Archive for the ‘false teaching’ Tag

Limiting Fellowship   Leave a comment

I believe, because I have seen it work, that limited fellowship should be extended to brethren who have drifted into the kinds of error we’ve been discussing.

What do I mean by limited fellowship?

In some instances the local churches these people are members of should discipline them and, if necessary, even withdraw fellowship from them. This is not done very often and, sadly, the congregations themselves frequently are led into the errors of these individuals.

But what can the larger Christian community do when a church will not discipline its wayward minister? Though formal withdrawal of fellowship is principally a congregational matter, fellowship extends further than the local church, so limitation of fellowship can also go beyond the local church.

When the Southern Baptist Convention voted to disfellowship New Heart Community Church it was withdrawing its financial support and disallowing its delegates to vote in the convention. While Pastor Danny Cortez had a point about churches that allowed their pastors to officiate at remarriages after non-permitted divorces, he had the Godly instruction backwards. We are not to embrace such immorality, but discipline it when it occurs in the churches. If churches would cease to support teachers who go into error, some of the rogues might be brought to repentance. Certainly their influence could be curtailed.

My husband Brad is a recovering alcoholic who will point out that Alcoholics Anonymous is not anonymous for the drinking drunk. If you’re not involved in AA, you may not realize that. If you’re off the wagon, they do not protect your anonymity. They will tell your pastor, your wife, your boss that you need help. They will call the cops if you’re driving drunk. It is only when you are sober that they will refuse to even share that they know you.

Churches really need to remember that. AA got it from us, by the way. Bill W. talked about it in his book. Yet, these days, when Christians face unsound teaching from the pulpit or Christian pen or open immorality in a church, we all get quiet and pretend it’s not happening. A form of discipline can be exercised by making the brotherhood aware of the sinful situation.

Christians have a right to know where a teacher or preacher stands on fundamental issues before they use his services. Some brethren complain about the “gossip journals” that are devoted exclusively to digging up church dirt and sometimes that’s justified, but more often than not, there’d be no muckraking if there was no muck.

If more responsible brethren would muster the courage to kindly and forcefully chastise erring teachers, there would be no need for the world to take Christians to task for our hypocrisy.

If Christian schools, churches, and journals would cease to use men and women who are openly known to advocate radical ideas or cause division, it would send a message. A preacher with no audience, or a writer with no readers, doesn’t have nearly the power of one who is being listened to.

This is not a call for head-hunting. We should not withdraw from every Christian who may disagree with us regarding various points of Bible interpretation. That’s a fanatical approach that has fragmented churches and made Christianity a reproach before an unbelieving world. But it is equally foolish to shut one’s eyes to blatant false teaching that undermines the spiritual and moral foundations of the churches. When the Bible says stay away from certain doctrinal aberrations, we should.

Church discipline needs to be exercised in love, but love needs to be tough. Discipline doesn’t need to be abusive, but it does need to interrupt the influence of evil coming from supposedly Christian pulpits and pens in the hope that it might lead to repentance or that the false teachers will at least be identified as false and no longer considered Christians.

If the churches truly want to be relevant in a sinful world, we need to start by taking the logs out of our own eyes before we try to deal with the dirt in the eyes of non-Christians.

Shunned   Leave a comment

Shunning is the English translation of the German word the Amish use for disfellowship. It sounds harsh — and the way the Amish do it can be very, very harsh — but there is a reason a church body might consider it. The New Testament teaches that certain spiritual conditions can require a limitation of fellowship as a part of church discipline. The collective teaching of the New Testament regarding church discipline clearly make the case for what I’m talking about.

First, “discipline” covers a wide range — from simple “teaching” to the ultimate “withdrawal of fellowship.” This means it may be administered by degrees, in keeping with the needs of the individual.

Examples are always nice, right?

An impenitent drunk, abusive to his family, disruptive of social fellowship, quickly sliding toward rock bottom may need to be disfellowshipped formally (1 Corinthians 5:11). I know someone this happened to and it made the bottom come a lot quicker and probably saved his life. Conversely, another person with a drinking problem who is sincerely struggling to conquer it, may not need withdrawal but may need to be restricted in class teaching or serving in a public capacity. Both are a form of disfellowship, but they vary in degrees.

It’s not, nor should it be, one size fits all. Church discipline can take various forms. Most Christians, and most churches, understand this. My objection is that we don’t do this very often anymore and we don’t do the withdrawal method at all.

The act of withdrawal is a congregational process which takes place in the public assembly of the local church (1 Corinthians 5:4). This bothers a lot of people. How dare you air someone’s “private business” in public!

I beg to differ. There is a reason baptism is done in public. Jesus said “If you are ashamed of Me before men, I will be ashamed of you in Heaven” Our Christian lives start with a public acknowledgment of our faith through the act of profession and faith. Why do we assume that our struggles are thereafter private?

Beyond that, it needs to be understood that fellowship certainly can extend beyond the borders of a local congregation. The notion that a rogue brother may not be chastised beyond the boundaries of the local church without that church’s “autonomy” being violated is foreign to Biblical truth. Paul “judged” the fornicating brother at Corinth from Ephesus, hundreds of miles away (1 Corinthians 5:3; 16:8). How did Paul know about it? Someone from Corinth communicated it to him.

Disfellowship should not be taken lightly and because we don’t like someone in the congregation. The New Testament provides guidelines for who may be restricted and why.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul clearly stated that unrepentant immoral persons (fornicators, drunkards, and extortionists) are worthy of church discipline. Such characters are to be “delivered unto Satan” (5:5), or “put away” (5:13), for their own soul’s sake (5:5), and for the protection of the church (5:6-7). The church of today is woefully remiss in this duty.

Those who “fall away” (Luke 8:13) or who “depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1) were subject to some degree of discipline in the early churches. Formal withdrawal of fellowship may not be appropriate for a  newborn Christian who almost immediately leaves the faith, because that person may not even understand the significance of the act, but for those who have matured somewhat, and then depart, discipline surely should be exercised (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).

The New Testament instructs us to “turn away from” those who teach divisive doctrines contrary to apostolic truth (Romans 16:17). A heretic, after proper admonition, should be rejected (Titus 3:10).

Hymenaeus and Alexander made “shipwreck of the faith,” and Paul “delivered them unto Satan”, meaning he severed fellowship with them (1 Corinthians 5:5) that they might be taught not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

But how do we, who are not Jesus and who are so far from the 1st century Christian experience, to determine which teachings are significantly erroneous to warrant disciplinary action? When brethren hold opposite viewpoints on various points of Bible interpretation, quite obviously someone is in error, but a simple question is —

Does that error pose a threat to the eternal welfare of others.


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