When They Should Go

People leave churches for any number of baby or sinful reasons. But there’s a flipside. Sometimes the church's leaders need to quickly get on the same page to correct a person and possibly remove him from the church. Certainly, leaders must patiently work with people in their sin. The universal church is a family, of course, and you can’t really leave your family. So you try to work it out. But, as is true in earthly families, there are times when a son or daughter needs to hear: You can’t live here and behave this way. When you’re ready to change, then we’ll welcome you back. 

It’s really about church discipline. The Lord installed church discipline to keep sin from the church (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:3); cleanse sin in the church (1 Corinthians 5); and restore sinning saints (Galatians 6:1).

What kinds of sin in the church demands immediate action and which can be placed on a slower burn? I don’t claim the below list is exhaustive, but it may serve as a slate for discussion and further thought.

Urgent Now (demands a strong, immediate correction). It’s when someone:

• intentionally twists the Scriptures to hurt the church, as in 2 Peter 3:16-17;

• clings to an obviously sinful relationship, as in 1 Corinthians 5;

• gives money, but then demands a level of authority as payback;

• intentionally disrupts a worship service;

• installs himself as first in importance and abuses others, as in 3 John 9-10;

• obviously flaunts a decision or a warning from the elders;

• obviously abuses people of the church.

Urgent Soon (calls for a more patient correction). It’s when someone:

• teaches a strange doctrine, as in 1 Timothy 1:3-4;

• complains that the preacher preaches from the Bible too much;

• makes a charge against an elder without verification, as in 1 Timothy 5:19;

• teaches others to obey unbiblical requirements, as in 1 Timothy 4:1-5;

• pits one leader against another leader, as in 1 Corinthians 3;

• causes divisions in the church, as in Romans 16:17-18 and Titus 3:10;

• harshly judges others’ freedom, as in Romans 14;

• parades his freedom and leads others to stumble into sin, as in Romans 14;

• participates in a pattern of nasty, destructive criticism;

• picks fights with the pastor or other leaders;

• demands—rather than aspires to—a position of authority and responsibility;

• ridicules those in positions of authority and responsibility.