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KICKED OUT OF CHURCH?

by Jacques More

This is a discussion of the biblical way to ask someone to leave a church and related matters. In particular I wish to highlight the case of those asked to leave wrongly. I am referring to being asked to leave a fellowship or local congregation, a regular gathering of believers recognised and understood as a church. I say this because, whilst you are a believer, you cannot 'leave' the Church. That would be a discussion about leaving your faith or even losing your salvation. The full manifestation of the local Church comprises of all the Christian believers in a particular area or region. When Paul advocated to Titus:


. . . appoint elders in every city . . .

Titus 1:5


He was not only advocating team leadership of the local church, since at the time there was only one church per city, but his words indicate the view that there is only one complete body of Christians in any one locale. But I digress.


In the New Testament Jesus is the first to mention the removal of a brother from the midst. He begins by mentioning the initial steps required for correction of an offence. To talk privately with the one concerned.


. . . if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

Matthew 18:15

This is echoed by James and Paul,


Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:19-20


Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Galatians 6:1


At this point, and indeed throughout the process, the authority to use this approach and questioning is irrespective of whether one is in leadership or not. A sheep and an under-shepherd are both human and susceptible to making mistakes or being deceived. Jesus is the only Shepherd who is always right.

Jesus then outlines the next step in the event that the need arises to go further.

But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'

Matthew 18:16


Paul also suggests bringing in someone else rather than going to outside sources: the context of his remark involves mention that it is not appropriate for believers to involve the law - the Police and the Law Courts - when personal offence is understood to have occurred from another believer.


Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?

But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

Now therefore, it is an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. . .

1 Corinthians 6:5-7


So the next stage following a private approach and clear refusal to communicate properly, a refusal to listen, since Jesus said "if he will not hear", is to then involve fellow believers who are respected and trusted by both parties: "a wise man among you" as Paul put it. Jesus instructs that there be more than one at this next stage in preparation for the final stage. If your aim is to gain your brother though (as Paul and James discuss: and this should always be), then the less the number of others are involved the better.

But, if the person is not interested in being in clean fellowship with his fellow Christians, if at this time also he "refuses to hear", then the next stage applies. It is in that setting that a minimum of 2 witnesses shows its value so the church knows there is no plot or conspiracy, but honest reporting going on. It is important that these witnesses are not 'nodding donkeys' of the leadership, but to accurately and independently report matters.

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:17


Here is the first mention of the offender being treated like a non-believer. To be asked to leave effectively.


Hearing both sides

It is of note that at every stage both parties have a full opportunity to give a full defence or able to share their perspective of things. If this opportunity is denied, the parties are not following the biblical method. Any allusion that one has acted properly without a defence being heard by all and prior to any judgment is false.


Continuing contact

It is also of note that this departure in context of Jesus' practise does not mean future contacts or communication with the departing party should cease. They are not to be incommunicado: deprived of contact with others. We know this because Jesus is reported as being,


. . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners . . .

Matthew 11:19


Who does not talk with a friend as occasion arises?

Remember, Jesus said they are to be treated as 'a heathen and a tax collector' and Jesus treated tax collectors as friends.

Paul goes even further and says that a person who has been asked to leave properly by being unrepentant of some sin for example - not because of a mistake, but because of a persistent sin - should be welcomed back after a time if they are now repentant.


This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8 (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 for the original offence)


The setting in which this person was asked to leave also involved the whole church: ". . . when you are gathered together . . ." (1 Corinthians 5:4), so that we are left with no doubt in scripture that believers are to be given a full opportunity to share their side of events before judged and asked to leave. So not only is someone to be heard to share their side of things, but if they are in the wrong and leave, and the offence is no longer an issue, they are then to be welcomed back.


Doing this in public during a full gathering is of value in that it shows the offender is dealt with fairly and honestly. It serves as a warning to others tempted to offend similarly. Also leaders are not the final authority, but the mind of Christ revealed in the assembly. This final safeguard helps encourage proper exchange of views well in advance of such a final stage.


