Question Time - Why are people leaving assemblies and meeting elsewhere?
Richard Collings, Caerphilly, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Why are people leaving assemblies and meeting elsewhere?
It has to be recognized that the situation described in the question does not apply everywhere, for in some countries, and possibly in some localities of the UK, there are believers who have been added to assemblies who formerly met with other Christian fellowships. However, the questioner is probably referring to trends that are evident in many places, and which have increased significantly over the last twenty to thirty years.
As each case would have to be considered individually, it is not possible to give a response that will explain what has motivated every decision. It would be most unwise, as well as being incorrect, to assume that on each occasion the fault lies wholly with those who leave. Equally, it would not be right to think that every time someone leaves an assembly it is because the assembly is to blame. For these reasons, I can only make some general observations, but one thing is sure: we all ought to be deeply concerned about what is happening. If everyone who has left were to return, some halls might not be large enough to cope with the increased numbers, yet all too often we can seem unconcerned about it.
In many instances those who leave do so because they have little appreciation as to what an assembly really is. They have a limited understanding of the primary purpose for the existence of a church of God, and they do not value what it means to God. However, whose fault is that? Maybe they paid little attention when such things were being taught; maybe they came into fellowship because it was expected of them because of family connections. In reality, there was minimal conviction about what they were doing. Although they may have begun well, for a variety of reasons they lost interest, or were reluctant to accept the responsibilities that being in fellowship brings. On the other hand, were these saints ever systematically taught? Were such truths set out in a positive and gracious manner, such that it ignited within them a clear understanding of church doctrine and practice? To be told ‘this is the way we have always done it’ is both inadequate and unsatisfactory, and may explain why some have finally chosen to go elsewhere.
Others have left because they have been frustrated by the prevailing situation in the assembly. Without being unkind, it cannot be denied that in many places assemblies ‘run on autopilot’. Slavish adherence to practices that once worked well but which have long since become irrelevant, coupled with a disregard to any appeals to reappraise what we do and why we do it, have become too much for some to bear and, rather than stagnate, they have chosen to join with others who are willing to assess and revise as necessary. To be balanced, it has to be said that some may wish to change things just to be different, or to adopt methods that would be unscriptural, and if they can’t have their own way they leave. Whilst it is sad to see them go we cannot subjugate biblical principles simply to maintain numbers; God’s work must be done in God’s way!
Alas, some have left because of a lack of care being shown by the elders, or because they have been treated harshly or inadvisedly by others in the fellowship. Unkind things have been said; divisions often caused by personality clashes have generated a disharmony, and, instead of there being mutual love, there has been friction and tension, Gal. 5. 15. Others are tetchy and easily offended; they take offence at the slightest things, cannot see any alternative view to their own limited perspective, and, having taken umbrage, they leave in a huff.
It is evident from my response that there is no one reason as to why people leave assemblies. Instead of trying to justify ourselves and relegating those that leave to a lower tier of Christianity, may we long to see their return, and to ensure that it will not be through any failure on our part that others may leave.