Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (May 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Keith Brenton

Why I Left / Why I Stay’…It’s not just a song by the English punk rock band, The Clash.

It’s a question that a lot of church-going believers ask themselves, and sometimes their families and closest friends … even their church leaders and overseers. Some of my dearest friends have asked that question, and have left. Not just their church home, but the fellowship identified with it. Some have stayed, laboring on, sometimes uncomfortably.

I’ve asked the question, too. You don’t worship in the same congregation for 25 years without having some disagreements with others, whether verbalized or not. You don’t worship in a place with 2100 other believers and agree with every one of them on everything.

And let’s be frank. I have some opinions that are, shall we say, unorthodox.

Some of my church family would see them as heterodox and heretical. Others would shrug and dismiss them as mere opinions — which they certainly are. Only. Opinions.

A few would think it best if one or the other of us left. They might also think that best if they knew the unexpressed opinions of a lot of other members!

But leaving your church home — whether for that many years or more or fewer — is never as simple as giving away an old jacket to the community closet and going out to try on new ones. You’re leaving family … brothers and sisters in Christ … some of whom have been especially dear to you. And perhaps a few others who have been cantankerous, disagreeable, maybe even unloving or divisive or abusive or dishonest.

I can only imagine that is even more complicated when you leave the fellowship with which your church home has been associated. Customs, practices, traditions — even some closely-held beliefs — may be minimally to radically different elsewhere.

Sometimes the better answer is to stay. Stay, and keep loving, and reconcile with whom and what you can.

Sometimes the better answer is to go. Go elsewhere, and keep loving, and begin loving anew.

Especially if staying is turning you cantankerous, disagreeable, unloving, divisive, abusive or dishonest.

The writing contributors of this edition have answered this question in their own lives — sometimes had it answered for them — and have been willing to share some of what went through their minds and hearts leading to that answer, and how they are living with their answers.

You may not like or agree with their answers. You may not like or agree with the writers.

The plain fact is, there may be someone or ones in your current church family who are very much like them in one very important way: They’re asking the same question … seeking peace with their own answer.

This edition is the 20th anniversary edition of the publication, originally Wineskins, which began in 1992. The choice of this theme for this special edition was not accidental. Over those 20 years, Wineskins / New Wineskins has been unafraid to explore possibilities and differences of opinion and unorthodox views while a good number of brothers and sisters would have prefered that they remain unexpressed and unexplored — convinced that perfection of doctrine and praxis has been achieved by man, and only in this particular fellowship of believers.

I’d have to say that the feeling of most of our writing contributors has been that this kind of silence would fly in the face of the apostle Paul’s admonition to ” … not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). On the whole, I think our contributors have written to defend the proposition that change can be good, else the prophets and Christ Himself and all those who followed Him in scripture would not have insisted on repentance. But to repent, one must first ascertain the good or better choice and not merely assume that those who have gone before have been perfect in their interpretation and discernment. Each of us bears responsibility for our own choices, not those of our forebears — though they can certainly affect our inheritors.

At the inception of this publication, the editors crafted a Purpose Statement to which — superceded by scripture and ultimately the Lord’s authority, of course — all subsequent editors have done their best to remain faithful. Our goal has been to let scripture shape our opinions and interpretations rather than trying to make scripture conform to them. Doubtless we have occasionally failed, as none of us pretend perfection.

That mission has been a blessing to some, and for that we remain grateful to the Lord and pray that it is to His glory.

It has been a bane for others, some of whose careers depend upon maintaining the status quo through a misapprehension that man’s interpretation of scripture can be and has been infallible — and must be inviolable. Some have even staked their souls on it.

So you see, the question of this article’s title has been before us all these years.

And you can see why there has sometimes been … The Clash.

We have chosen to stay in the word, stay committed to unity, stay humble before God, stay in the Lord’s church, stay also in the churches of Christ.

We have also chosen to go where the Spirit leads, go where people need the gospel of Jesus, go in love, go in peace, go in grace.

Won’t you stay and go with us?

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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