tend to be the ones that feed my faith the most and turn my affections toward Jesus the most.

If this plan works for you, great!  If one of the ones Justin Taylor suggests works for you, awesome!  If you want to try your hand at creating your own, fantastic!

My encouragement would just be to pick one, and start.  Don’t be legalistic.  If you miss a day, catch up if you can.  If you start to miss several days in a row, then just pick up where you should be on the day, and don’t fret the stuff you missed.  The key is not to complete a Bible Reading Plan, but to spend more time communing with Jesus.  So, use it as a tool to help you in that regard, but extend yourself some grace when you get behind (like I always do).

Let me know what has or has not worked for you…and feel free to share some stories about Bible reading in general and Bible Reading Plans in particular that might be helpful to others.


Why My Wife Has Re-entered the Workplace

Today is Friday, August 17th, and while I’m recovering from an annoying case of vertigo, I have been reflecting on a decision my wife and I made about a month ago.  This afternoon my wife, Susan, will come home from her first week of teaching 2nd grade at a nearby school, the first job she has had outside the home in 17 years.  She is tired and yet she is excited about how the Lord is using her.

Not that she hasn’t been working.  For the last 17 years she has had the hardest job anyone could have, managing our home.  She has cooked thousands of meals, pushed grocery carts for thousands of miles, wiped noses (and other unmentionable areas of our childrens’ bodies) thousands of times, and picked up a thousand pairs of socks and underwear from the floor.  She has homeschooled all of our four sons at one time or another (none of whom are still in homeschool at present), and managed to transform a houseful of smelly, messy, testosterone-laden boys (present company included) into a home where the grace of God rests.  Oh yes, she has worked.

But this is the first time in 17 years she has worked outside the home.  We consider that to be a gracious blessing to our family.  Not everyone is able to have mom stay at home, but God has been gracious to make this desire a reality for our family.  He certainly required that we make sacrifices to make it work (financially and otherwise), but we don’t for a moment believe that living off of a pastor’s salary in a middle-class suburban context with 4 boys was our doing…no, it was our Sovereign God who made it work, and to Him we are so very grateful for this blessing.

But why the change?  Why now, after all these years is Susan jumping back into the workplace?  Great question!  For us, we always considered this to be part of the plan.  We knew that unless the Lord provided in some other way, Susan would need to get a job at some point in order for us to afford the looming expenses of sending four sons to college (which will begin for us in less than a year).  That provision had not come by the beginning of summer, and so we decided it was time to go ahead and start preparing for her to re-enter the workplace, and I am so proud of what she accomplished in taking courses and getting her Georgia teaching certificate re-certified.  Then, the arduous task of applying for jobs and interviewing.  As God would have it, a precious family friend notified us of a 2nd Grade teaching position at a school 7 minutes from our house.  Susan applied, had 2 interviews in a week, and received an offer the following week.  It all happened so fast, we found ourselves discussing whether or not to accept the offer before we really had an opportunity to pray about whether she should go back to work at all.  We just assumed that was what she was supposed to do.  After all, how else were we going to afford college?

That’s when the Lord urged both Susan and I to pause and pray.   The salary offered to Susan was such that it required us to seek the Lord’s wisdom.  Any lower and we would have been tempted to just decline the offer….after all, her working outside the home was going to have a major impact on our family and it needed to be financially “worth it”.  Conversely, if the offer had been any higher, we would have been tempted to just go ahead and accept it, seeing the higher salary as a “sign from God”.  Instead, the Lord was gracious to make the offer such that we really were forced to bring it to Him for discernment.  So, we brought the decision to the Lord, and He impressed upon both of us that we were looking at this decision from a “financial” perspective, instead of from a “missional” perspective.  This wasn’t a financial decision as much as it was a decision about what God wanted Susan to do with her life…in essence, what was His mission for her?

The real question the Lord caused us to wrestle with was, “Was God calling Susan to be a teacher?”.  If He wasn’t, then no amount of money would be worth her being outside of the will of God.  If He was, then no amount of money should stand in the way of her doing what the Lord was asking of her.  Boy, did that take the pressure off!  We simply needed to know what our Father’s mission was for Susan, and then trust Him with the financially aspect of how it would happen.  Once that became “the decision”, it was a fairly easy decision.  Susan’s heart has always been to teach children.  It’s what the Lord placed on her heart as a young girl, whether it be teaching our own kids in homeschool, teaching children at our church, or teaching in a traditional classroom, the Lord has created her to teach for His glory.  Once we were settled on her mission, the financial aspect of the decision became much easier.  Who were we to decline an opportunity to be engaged in what the Lord made her to do, just because it wasn’t going to completely satisfy all of our financial “wants”?  The Lord has always perfectly provided for us, as He has promised to do.  Were we now going to trust Him in this, or not?  We’ve discovered that after the Lord gives clarity to a decision and makes it more about whether we’re going to trust Him or not, the decisions get easier to make.  Ofcourse we would trust Him.

