Ethics: Man Leaves Church, Invites Former Church Members to Bible Study

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What would you do Wednesday!

A man has been at your church and in your Sunday school class for several years. He is known and liked among the people in Sunday school.

Then, over a series of two months he begins having some differences with the church leadership and direction. You are one of the few people in class he confides in. You try to encourage him, but he is not as excited as he once was. He as come to a point where he is ready to move his membership to another church several miles away.

Even though you tried to encourage him to stay, he ends up leaving for another local church.

During the time your friend was struggling with staying or going, the Sunday school started small group Bible studies. You were part of putting together the groups and leading one yourself.

Your friend is now a former church member having moved to another local church several miles away. However, he begins emailing all members of the Sunday school class to join him on Monday nights at his new church for Bible study.

What would you do?

  • Nothing, if people want to go to the study they will go.
  • Ask the purpose of reaching out to people in the old church.
  • Talk to the Sunday school class encouraging them to start their own study.
  • Talk to the man and possibly reach out to his pastor together.
  • Or….

Here I Blog…

Mark

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The above article was posted on December 11, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rhology December 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Depends on the reasons for which he left the 1st church.

2 W4TMN December 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

We had something similar occur just recently.  Sunday School class has still not recovered.  In our case there was much more drama.

3 JD December 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Assuming the departure was not over a critical doctrinal compromise, I would probably pursue a variation on #4.  I would look to sit down with the man and his pastor and ask if they would feel it appropriate if I asked for his church’s e-mailing list in order to extend invitations to attend any of our church’s weekly Bible studies (although I hope they wouldn’t offer it and I certainly wouldn’t take it).  I would ask in the hope that it would be such an obviously inappropriate request that it would make the point there is a line between appropriate inter-church fellowship and flagrant attempts at sheep-stealing. 

Given that the man left over a disagreement in leadership and direction, any protestations along the lines of “I’m just looking to study the Word and continue in fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ” would inevitably be questionable and seem more likely he is trying to incrementally draw his friends away from their church.  After all, if Bible study and fellowship with old friends is truly the issue, that desire could be just as easily accomplished by coming back to visit the church he left, as long as he didn’t seek to sow discord regarding his disagreement.

The impact of leaving a church profoundly impacts even the closest of relationships, if for no other reason than it changes the frequency of times spent with one another.  Just another consideration in cautious, prayerful deliberation regarding leaving a church.

4 Stuart Houston December 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

This goes on in your neck of the woods too, huh? This is from a church “planters” or disgruntled ex-members play book. As a Pastor, I would call the new Pastor and let him know what his new member is doing. If the new Pastor has any ministerial ethics, he will address the situation with the new member.

5 Mark Lamprecht December 12, 2013 at 9:34 am

W4TMN Were some who left trying to tear apart the Sunday School class?

6 Mark Lamprecht December 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

@JD Thanks for the well-thought out comment.

7 Mark Lamprecht December 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

Stuart Houston One of the things that makes these ethics questions so intriguing is that they normally show there truly is nothing new under the sun. Thanks for the comment.

8 Tim Scott December 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

I think this occurs with more regularity than anyone would necessarily want to admit.  As for how I would handle the situation, I would go with #4 or at least some variation.  A thought that struck me as I was reading the scenario was, even if the guy was accurate in his assessment of the direction of the local church, there are right ways and wrong ways to separate from the local church, not sure this is one of them.

9 W4TMN December 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

Mark Lamprecht W4TMN Mark Lamprecht W4TMN Not directly.  Ours was a little more complicated.  It was the Sunday School teacher that left.  He left by sending an email to the entire class that he would not be back as their teacher the following Sunday (email was sent on Friday) because he found that the Orthodox church was purer in their worship and he was leaving as it resonated with him.  As a result, the entire class was left questioning what we were doing wrong.  He has since cut off communication with everyone.  I was saddened as he never spoke to anyone in church leadership about his concerns. While not actively recruiting for his new church, his actions caused a disruption and I recently heard one of the students from that class tell someone that he wished he could talk to the former teacher because he had concerns regarding our pastor’s use of various Bible translations within his sermon.

10 snag1983 December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I couldn’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 3 when I read this. “For when a one says, I belong to Paul, and another, I belong to Apollos, are you not [proving yourselves] ordinary (unchanged) men? We may not say a mans name, we say Church of Christ, Baptist, Methodist. whatever, To think that there is an ethics question when a brother in the Lord asks us to fellowship makes us out to be ordinary.

11 GK November 16, 2014 at 10:53 am

I would ask what his differences were with the church leadership. SInce they aren’t stated, though, this hypothetical projection seems to be about him inviting people from his old church to his new church for a Bible Study.

Visiting another church is fine, but a Bible Study at another church will regularly lead people away from . I would try to talk with everyone who has been e-mailed, especially those who are thinking of visiting, and make sure they’re aware that if he invites them to join the church he has started attending, he may be trying to negatively affect the church leaders with whom he had differences.

At some point, it might become necessary to know this man’s differences with the church leadership. It is possible for church leaders to make mistakes, or worse, as I’ve found. If the man who left is trying to invite people away, I would bring it to the attention of the church leadership where he would then be attending.

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