If the practise has not involved genuine interaction of both sides and full final representation before the whole church gathering to recognise openly the matter in hand, there are a number of implications for the person asked to leave as well as for the folks remaining.


For the person made to leave wrongly

For the person made to leave, who feels their side was not heard, and that really they should not be out of fellowship, there are 2 main things to consider. First is to forgive and let God do the correcting work (if the leaders were unwilling to talk when you were in fellowship, they are not likely to be as helpful now). Paul says this.


Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written,

"Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.

"Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:19-21


Let your attitude be that, if you hear sad news about them, you too are sad with them.

The second thing to consider is that Jesus said those who followed Him might be kicked out of fellowship. And by that He meant wrongly kicked out.

They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

John 16:2


The word 'synagogue' is the same as the local gathering place of believers: Jesus foretold that there would be occasions when His followers would be kicked out wrongly. He was referring not just to how the Jews would treat Christians, but also how deceived believers would treat their fellow Christians (see Acts 20:29-30 and Paul's warning to the elders at Ephesus and how some of them would draw away…). In the middle of all this He also encourages those wronged by saying,


Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven…

Matthew 5:11-12


How can you tell if your church has behaved wrongly?

Simple, if someone has been asked to leave and you have not heard their side of the story, then you automatically know they were not asked to leave in a biblical fashion.

Further, if you are told not to communicate with that person, you also know this is wrong.


Of course, I am referring to situations where someone has been 'asked' to leave. The vast majority of today's churches have folk leaving by 'voting with their feet'. Paradoxically those who would rather work things through and build for Jesus, are often the ones made to leave wrongly because they do not fit the man made mould imposed on them and yet stay until forced to go. Their desire is to talk and work things through together rather than leave. If they are not heard, then it is the insecurity of the leadership being revealed when they force or 'arrange' a departure.


There will have been a period of isolation of the individual concerned preceding such an act of removal and to help identify these I have written my article Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Further if you are aware of these things, but do not see the root cause for the problems, you may find my article Making an idol helpful in giving a pointer towards the single most important factor that diverts attention from Jesus and the kingdom within the fellowship or church: What is the ongoing entry point for the enemy? This could be a doctrine or a 'wisdom' that rules over everything: this will usually appear good, but the enemy uses the good to keep us from the best and it is only by the fruits that these are identified. See also my article Counselling or, what? It shows an example of 'a wisdom' that has diverted believers from Jesus and His ways.


What now?

If you are in a fellowship where questions cannot be asked honestly and you see those who do being isolated, be aware that this is a classic characteristic of a cult. If someone seeks to talk matters over but is instead shunned, then you know the ones desiring to talk are in the right place - because that is always God's place. For He said,


"Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . .

Isaiah 1:18


God is in the talking business, promoting partnership, not a controlling enterprise. Jesus leads His sheep; He does not drive them. He is into teaching and demonstrating by example, not into lording it over and manipulating others. Let us all learn from this. God is lowly of heart and as such Jesus mentioned,


. . . I am gentle and lowly in heart . . .

Matthew 11:29


So let's not deceive ourselves by being proud of our positions. Listening to the other guy is a sign of a humble heart: see my article Pride is a killer.


Then, if, we are wanting to follow Jesus, and we are having fair dialogue, there need never be a cause for separating except under His instruction and purpose. Anything else is of the flesh since Paul said the works of the flesh includes factions (Galatians 5:19-21). The eternal rebel, the Devil, loves factions and division, whilst the Lord loves that we relate together and build His kingdom by each playing our part in His Body. Jesus is the Head and He is the One,


. . . from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share . . .

Ephesians 4:16a

And thus,

. . . causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:16b



I recommend reading the word of prophecy given to Tony Black and entitled Together by Wise Counsel. It is also the final chapter of the booklet Revival - The Battleplan.


Ref. M.021

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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