Now, I will readily admit that this has been an adjustment to our family’s life.  We have all needed to pitch-in and be more helpful around the house, but that has been a good thing.  The boys are learning more responsibility, and we are all looking at this as if our whole family is involved in the mission that the Lord has given to Susan.  And I think that’s pretty cool.

Let me encourage you not to make decisions like this based on the resources available to you, whether it’s time, money, or talents.  Instead, make it a decision based on mission.  Is the Lord asking you to do this…..or not?  And after He answers that question, then all you’ve got to do is trust Him.

Reasons to Leave a Church, part 3

This is the third of a 3-part series of posts addressing the question, “what constitutes a good reason to leave a church?”  The first couple of reasons were dealt with in the first post, and dealt with issues concerning the church leadership.  Yesterday’s post dealt with a couple of reasons related to a church’s theology and practice.  Today’s post deals specifically with conflict in the church.

So, the fifth and final “good” and “bad” reasons….

Good Reason #5 – There is no “good” version of this 5th reason, so let’s get right to the “bad reason”

Bad Reason #5 – conflict within the church – While #4 above may be the biggest component of the “consumer mindset”, I believe that this reason (conflict) is the number one reason why people leave their church.  It is the both the most prevalent reason, as well as the most unjustified reason.

A couple of weeks ago the History Channel aired a 3-night mini-series about the infamous “Hatfield and McCoy” feud that erupted between two families in West Virginia in the late 1800’s.  I found it ironic that in the movie’s adaptation of the feud, both families attended the same church.  Some folks can give testimony to the potential for feud-like conflict within the church, but most often the conflict is left unaddressed while the festering wounds of the conflict continue to cause pain for years.  Many have left their church home in such instances.

Scripture is filled with admonition to work out the interpersonal conflict we have with other people, especially within the church.  “Love between the brethren”, not bitterness or resentment or hate, is to be the defining characteristic of those who follow Christ (John 13:35).  Consider Paul’s exhortation to two women in the church at Philippi to “agree in the Lord”:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  Phil 4:2-3

Resolving conflict in the Body of Christ can be messy and complicated, but Paul gives one of the keys in Philippians, chapter 2, verse 3:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Paul then goes on the explain that the kind of humility we need to have in our relationships with one another is the kind of humility that Jesus displayed in His coming from Heaven and dying on a Cross for those who were in rebellion against His Father (Phil 2: 6-11).

If you are in conflict with another person in the church, please don’t leave the church over this.  The hurt and pain that are a result of the conflict will not go away just because you move your membership to another church.  In reality, you will only be bringing that hurt and pain with you to the next church, and it will become the filter through which all of your new relationships are established.  Instead of leaving, please prayerfully, graciously, lovingly, patiently address the conflict in humility with a willingness to forgive and seek forgiveness where necessary.  If needed, ask a pastor/elder or another mature believer to help you walk through this conflict resolution.  Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ replace conflict with grace, and allow it to be a resolution that bring glory to God.

Conclusion – In over 10 years of pastoral ministry, I would have to say that the vast majority of those who left the church probably should not have left.  Of those who left because of good reasons, over half of them did not leave well.  Only a very small percentage of those who left, did so because of reasons that in my opinion are justifiable, and that when they left, they left well.  My encouragement to those reading this who are considering leaving their church home, is to prayerfully reconsider.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you can’t just do whatever you want to do….you gave up that right when you made Jesus Lord of your life.  Our obligation is to pray and ask God what He wants us to do, and then trust Him to give us the faith, patience, strength, and whatever else it might take…to obey Him.

Reasons to Leave a Church, part 2

This is part two of a 3-part series of posts addressing the question, “what constitutes a good reason for leaving a church”.  Yesterday’s post dealt with issues relating to the leadership of the church, today’s post will deal with disagreements with the church’s theology and/or methodology.  Tomorrow’s third and final post in this series will adress conflict within the church.

