Question:

I have a family member who was at one time in the Lord's church. Recently she told me she is "rebelling" against the 'church' (was in a denominational church), so I finally asked what was meant by 'rebelling' and she said there were so many errors and problems in this church or that one, politics in the church, etc. and she had decided to stop going to them because of all the error (of course I'm thinking "Amen!").

Anyway she said that God has told her that churches are organized by men, men are sinners and imperfect, none of the churches are going to be perfect, there is no perfect church just like there are no perfect men. Furthermore, she said He told her He is everywhere, He uses everything to accomplish His will - just as Joseph's brothers meant for harm, God meant for good. On one hand she can worship anywhere because He uses this church or that one to accomplish His will, on the other she is free to worship by spending time taking walks and talking with HIm or singing praises to Him.

Well, I've yet to master or even come close to, being patient - I'm closer but have much farther to go. So I let out a barrage of Scriptures refuting such a position. Yet, I don't think I handled it like I should have. Especially when she said her number one thing against the churches of Christ is they are so judgmental and think they are in the position of God in judging others. We are to love others.

I know what I said was truth, but the manner in how I said it and I should probably not just rattle off this passage or that, but be more patient since this is a fallen sister - right?

Now a little background, this person didn't completely leave the church on her own. There was sin she was withdrawn from and very rightly so. On one hand I do think this judgment issue has to do with this past sin, which affected an entire family, and she is suffering consequences of that. I frequently hear "God has forgiven me, so should person A, B C...."

How do I patiently, softly, boldly, holding steadfast address the contradiction of God revealing truth to her but not in scripture? I asked for scripture to back up the truth that God had given her that stated all "organized" churches are in error? I would have to agree with her that yes the word of God teaches that all organized churches "of men" are in error (I Corinthians 1:13 where Paul talks about am I of Paul etc, Ephesians 4:4-6 - one Lord, one Faith), but she went off into that she isn't going to talk about what she or I (or anyone else) think a passage means -- she has been there, done that -- it doesn't get anywhere. She is going with what God has told her: He told her He is in this denomination or that, and who is she to judge a denomination that He is using?

I admit I am not tactful and get very passionate. I've been working on this and have made huge progress, just have much more to go. While we should be zealous, Paul didn't go around barraging people with a boatload of Scripture. He reasoned and was patient yet unwavering. I see what he did, but have a ridiculous time emmulating, especially with this family member!

Any suggestions for these particular conclusions she is coming to? Like questions I can ask her to get her thinking and come to the answer herself? You know how you do with children - they discover the answer, but you gently guide them with key questions or comments. Some how I am blank with what those should be in this type of situation (pretty much any that concerns an adult, which is really sad considering my age!).

Do I back all the way up and try to start a study setting the very foundation of the gospel? I'm going to be needing some prayer for this situation. I've got several here I can get help from as well. Your advice is always awesome. I always look forward to what you have to say.


Answer:

When some makes the claim that you are being too judgmental, just ask, "Is that your personal judgment on the matter?" It might take it a moment or two for it to register, "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things" (Romans 2:1). The claim that no one is to judge (draw conclusions) about another person is a falsehood because it is inconsistent.

You don't have to load a person down with a ton of Scriptures they won't bother trying to remember. You merely have to give them a point that shows they are not acting in accordance with God's Will. If they dismiss it, then you can consider giving them a second point. After that, just tell them when they can prove their position without using their personal position, get back with you.

Likely she is still mad about being withdrawn from. She can easily gain forgiveness of her brethren, all she has to do is repent of her sins. Since she claims no one has forgiven her, I can only conclude that she has never admitted she was wrong, let alone changed.

She has decided to form her own religion of one. She has admitted that she has no scriptural foundation for her beliefs and that doesn't bother her.

This person is the type described in Hebrews: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6:4-6). Until she realizes and admits that she need to obey God, she will continue to justify her sins by saying "God told me ..."

You aren't going to convert her back. She has to come back. The best you can do is to point out a flaw in her reasoning each time you happen to run across each other. When she claims that God is speaking to her, point out a fact, such as:

  • God said He was no longer using prophets (I Corinthians 13:8-10).
  • Jude said that God's teaching was delivered once for all (Jude 3).
  • Paul said that denominations were wrong (I Corinthians 1:10-13)
  • God said He doesn't listen to sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2), so why would you assume He speaks to you?
  • God said His message is consistent (Deuteronomy 13:1-4), but you say you have messages different from what the Bible teaches. Seems you've proved that your messages are not from God.
  • Paul said that if anyone preaches a different Gospel, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-10). You say your messages are different from the Bible. What do you leave me to conclude?

Yes, these are hard hitting. Most likely she won't like them. But they are also in bite size pieces where she can't miss the point.