How to Lose a Church

On the topic of growing a fellowship in maturity, I realized there were about five steps to losing a church or fellowship for Christ.  I list them here:

0) Every church begins as mixture of wheat and tares.  In the best situation, there is mature wheat along with the immature, and the mature are leading the church.  Tares are not immediately identifiable. (Matthew 13:24-43; Mark 4:1-20; Eph 4:11-16; Lk 17:20-21)

1) Tares begin to show. Immature wheat may have relationship with tares that they defend.  Mature must choose to hold to all sound doctrine or begin to overlook some.  Compromise begins, standards are eased or set aside. (Ex 23:20-33; Judges 1:21, 27-36; Judges 2:1-3:7; 1Tim 4:1-16; 2Tim 1:6-18; 1Tim 5:17-25; 1Tim 6:3-21; 2Tim 2:1-26; 2Tim 3:1-17; 2Tim 4:1-8; Rev 2:8-11; Rev 3:7-11; Mt 7:15-27; Ro 2:5-13; Jam 1:21-25)

2) Tares are allowed to multiply.  Immature wheat doesn't grow well, tempted by and unwilling to let go of the pleasures of the world or get victory over the worries of this life.  Mature begin to lose influence as they are outnumbered more and more, and as relaxed standards allow for immature and perhaps even tares to be seen as leaders.  Compromise increases.  Divisions form: some follow the mature, some follow influential immature, some follow false "teachers" among the tares. Love grows cool.  (1Cor 1:10-18; 1Cor 3:1-23; 1Cor 5:1-12; Gal 5:1-10; Rev 2:1-7; Rev 3:14-22; Mt 24:8-13; Lk 18:6-8)

3) Bold immature wheat push for more inclusiveness.  Pure and complete doctrine is pushed aside because it offends the immature and the tares.  Divisions and factions grow stronger.  Tares and immature believers begin to overpower mature wheat.  Tolerance of those who hold to wrong doctrine and practice allows such to remain in fellowship and even move into leadership.  Testing and judgment begin.  (3John; 2Cor 5:11-12; 2Cor 6:11-18; 2Cor 10-12; Gal 1:6-10; Gal 4:9-20; Gal 5:1-10; Titus 3:9-11; 2Tim 1:15; 2Tim 3:1-17; Rev 2:12-17; Rev 3:1-6; 1Peter 4:17-19)

4) One or more bold leaders arise among the immature or among the tares and are able to overthrow the mature and begin to drive them out or the mature find there is no place left for them in the fellowship so they depart.  Sin is excused/allowed, judgment/rebuke come in. (3John; 2Cor 5:11-12; 2Cor 6:11-18; 2Cor 10-12; Gal 1:6-10; Gal 4:9-20; Gal 5:1-10; Acts 28-32; Jude; 2Peter 2; Col 2:8-9, 16-19; Titus 1:5-16; 2Tim 2:16-19; 2Tim 4:10, 14-15; 1Jn 2:15-19; 1Jn 3:1-13; 1Jn 4:1-3; 1Cor 5:1-2; Rev 2:18-29; 1Peter 4:17-19)

5) The church jettisons all sound doctrine.  Love is redefined without regard to God's Word, becoming blind, worldly, fleshly love.  That church is now lost. (2Pe 2:1-22; Jude; Eph 4:17-20; Rom 1:18-32; 2Tim 3:1-9; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 2:18-29; Rev 3:14-22)


1) Recognize the standard God expects from His people (1Tim 3:1-13; Eph 4:11-16; 1Jn 2:4-6; Acts 6:1-10)

2) Teach and require these things; those that obey have a heart to grow, those that put little or no effort into growing are obstinately immature or unbelievers (Eph 4:11-16; Tit 1:9-11; 1Tim 3:15-16; 1Tim 4:1-16; 1Tim 5:21-25; 1Tim 6:11-21; 2Tim 1:8-14; 2Tim 2:1-26; 2Tim 3:1-17; 2Tim 4:1-5)  God will ask us to surrender what we each most love and are least willing to give up (Mt 19:16-23)

Lk 15:1-7: Is there only one lost sheep in all the world?  What would happen if a saved sheep chose to never leave Jesus' side, even when He went after the next lost sheep and the next one.  Who would know Jesus better?  Those who stayed in the pen or those who served alongside Jesus?  The disciples who traveled and worked with Jesus or the disciples who stayed home, only hearing from Jesus when He passed through town?