So, here are a couple more “good” and “bad” reasons for leaving the church:

Good Reason #3 – theological disagreement on essential doctrines – If you find that the stated doctrine of the church (and/or the doctrine being taught at the church) is unBiblical, then it is also time to leave.  Now, to determine a doctrine as “unBiblical” is sometimes difficult.  There are a great variety of theological persuasions that provide ample evidence of Biblical support for their position; nevertheless, church members must do the hard work of determining whether the doctrines held by their church are informed from the Scriptures or not.  That being said, I would suggest that the “doctrines which divide” (iow, those that require members to disassociate themselves from the church upon disagreement), be limited to essential doctrines.  There is a vast difference between leaving a church over a disagreement on the authority of Scriptures versus leaving over a disagreement about the exact nature of end time events.  For an excellent discussion on what might constitute essential doctrines, I would encourage you to read Al Mohler’s 2004 article on theological triage.  I would suggest that the essential doctrines of a local church are those that Mohler describes in his article a “first-order and second order issues”.  In the case of NewBranch Community Church, our essential doctrines are listed in black and white in our Statement of Faith. I would argue that leaving over essential doctrines should be fairly rare, since new members should know the essential doctrines of the church they are joining, and determine in advance if they are going to be a problem for them.

Bad Reason #3 – theological disagreement on unessential doctrines – You probably saw this coming.  It stands to reason that although leaving a church may be justified when there is disagreement over essential doctrines, disagreement over unessential doctrines should not justify leaving a church.  Now, just because I call them unessential does not at all mean they are unimportant.  Unessential doctrines can be very important to us individually, but they are “unessential”  in maintaining unity in the church.  We believe that there can be diversity in the unessential doctrines and still have unity among the body of believers in a local fellowship.  In keeping with Mohler’s article above, these unessential doctrines are what he would describe as “third-order issues” (or “tertiary issues”).  For us at NewBranch, we like to say that the essential doctrines  are those that we hold with a “closed hand”, while the unessential doctrines are those that we hold with an “open hand”.   The issues we hold with a “closed hand” are those clearly articulated in our Statement of Faith, while those issues we hold with an “open hand” are those which are not discussed in our Statement of Faith.  Based on this framework, I would argue that leaving over “open-handed” issues is both wrong and hurtful to the unity of the local church.

Good Reason #4 – unbiblical methodology – If the methodology of the church is inconsistent with Biblical theology, and all efforts to address the issue have been exhausted without any indication of a willingness to change, then a person would be justified in leaving the church.  However, since one’s methodology follows from one’s theology, these issues should be addressed as theological disagreements (see good and bad reason #3 above).  If the theological disagreement is over essential doctrine, then I would argue that their decision to leave the church (while not a necessity) would be justified.  For example, if we (as a baptistic church) began to baptize infants, then the disagreement would be over our theology of baptism.  Now, just because someone disagrees with us about infant baptism doesn’t mean they cannot be a member of the church; however, that theological difference may be too much for the individual to overlook, and they may decide they need to leave the church.

Bad Reason #4 – disagreements about methodology – With that being said (above about unbiblical methodology), it must be noted that most of the time folks who leave a church do so because the church is doing something they don’t like or don’t agree with.  I believe this to be the biggest component of the “consumer mindset” towards church membership.  In years past, it was almost proverbial for folks to leave the church because of a disagreement over thinks like “the color of the carpet”.  Today, folks leave their church because it doesn’t offer enough programs (children’s activities, etc.), or because the music doesn’t meet their needs (too loud, not loud enough, too many hymns, not enough hymns, etc.).  In addition, disagreements over methodology can be centered on things like:

  • How we do evangelism
  • How we serve communion
  • Whether we do Sunday School or small groups
  • Whether we have a Sunday night service or not
  • Whether we take up the offering before or after the sermon

These are not issues to leave the church over.  Take “how we do evangelism” as an example.  There are a variety of evangelism methodologies (friendship evangelism, street preaching, attractional outreach, incarnational outreach, etc.), most of which are all Biblical.  There are some that I would argue are not Biblical (like telling folks they will “have their best life now” if they pray the sinner’s prayer), but it all goes back to the theological underpinnings of the practice.   If your church has an evangelism methodology with which you disagree, make the issue about the theological underpinnings of that methodology, not the methodology itself.   If the theological disagreement (about a methodology) is over an unessential doctrine, then leaving the church is not a wise option and is ultimately hurtful to the Body.

Tomorrow will be the final post in this series, and will deal with conflict in the church.

