I have been in the Reformed world for about 15 years now. That is not really long, but it is long enough to get a general lay of the land. During that time I have seen various men and women leave Reformed churches. Sometimes they move to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Other times they head for a more vanilla, antinomian, evangelical church. And sometimes they have left the faith altogether. Of course, this is anecdotal, but several things have stuck out about these conversions:
1. They believe there is an ideal church that can be reached.
They would not say it this way, of course. They would admit that no church is perfect. But the way they function says otherwise. Change must occur. If we just added incense or robes or choruses or women deacons or hour long sermons or… fill in the blank. They are not satisfied with where they are at or where their church is at. These fires are often stoked by ministers, either present or on the web, who are constantly encouraging dramatic change.
2. They move through different phases/movements quickly.
They go from this to this to this. Even if they stay within a denomination or stay at a church they are often changing sides quickly. One week this author is the most important guy to read. The next week it is someone else. They rarely dig deep. They do not have time to examine and cross examine the theological issues. I was told by one person they had spent two weeks studying a catechism and therefore they had it down. There are some well-known ministers who have converted. These could have the training necessary to understand the Reformed faith. But most I know who have left rarely understood the breadth and depth of Reformed teaching.
3. A woman is almost always behind it, either wife, mother, or even daughter.
The man might stand up and declare the change, but if you dig deep enough the wife is usually the one leading the charge. I have seen daughters move dads, wives move husbands, and mothers move whole families to Roman Catholicism. It was often the woman who brought the family to the Reformed faith to begin with. She read a book or an article and now the whole family must “think seriously” about leaving the local Arminian church.
4. They either become official leaders or function as unofficial leaders.
If you believe #1 above this is a natural outcome. The church needs to change. These leaders are not changing fast enough. Therefore I must either lead or push for change from the pews. It is amazing how quickly some of these people suggest change. I had a family recommend we do grape juice instead of wine on their second visit. They left and I was glad.
5. Finally and most importantly they have not adequately dealt with their sin.
They are constantly trying to atone for something. This is most obvious in conversions to Roman Catholicism. But anxious souls are always guilty souls. And there are plenty of anxious souls, who never feel clean or at rest, in the pews of Reformed churches. They tend to attach themselves to movements that they use as cover for their guilt. I know a woman whose sin drove her to protest abortion and that became a cause for her and her way of atoning. She did not repent and rest in Christ. She protested. These people are the living, breathing definition of works righteousness. They must save themselves. Again they would say, “I am saved by grace alone. I do not trust in my works.” But their life betrays them.
What are we to do about this? Is there a way to prevent it? I hope to address those issues next time.