On Unity and Equality: Unity actually requires an acknowledgment of inequality.  Not all people, not all disciples are the same.  The more a believer surrenders to Jesus, the more closely he walks with Jesus, the better he will know Jesus.  These are the ones who should be leading the congregation in the ways of Jesus; the rest should acknowledge they don't know Jesus as well as these and gladly submit to their guidance (not just teaching, but even more, training).  Until a student is fully trained by his teacher, he should still remain under the leadership and authority and direction of the teacher.  They are not equal in experience or knowledge or wisdom, though they are both humans and equal in value and worth.  But they are not the same.  This is true of God, who revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They are all equally and fully God, but each acts in an order of submission, a hierarchy: The Father is over all, Jesus submits to and carries out His Father's will, and the Holy Spirit submits to and carries out Jesus' will (1Cor 15:24-28; Jn 5:19; Jn 8:28; Jn 14:23-24; Jn 14:26; Jn 16:12-15).  In so doing, they are actually operating in unity.  In fact, this is the only way to attain unity.  There can only be one mission, one will: the Father's.  Scripture calls for the same principles to be displayed in the husband/wife relationship, in the parent/child relationship.  What would the world look like if children ruled it (Isa 3:1-5,12)? We're already seeing it.  (Mt 20:1-16 vs. Mt 20:20-28 vs. Mt 25:14-30 (31-46) vs. Lk 19:11-27; Isa 14:1-4; Isa 32; Rev 5:6-10; Mt 19:27-30/Lk 22:24-30; Rev 3:21; Rev 7:9-17; Rev 20:1-6; Rev 21:1-4,22-27)

On Judging: Judging, in the sense of "discerning" as opposed to "condemning," is absolutely necessary in order to determine who is fit to lead and who is not.  The immature and the tares will cry out against judging, at least in any form that puts what they want out of reach.  But Jesus (and the rest of Scripture) never taught that we should not make judgments about people, but rather that we should make right judgments, with knowledge and accurate information.  Consider the requirements for anyone who wants to be an elder or a deacon (1Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Those are standards against which a person must be judged before they are accepted into that position.  In 1Corinthians 6, Paul actually says that there should be people qualified to make up law courts in our churches, people who are wise enough to hear cases of one brother against another and make a right judgment.  That's a reflection of Moses setting up judges to judge Israel (Ex 18:13-26).  If we want not just to save our church but to ensure healthy growth, we need to be judging people and situations all the time.  If we want to help individuals grow, we have to understand where they need help and how best to give it.  That's making judgments! (Mt 7:1-6 [Ro 2:1-6, 18-24] vs Jn 7:21-24; 1Cor 5:1-6:6; Rev 2:2; 1Jn 4:1-4; 1Ti 3:10; 1Th 5:21; Acts 17:10; 2Cor 2:9; Ro 16:10; Ro 12:2; Jn 6:6 vs 2Cor 13:5-7; Gal 6:4)

On the Expectation of Growth: The whole of the New Testament and really, all of Scripture, communicate an expectation of growth. Every believer should be growing in grace and knowledge and obedience.  If not, there is something to be concerned about.  You will not find any discussion in the New Testament about whether so-and-so is saved or lost.  The lost are obvious, and those who are assumed to be saved are called to make their calling and election sure by their diligent obedience to the commands of Scripture.  If anyone is not growing, there's no debate about their salvation, but an urging to repentance and obedience. (2Pe 1:3-11; 1Cor 3:1-3; Acts 18:1-11; Heb 5:11-6:3)