Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Q&A - When Do You Ask Someone to Leave the Church?



Hi Pete! So, when is it ok to ask a member, who causes literal bedlam in a church, to leave? And, yes, all the obvious has been done (counseling, meetings, forgiveness with accountability, etc) - Question from Chris Ross.

What an absolute cracker of a question!

I'll be frank to start with. I would first ask the question, of whether this issue needs a response down the lines of casting out the enemy, rather than just good management and pastoral care initiatives. How often in churches we try and wrestle with principalities and powers of this world with nice HR practices, good pastoral care and the like. I'm not trying to stir the pot, I'm just wondering whether this is a spiritual problem, that needs a spiritual answer.

In Matthew 18:15-17 we read of the passage where Jesus speaks of a brother sinning against you. We know the remedy Jesus offers is to firstly go and speak with the person about the sin. Secondly, if they fail to listen, then take a couple of people with you and speak with the person. If they still fail to listen, then, tell it to the church. If the person fails to listen even though, then treat them like an unbeliever. Jesus offers us some advice on conflict resolution.

We tend to fall short at point three. These are the words of Jesus, yet some many Pastors/Leaders fail to follow through with step three. I remember an example of a church, where the minister (who had been leading the Baptist church for the last 2-3 years), was coping a heap of slander, disobedience, back-biting and dissension from someone on his leadership team. He followed through with step one and two. He took people with him to discuss with the leader the issues at hand. At this meeting, apparently, the angry, divisive person threatened to leave the leadership team and the church. Now, another local Pastor met with the Pastor a few days later and they discussed what was happening. He suggested to follow through with step three, that is, on Sunday morning, stand up and say, 'On behalf of the ________ church, we'd like to announce the resignation of ____________ from the leadership team of our church. We'd like to thank him for his tireless work over the years, and here is a gift to show our appreciation. During the week, _________ offered his resignation from the leadership team, and so we accept that resignation and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.' 

What happened next? Well, the Pastor did not follow through with this, and instead 6 months later, HE was the one who had moved on. Disappointing.

We must balance the need for pastoral ministry, with strong leadership that will not let Satan send our churches away from the mission they are intended to fulfill. A leader must keep the church on course and sometimes this means making the tough call.

I have to say, regrettably, I witness a lot of churches who are content in their dysfunction, because the leader is unwilling to make the tough call. If the person is very clearly damaging the life of the church, what is more important: the mission of the church, or the potential fall-out from a difficult person?

Titus 3:10 captures this, 'Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.'  
    
I hope you may find these comments helpful. I'm sure you will continue to offer this situation and others up to God in prayer, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God bless,

Pete.

See also: Mark 1:21-28 - Jesus drives out an evil spirit
James 1:1-18 - Facing Trials

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