Reasons to Leave a Church, part 1

The previous post was re-posting of some advice from Kevin DeYoung concerning how to leave the church, and how to engage in a new church.  A very important issue that post doesn’t address is “what constitutes a legitimate reason to leave a church”.  I’d like to address that question in a 3-part series of posts in this blog.    Two caveats before we begin. First, my list of good and bad reasons for leaving a church is not meant to be exhaustive, but representative.  Second, I am not posting this in response to anything going on at our church.  These reasons are not meant to describe anyone who has either joined our church or left our church, but are reasons I’ve heard and seen in over 10 years of pastoral ministry.

So, “what constitutes a good reason to leave a church?”  As a pastor, I’m tempted to answer that question with… “nothing”!  Shepherds don’t like to see sheep leave the flock; however, there are times when it is best or even necessary for someone to leave their local church and find a new church home.  Sometimes this decision is made for us.  Involuntary reasons include things like moving out of town.  It’s always best to connect with a faith family that is relatively close to your home.  Driving an hour and a half may very well preclude you from having genuine community with others in your church, which I would suggest is a mandatory element of church membership (wherever you are).  This may have application to some mega-church congregations where people are drawn from great distances from the church.  Another involuntary reason is church discipline, but that’s a post for another time.


What we most often encounter are the voluntary reasons for leaving a church.  Admittedly there are good reasons for leaving a church, and there are bad reasons for leaving a church.  The “how” of leaving a church is handled well in the previous post mentioned above, but let me take a quick stab at noting some of these reasons.  Today’s post will cover reasons dealing with the leadership.  Tomorrow’s post will address disagreement with the church’s theology and methodology, and the third post will deal with conflict in the church.  Oddly enough, the good reasons for leaving can easily be warped into bad reasons, as you’ll see in this list:


Good Reason #1 – abusive leadership – When a pastor or elder steps over the line and abuses his position

of leadership in order to exert power, influence, or control, then it is time to leave.  Sometimes when our own emotions are at play, it is difficult to determine if a leader is abusing his authority.  Trevin Wax provides some helpful guidelines to follow in a recent blog post.  Many people have been deeply hurt be leaders who are characterized by abusing their authority.  This is unacceptable from a church leader, and if it is left unaddressed, then it is time to leave.



Bad Reason #1when leaders exert authority – Although the pastors/elders of a church should never abuse authority, they are required to “use” authority.   The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that church leaders must one day be held accountable for how they exercise their authority:


Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  Hebrews 13:17, ESV


When writing to Timothy about the leadership of the local church, Paul makes an assumption that the elders must “rule”,


Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.  1 Timothy 5:17


We shouldn’t get all bent out of shape when leaders lead.  The congregation holds the elder board accountable to never become abusive (above), or sinful (next), but leaders must lead.  Especially as men, sometimes our sinful pride gets in the way of humble submission to authority.  When we fail to submit to authority (and remain in that place), only one of two options remain.  Either the leadership must alter its convictions in order to acquiesce to the dissenting voice (which is an unacceptable outcome), or the dissenter will become bitter and resentful, and end up leaving the church.  Leaders should never become abusive, but they must be allowed to lead.


Good Reason #2 – when a leader falls into or remains in sin – I want to be very careful how this is worded.   We should not hold leaders to a higher standard than Scripture, and we should extend grace to leaders and not oust them whenever they sin (see bad reason #2 next); however, there is a difference between a leader who loses his temper, recognizes his sin, confesses it, and seeks to fight his sin with the help of the church community, and a leader who falls into sin, fails to respond to church discipline about the sin, and remains in a position of authority in direct defiance of church discipline.  In some cases, a pastor remains in authority because those in the church who are charged with exercising authority over the pastor do not perform their responsibility.  In these cases where a leader is allowed to remain in a position of authority despite his ongoing sinful rebellion, after all efforts of addressing the issue have been exhausted, it may be necessary for people to leave that church.


Bad Reason #2 – when a leader sins – Our church knows full well that if everyone were to leave when a leader sinned, then we would have had a worship attendance of “zero” by the 2nd week of our existence as a church.  No leader is perfect, and pastors like myself provide ample evidence of that fact.  The example of pastors and elders who run to the Cross and cling to the grace of Jesus Christ in their moments of struggle with sin, can bring a greater depth of understanding of Gospel-centered living to the remainder of the congregation.  Are there times when a leader’s sin is such that they should be excused from leadership?  Absolutely, and those are serious times to be handled with much prayer and wisdom; however, I would argue that these are not the times to leave a church, but times to dig in with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and help the church heal through that process.  If a leader is not excused from their position of authority when they should be (because of sin), then I would argue that you’re within the bounds of “Good Reason #1” above (abusive leadership)

Tomorrow’s post will address issues relating to disagreements with the church’s theology and/or methodology.