Why I Asked People To Leave Our Church!

So last Sunday I did something that brought me some very quizzical looks from a lot of people. Last Sunday I brought Pastor Dan O’Leary up on stage with me during all 4 of our Sunday services at True North. During announcements, I told our congregation that many of them needed to pray about maybe leaving our church to join Dan in what he’s doing at Arise Community Church.

If you weren’t there, Arise is a brand new church launching this fall in the Mt. Sinai – Rocky Point area. They had their first preview service last week and 80 people showed up!!!

Anyway, it was a strange thing to say. Pastors are known for being a territorial bunch, protective of their flock and wary of anyone who might in any way decrease their attendance numbers. So why am I encouraging people to leave True North and check out Arise?

Two reasons: 1- Because the Kingdom of God on Long Island is bigger than any one church. It’s going to take DOZENS of healthy churches. Maybe hundreds – to make an impact here. And 2- Because a good example was set for me by another Long Island pastor and I’m trying to follow his lead. His name is Gary Zarlengo. He’s the lead guy over at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle.

Pastor Gary and I couldn’t be more different. If by some strange turn of events we ended up as roommates, we’d be like the Odd Couple. He’s from a Pentecostal background; my heritage is very conservative. Gary’s church is very majestic – some would say ‘traditional.’ True North’s oldest traditions haven’t had their 6th birthday yet. Gary looks great in a suit and tie; I look like a doofus. You get it.

But Pastor Gary has been a friend to me during some very tumultuous times my life. He had my back and stood by me when I was struggling and I’ve never heard him say a judgmental thing in my life. On the day that our church opened its doors at our new facility, by the middle of the afternoon I had 6 emails in my inbox telling me that Pastor Gary had not only prayed for us that day, but had stopped the whole service and told everybody there what was happening and that the church lifted up a shout of joy on our behalf!!

On more occasions than one, when asking a new family how they heard about us, I’ve heard the words “Pastor Gary at Smithtown said your church would be a good fit for us.”

From what I’ve been told, that kinda thing would NEVER have happened on Long Island 20 years ago.

Gary is a Kingdom guy. He knows that the kingdom isn’t about earthly things. It’s not territory and branding. It’s not marketing and real estate. It’s not about how many people come to this church vs. that one. Gary knows what I hope to fully grasp someday – that the Kingdom of God is ALL about His glory. He is a living example of the phrase “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

So I told people they needed to leave our church because it’s the Kingdom-minded thing to do. Gary set a good example for me and I intend to follow up. When I saw the staff of Arise in our lobby after church and they expressed their gratitude to me, I reminded them that someday they would have a huge ministry and that eventually some struggling young pastor would need a hand. I hope all churches on Long Island can fully learn this lesson, including ours: That we must never see another church or another pastor as competition, but as co-worker and partners in a Kingdom endeavor that is going to take believers of all stripes and all types to complete.

Can a spiritual awakening come to Long Island? Yeah. It can. And we may just get to see it in our lifetime!!!

Hasta. Thanks for reading.


Pastor Bert, My heart is swelled with joy that you are taken the posture of Kingdom business. I’m from LI, in fact my daughter Cecilia and son-in-law Dan are part of your congregation. I’ve been sharing with the Pastors in PA what you just did and how God is moving in your mist and LI. We serve an awesome God. May God continue to bless you and True North and all the churches on LI., the US and abroad. Keep up the good work! God Bless You. Joan Suhovsky

Bert says:

Wow! Looks like this post touched a nerve.

Thanks for all the encouraging words, and for playing the part He’s given you to play in His amazing story!!

Jeff K says:

“that kinda thing would NEVER have happened on Long Island 20 years ago.” I think there weren’t enough churches 20 years ago!

But, in all seriousness….great post! May the Kingdom of God spread, and may a GREAT New Great Awakening come to this country. Praise God from whom all blessings flow, and let us pray & fast for those blessings to come!

On my first visit to an SGT Sunday service, Pastor Zarlengo prayed for “all the churches on Long Island adn around the world.” Smithtown’s global view of the kingdom was inspiring, as is True North’s.

