One of my good friends recently had an invitation extended to him to go work for a church in Toronto as an evangelist and to preach every few weeks. It would be a great position for him because he is gifted for and passionate about evangelism. I have no d0ubt that our Lord will use him to call sinners to himself.
The church that was offering him the position is (as it appears now) dying. I know lots of other churches in this same situation… it seems all too common in Canada these days. It’s an elderly congregation (which is not bad!) but it is shrinking in size and in many ways the end appears near.
My friend was wondering if by going to the church he could potentially bring some new converts, help them reach the community, and restore some semblance of life in the congregation. I advised him not to go to the church, however, and here’s why: they have women elders.
For one thing, I know him and I know that long-term he would not be able to work as a pastor-elder in that situation, so I told him it would not be to the church’s benefit to have someone come who could not commit long-term.
The more important matter, as I see it though, is that a long time ago they abandoned the Bible’s clear teaching with regards to church leadership. Somewhere, at some point along the line someone stopped using the Bible as their final authority. That opened the door for pragmatism: ‘Our women are gifted and passionate, why should they not step into that role? We don’t have any men to take that role right now…’
In my mind a Christian who entrusts the eternal state of his soul to the words on the pages of our Bible should never begin to question it at places where it is hard to understand or apply. Why should we trust the what the Book says about this if we believe it for the most important matters we could ever possibly consider? Is it trust-worthy or not?
If you go there and evangelize and bring people to your church, you’re bringing them into a church which is standing on an already-eroding foundation. Bringing a new convert into that situation is like bringing a newborn baby into a room full of people with SARS (see 2 Tim 2.17 for a similar analogy). It’s inviting their peril.
Here’s why I think letting her die may well be the best option:
(1) The true Christians in the assembly will move on. They’ll find a church and minister and be ministered to there; they’ll be better off for it.
(2) The false professors will either find another dead church and continue on as they were. The official death of an already dying church will serve to separate the sheep and the goats and perhaps serve to help purify the physical local churches here and now.
The people I feel the most for in all these situations (and I know several) are the ones who are the true believers who are sensitive to their friends in their congregations and want more than anything to see revival come to their church. The death of the church they’ve attended for so many years would be incredibly hard for them for so many reasons… but in reality, you can’t but wonder what life is really left there to save.
Lloyd-Jones was right to tell others to get out of the Anglican church… he saw where it was heading. It doesn’t make sense to stay on a sinking ship when it becomes clear it’s going down.
Save your own soul, honour Christ; let the dead bury their own and follow him. Find a church where the Bible is taught, where the seats are filled with Christians, where you can minister and be ministered to. This is the only church against whom the gates of hell will not prevail.
(See also: Tertullian and Contemporary Biblical Ethics)