Note: This is a bit longer than normal, but worth the read. Read it to the end, you'll be glad you did. It represents how we do things and is very relevant to us.
QUESTION: If someone creates trouble in a church, commits sin in the process, (such as lies, disunity, gossip, division, disloyalty, backbiting, anonymous letters, fictitious e-mails, betrayal, and even theft), then leaves the church loudly, should that person be allowed to come back to that church without acknowledging their sin and seeking forgiveness?
Absolutely not. The scriptures bear this out.
Some good-hearted (and maybe naive) Christians happen to believe that if a person leaves a church the main goal of that church is to win the person back at any cost, and any offence they may have committed is to be overlooked simply because the person desires to return. If such an offender is allowed to come back under those conditions, all the church has done is simply spread a thin Christian glaze of false grace on a very bad situation because the offense has not be dealt with in a mature, Biblical manner. Sinful behavior (such as disunity, gossip, and making trouble in the church) must be confronted so that genuine repentance and healing can take place - and it must never be swept under the carpet. Ever.
When a person is willing to destroy a church to get their way, then a church is better off without that person – and it doesn’t matter who it is! Even if it is the little old lady at the end of the street who bakes you chocolate chip cookies – if she is willing to lie and damage the church just to get her way, then that church is better off without her! This is not a game. Eternal souls hang in the balance. This is God’s kingdom and heaven and hell are at stake.
In the past, we’ve had people blow up and make such a scene, then leave the church. Then about twelve months later they just come back as if nothing ever happened. You should see the gushing - there are hugs & kisses and accolades of “glad to have you back,” and “we’ve missed you,” and “it’s good to have you back home.” But it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. Why? For the simple reason that the previous offence was not discussed and dealt with (but rather ignored) – and the person was led to believe they got away with it.
The reason troublemakers misbehave in church is because some church in their past has groomed them to act that way. They acted ugly, the church leadership allowed them to get away with it, (which leads to reinforcement of bad behavior), then when they change churches they repeat the same ugly cycle at their next church. At PCC we don’t play that game. This is a New Testament church and we use a Biblical paradigm to handle such situations. The buck stops here.
For the record: Yes, anyone is allowed back…. on the condition that they come back Biblically. You have to face the music if you want to come back here.
Take note of the following passages for conflict resolution in a New Testament church:
- Here we see that forgiveness is to be extended to an offender only upon the condition that they acknowledge their transgression. God places the onus (obligation) upon both the offender and the offened. One party must do the rebuking, the other party does the repenting.
I Timothy 5:20 (NIV) Those who sin are to be REBUKED PUBLICLY, so that the others may take warning.
- This passage shows us that the sins of an unrepentant person are to be brought out into the open for all to see! So much for sweeping it under the carpet and pretending like it didn’t happen.
Matthew 18:15-18 (KJV) 15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: IF HE SHALL HEAR THEE, thou hast GAINED THY BROTHER. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, TELL IT TO THE CHURCH: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
- Here we see that restoration of fellowship between believers (or in a church family) is completely dependent upon the transgressor acknowledging his/her sin.
- We also see that the sins of unrepentant person are to be told to the church. Yikes!
- Furthermore, an unrepentant person is to be written off as a heathen.
- BTW, every member of PCC has signed a membership covenant agreeing to settle their disputes according to this passage – and we hold people to this New Testament standard.
Let me say it again. Anyone is allowed back… on the condition they come back Biblically. You have to face the music. Not only does such a person have to confess their sins to God, but also to the people they offended – and this might require a group meeting.
This may not set well with everyone. Doesn’t matter; this is Biblical. Besides, the good people of PCC who love unity and want to see their church preserved by New Testament Biblical standards, fully understand how important this really is. They live it.
You know somebody? Tell them to read this blog.