After listening to your Bible studies, I now understand the importance of attending a church that teaches the whole counsel of God's word. Unfortunately, my church has changed over the years from teaching the Bible, to just entertaining people with spiritual junk food. After learning so much from your ministry, I decided to approach my pastor asking him to return to in-depth teaching. He started yelling at me, accusing me of challenging his authority. He refused to even consider what I had to say. I don't know what to do now. Should I leave my church or work to improve it?
We are sorry to learn of this difficult situation, but take some comfort in knowing you are not alone. Many churches are drifting away from the church's mission of discipling the faithful to merely entertaining (or fleecing) the flock. In the Bible, Paul warned of this specific situation in the last days:
Your pastor sounds like a man fitting Paul's description in 1Tim 4:2. If he is a "hypocritical liar seared in his conscience," then you are right to avoid him and to leave that church. We commend you for your courage to speak with him in the proper manner, but his response to your correction suggests he is a man living in serious rebellion to the Lord and to the authority of His word. If so, he should not be serving as a pastor, much less as a Bible teacher, and you should separate yourself from his influence if he won't listen to sound counsel.
Whether you stay or leave, you should use the knowledge you have gained in studying God's word to share the truth to whomever you can, hoping for a positive result. Encourage other believers and set an example in your own behavior and attitude. Avoid becoming disruptive or argumentative, either with the church leadership or with others in the congregation. Seek to correct your leaders in appropriate ways, as you have done, and always speak the truth in love.
Equally importantly, remember that the Lord has ordained the nature of these last days, so we shouldn't be surprised when our efforts to correct men like your pastor ultimately fail. The word tells us that though God will preserve a remnant, the majority of the Church – including many leaders – will succumb to the coming apostasy. Knowing this truth, we must temper our expectations as we confront evil men in the church.
Finally, do not make it your goal to “fix" a certain church congregation. Rather, make your goal serving the body of Christ universal. When you look past the walls of your local congregation, you will find a world of believers waiting to be taught, encouraged, inspired and led into obedience to Christ. Remember Jesus’ words:
As you work to serve the Lord, don’t expect to encounter a receptive audience at every stop. When you inevitably encounter resistance to the word of God, don’t beat your head against that closed door. Move on looking for the open doors God has prepared for you elsewhere. This is the biblical form of ministry.
By maintaining an informed, biblical perspective on what success looks like in these last days, you guard yourself against disappointments and discouragement. Consider the example of Elijah, who expressed frustration over a lack of revival during a time of apostasy in his day. When Elijah complained to the Lord, God rebuked Elijah, saying:
While Elijah was expecting the Lord to work great revival within Israel as a result of Elijah’s ministry, the Lord explained to Elijah on the mountain that His purposes were very different. The Lord intended to work quietly, in the background, preserving only a remnant in Israel rather than reviving the whole of Israel. Elijah had set his heart on an unrealistic result, because Elijah hadn't considered what God had revealed concerning the nature of the days in which he lived.
(You can learn more by listening to Pastor Armstrong preach from 1Kings 19 in our lesson on Elijah's Disappointment.)
Likewise today, we know from scripture that the church of the last days will be an apostate church. The Lord has told us that in the last days, the church would have only a remnant of believers devoted to His word (like you), therefore He is unlikely to bring revival even as a result of our prayers and efforts. Knowing this truth from scripture, we are to find contentment in the Lord’s purposes, choosing to work with Him rather than against Him, while tempering our expectations for success.
Therefore, search for the open doors where you can minister to the remnant, and perhaps you will be able to rescue a few more of your brothers and sisters along the way. Consider starting a small study group in your home or a prayer group or some other personal ministry to teach, train, encourage and lead believers to know and obey the word of God.
Perhaps you will find a church home that upholds the word of God and lives according to it, but you should also be prepared for the possibility that you won’t. Regardless, every Christian is called to serve the Lord’s people and witness to His truth, and this calling doesn’t depend on working within a formal church structure (i.e., a local congregation meeting in a certain building). Such support is helpful, of course, but it can also become an encumbrance, as you have discovered.
We are encouraged to know the Lord is feeding you through our teaching, and we trust you will have an opportunity to share our resources with others who are desperate to discover truth and sincerity in their Christian walk. We believe ministries like VBVMI are a part of God’s provision for believers, who have been abandoned and marginalized by corrupt and apostate local churches. Your experience is further confirmation of our belief.