Anon says:

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems the theme you mention more than once is the face that you did this because someone else did it for you. You mention a man, perhaps a good man, maybe even a great man, but a man nonetheless.

And perhaps it’s me, and my cynical world views, but shouldn’t a church be about God and Christ? Shouldn’t you have done this for Jesus and His cause?

I agree; it’s about a Kingdom, not about a territory. But don’t do it to “pay it forward.”

Do it because Christianity isn’t a church, and it isn’t a building, and it’s not someplace you go on Sunday to show support for a person or meet you friends. It isn’t a religion, it’s a way of a life, it’s the very fact of reality that exists in our world. It’s a about a common belief, about a Creator who sent his Son to die on the cross for the wicked, corrupt sins of man. Sins like pride and selfishness.

It’s above us, our church, and where we spend our Sundays whether they’re in a church or a bar or wherever. It’s not a service, it’s not an allegiance to someone, and it’s not a petty argument over whether Jesus every Sunday turns his body into crackers or not. Don’t just check out Arise, support a fellow church in spreading the word of Christ as long as their motives are pure, regardless of the church, who runs it, or who attends it. If another gathering of true Christians exist, support it for ANY reason at all, HOWEVER you can.

Ron says:

Bert, Nice message. I was there and I heard you say that some people needed to think about joining Arise. Truth is, I wasn’t surprised. In the less than two years that I have been a member of True North, I have heard you say something similar on one than more occasion. I also remember you saying that morning that for some, it would really help in their spiritual journey to be part of something on the ground floor (paraphrasing), and that the True North staff was so energized by starting a church from it’s inception. If someone gets extra inspiration from it, then it’s all good! God Bless Dan and all the good folks of Arise. And God Bless whomever hears the call to follow that road.

Michele says:

Awesome well spoken article. You truly have the heart of a revivalist.
Yes, Lord bring revival to LI in our lifetime!!!!

vickie naekel says:

Bert- you are awesome and a true man of God. For years pastors have been territorial! I always thought that was odd. It didnt feel right. And by the way, I visited Island Christian Church on Easter Sunday. I met the pastor afterwards and he asked me how I heard about their church. I told him, “Pastor Bert Crabbe had Island Christian Church on his status.” He smiled and spoke very well about you. I am so grateful for you because going to True North in PJS brought me back to church. I had a bad taste in my mouth from years ago because of “territorial pastors”. Thank you.

Lesley says:

not a doofus. (and, no, I didn’t miss the point here – it’s awesome to hide and watch what God is doing – imagine everyone finding the perfect (fit) church and getting on with the business of God!)

Jonathan Morrison says:

Bert! very good! it is great to see that you are following in that lead! all great points in this Blog post!

Dan O'Leary says:

By the way, speaking of the Kingdom, 10 people responded to an invitation to “Come Home” to Jesus during the message, and at least 3 of those 10 were first timers. Among them was the owner of the building! GET OUT OF HERE! So yeah, THE KINGDOM IS GROWING!!!

Laura Weitzenberg says:

You are truly one of the most unselfish people I know. You inspire so many just by being you. Thank you so much.

Dan O'Leary says:

I still think you’re nuts!

Terry Foss says:

Well said Bert! Praying for y’all!

Helen says:

I’ve known you for many years and I am continually blessed by your blogs, postings, and tweets…Your so dead on. Expanding the Kingdom of believers and glorifying the Risen Lord is what we are called to do as believers. Matthew 28:19 Selfishness and being territotial with your flock only stunts the growth of the Church as a whole. Kudos to you, once again my friend for hitting the nail on the head. Also, as someone who attended Arise on easter Sunday, I can honestly say that God was smiling upon the Service, it was amazing! Continued blessings to True North and Arise Community Churches!

Gina McIlveen says:

Bert, I pray for you and Jen every day and God is doing a mighty work through you. I was a little disappointed Good Friday when you announced we couldn’t have our “traditional” service. But I want to thank you for being obedient to God’s prompting. The service was a blessing to me and to those I brought that night. Continue seeking His face in all you do. Thanks again.

By the way have you seen Francis Chan’s series Basic?

Brian McGee says:

So exciting and inspiring! I love this insight and devotion to actions that are covered in love and point to Christ and his Glory!