Apostasy, Part 1 – Preface

The subject of apostasy has been on my mind for a very long time. Early on in my Christian experience I had a friend whose profession of faith was about as new as mine. For a time we did a lot together in terms of Christian activity. We both attended the same church, the same church Bible study and the same prayer meeting of a particular church ministry. At a certain point in the relationship however, this person began to turn away from me citing my old-fashioned ideas about culture and doctrine from the Bible. Apparently my friend was finding many of my new found convictions from Scripture to be personally offensive to him. I was aware that this fellow was having various problems in his life associated with his profession of faith such as at work. Eventually this friend severed his relationship with me, and as far as I know now this person has since disappeared altogether from the Church.

Perhaps this was a case of what Jesus was talking about to His disciples in the parable of the sower. The second of the four examples of faith that Jesus taught in that parable was the one in whom the seed of Gods word did not take any root. When heat from persecution and trial came along it was withered (Matt. 13:3-6, 20,21). In other words, there are people whose faith is only superficial so that it is not very long before it and they disappear. This parable may explain why a good many of those who come into a church professing faith in Jesus Christ leave just as fast as they show up. In my own case of conversion I had been delivered from drug addiction and a profligate lifestyle. Conviction of the heinousness of sin against God was freshly ingrained on my soul and conscience from the new found experience of Gods grace in my life. I would imagine that to an unconverted person who was merely pretending to be religious, many of my new scruples would be seen as old fashioned.

But the time came in my experience of something else that was very disconcerting to me concerning the falling away from the faith. In this case it was my Pastor. My Pastor was someone who had been a professing Christian for a long time, he was in his fifties when I came to the Church he pastored. This Pastor had obtained a doctorate, was a conference speaker and a very dynamic man in terms of his outward persona. There was a long list of ministerial accomplishments that attended this mans reputation, including numerous people in the congregation who had come to faith through his ministry. All of this changed radically when one day this Pastor was discovered to be an adulterer with some women in the congregation. The Pastor in question resigned his position and ran off with the women, avoiding the possibility of Church discipline and divorcing his wife to boot. As far as I know this man never repented but instead married the women he was having an affair with after divorcing his wife.

This was a circumstance that was much harder for me to deal with. In fact, it has affected me adversely to this very day. How could someone who was so commendable in their faith in so many ways for so long a time do such a thing? Since that time which is now more than twenty years ago, I have known several people who have fallen away either from their previous commitment to Christ or in their faith altogether. I know enough about the doctrine of salvation to know that nobody loses their salvation. But I also know that in Scripture there is a warning to all who have committed themselves to Jesus Christ to beware of falling away in apostasy (Heb. 2:1; 3:12; 6:5,6). The idea being given in this passage is that faithfulness to the end is the evidence that one has true saving faith.

Over the course of my Christian experience I have seen not only individuals fall away from the Lord in terms of faithfulness, but churches also. The church in which the Pastor had ran off underwent a huge amount of turmoil in his wake. For a time, the church was backsliding away from former doctrinal commitments it had through various circumstances which ensued. There was divided opinion over what he did, whether it was legitimate or not concerning supposed faults that his wife had. When there seemed to be a sweeping of the matter under the rug so to speak without church discipline in his absence I was horrified. To make matters worse, upon investigation I found that the other church leaders were aware of the Pastors’ moral lapse and had done nothing about it. It was also suggested to me by a remaining Elder that this was seen an opportunity for the leadership (this man in particular), to change the churches doctrinal position to something he liked which was less Biblical in my opinion.

I was truly shocked beyond belief by everything that happened as a result of the adulterous Pastors sin. The church brought in an interim Pastor whom I knew personally to be someone unqualified and unsound in his view of the ministry. A church split ensued from all this and my wife and I eventually left too. The question which confronted me was, could an entire church that previously appeared to be sound apostatize along with its Pastor? Apparently this was not only possible but I saw it with my own eyes. But that was not the end of the story. The Elder mentioned earlier who was guilty of changing the church’s doctrine, as well as bringing in the other unsound Pastor eventually left too. After many providential circumstances from the Lord, over time this church permanently called an outstanding man as a Pastor through whose ministry they adopted a good sound confession of faith. I am happy to say that within several years time after this horrible string of events happened, the Lord brought about a complete turn around in the situation in that church.

The previous church which I had been a member of before relocating to the one with the adulterous Pastor had undergone a series of splits over the course of many years for various reasons. None of these had happened during the five years I was there. Of the two cases that happened after my leaving I understand that they were due primarily to attempts being made to bring in contemporary music, or in other words, unbiblical worship. The Pastor with the contemporaries left and the church recovered by calling to itself a new, more Biblical Pastor. Large numbers of people had left to who knows where leaving this congregation considerably smaller than it had been. Another group of contemporaries came in and they succeeded in rendering this church once again with even fewer members than before. It was so ugly that the Pastor resigned and another new Pastor were brought in to straighten out the mess. I was not surprised in one way to find out about this for the reason of our leaving this church was that it had a wishy-washy attitude about Scripture and its teaching on the life and worship of the church.

