What if we find ourselves in a spiritually unhealthy atmosphere? Is there ever a time when we might need to leave a church in order to remain a healthy survivor?
It is true that some church environments are toxic and even abusive. In those situations, we need to seek the counsel of mature and healthy believers and pray about God's order for our lives. He may well lead us to leave, but it is important that we "go out with joy and be led forth with peace" (Is. 55:12). It is never right to react out of offense or to create a division that brings harm to others.
You and I are not called to play games, but we are called to be spiritual survivors. Isaiah prophesied of a spiritual nation that would overcome the dangers of their day: "For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this" (Is. 37:32, NIV).
I believe we are the survivors God is passionately calling forth. It would be great if every local church were completely safe. But then, where would the challenge be, and how would we grow in a spiritual hothouse? If we'll apply the survival skills we find in God's Word, He will zealously watch over us to see that we thrive in the local church.
Let's renew our commitment to the local church. When we face pain, let's stay on the pathway of peace. And whatever we do, let's not give up on the very real blessings churches bring to our lives. We're called to be survivors, and that's a challenge we need to face together!
CHURCH SURVIVAL STRATEGIES
On the Survivor show, the contestants, or "survivors," are challenged to outlast, outplay and outwit one another. Scripture calls us to a different strategy:
OUTLOVE: "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing" (1 Pet. 3:8-9, NKJV).
OUTSERVE: "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal. 5:13).
OUTGIVE: "Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:16).
David Cannistraci is the senior pastor of GateWay City Church in San Jose, California. He travels internationally as a speaker and has written Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement (Regal) and God's Vision for Your Church (Regal). For more information, go to www.davidcannistraci.org.
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