There was another church that my wife and I used to visit on a yearly basis that hosted a Bible conference. I mention this because it went through a series of church troubles and splits to the point that it is now no longer even in existence. The first of these happened when one of the Elders decided that God had called him to join Operation Rescue, resulting in his arrest due to trespassing charges at one of the local abortion clinics. A fight between the Elders ensued over the unbiblical nature of these actions with half the church leaving with the OR Pastor. The following year we attended the Bible conference to find that the church had converted from a conservative worship style of theologically sound hymns, to a contemporary rock band approach. The conference featured a speaker that tried to convince the attendees that this change was completely Biblical, which it was not. I never went back to this conference and eventually I learned that it had closed its doors.

My wife and I eventually ended up in a church that was Biblical and confessional, one which we remained in for a number of years before this one too underwent turmoil and schism. I understand that this church had undergone several previous splits before I had arrived, one of these which was over the same Operation Rescue issues as those in the church already mentioned. Ironically, the OR Elder who split this church was the brother of the OR Elder of the previously mentioned church. In this case, the split occurred due to the OR Elder being publically rebuked by his peer over the unbiblical nature of Operation Rescue and their illegal activities. When a fight ensued in the church, his conduct was so contentious that he was finally put before the assembly for official censure, meaning excommunication. This man left taking half the congregation with him. Later on, he deserted his family and left the church altogether. Several years down the road, this same man was arrested for sexual misconduct with a minor whilst allegations of the same while in the ministry surfaced as well.

There was peace and what seemed to be spiritual growth in this church during the years we were in it. That is, until the next fall out occurred, this time being once again between Elders. The older of the two men had been the Elder which had presided over the excommunication of the previously mentioned apostate. In this situation, the man that took his place came under attack for reasons still unknown today. At the instigation of the older Pastor several people in the congregation started a slander campaign against this man. I was never able to determine that there was any grounds for this, the man being transparently godly before the world. Out of this situation the Elder under attack resigned and left the church with his family. When accusations of misconduct were leveled against the remaining Pastor, he promptly gathered up several friends in the ministry to support him against the attempts to seek his repentance. A long list of sins was uncovered in all of this. When a public dismissal of the matter occurred, a split then happened, myself leaving with the others.

There are two things about the situation that occurred in this particular church that has a tremendous amount of relevance to the topic of apostasy. The first is that when all of this happened at least half the church was willing to receive slanderous accusations from the one Elder toward the other without any proof or verification of its accuracy. Just like the women caught in adultery (John 8:3,4) a list of accusers came forward. But no one was caught doing anything and use of the term “gross sin” was being bandied without any definition as to what those words were supposed to mean. Nor was there any particular instance of wrongdoing uncovered, certainly not by the wife. Consequently, the victim was railroaded out of the ministry and the church. This mans good name was slandered (Ex. 20:16) without him being given any proper due process in the matter. There was no church disciple like that which had been done with the previous apostate. It was simply a power play in which the church was asked to go along.

The second significant thing about this was that following the split in the church, most of the people who had left ended up in far less Biblical church situations. The church they left was a Reformed confessional church, one that was well taught. There was never any issue with the preaching previous to the schism, in fact, it was very good. But once this all started, then the pulpit became a place of personal agenda, the Scripture and ultimately the Lord suffering for it. As I kept contact with the people that left this situation over the years I was appalled to find that most of them ended up in incredibly unbiblical situations. And the Pastor who had been responsible for the split went to his grave never repenting of the many grievous sins he had committed against people in word and deed. Of the minister friends that defended this Pastor against members of his congregation, several of them underwent church splits due to their own misconduct. One of these churches no longer exists.

These and many other stories can be told by myself and many Christians who have seen and experienced the same, and sometimes worse things in the church. I could go on much longer but will spare the reader the depressing details of my pilgrimage in the American church. I want to be clear at this point, I am a sinner to who has been far from perfectly faithful to the Lord in all things. I wish I could say otherwise but I would be lying. We should have no illusions about this as Christian’s we are all sinners. And the church from its very beginning has often been plagued with troubles of all sorts. Some of these are recorded for us in the New Testament as the basis for much of it being written (I Cor. 1:10). The days in which the church was first being established were days of tremendous spiritual growth and blessing in the world unlike what we see today in the church. The reason I speak these things is to show that there is a discernable pattern to the things I have related.

To sum it up, the Church in general in America is decaying on a large scale. I have mentioned just a couple of instances where I have had personal knowledge concerning this. But this is only just a microcosm of what is actually happening church wide in America. I know that the Lord is the One who plants His Church, and ultimately in the end the gates of Hell will not be able to prevail over it. It seems clear to me at the same time however that there is a widespread apostasy occurring in the church at the present time. This is why I want to speak out against those things that I think is at the root of it all. Once I began to take a look at church history in America on the subject of apostasy I was shocked at what I discovered. This essay will serve as an introduction to a series of essays I intend to write over time on the subject of apostasy in the Church.

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