What defines a church? What is a church and what isn’t a church? We have had this discussion a lot when it comes to church growth and church planting. There are definitely some some distinctives that exist, or at least should in the church. Things we welcome, things we tolerate and some things we shouldn’t. In some ways, we have forgotten which things to tolerate and what to not tolerate. I want to share today what I see in scripture that we shouldn’t tolerate.
First, sexual immorality. This one is an easy and obvious one, cause Paul said to throw the sexual immoral out. I Corinthians chapter 5:5 says the man who was in some immorality (serious stuff too) was to be delivered to Satan. Tossed out. Paul says that we don’t toss out the lost who are sexually immoral, but if someone takes the name “Christian” and is sexually immoral, they gotta go. This also works for the greedy, swindlers, idolitors, revilers, and drunkards. They gotta go.
People who cause division and stir up people against others. Paul hits this one in the letter to the Corinthians, those who are of “Paul, Apollos, etc”. We have people today who follow teachers and theologies and ideologies and all sorts of stuff. They divide and separate and cause issues. We can disagree on theology on a blog, but in the church we need to stop the divisions. People may disagree, but when the disagreeing people form groups and begin a war, it has to stop. If the people cause division won’t stop, it’s time for them to go.
People who teach and lead out of pride and ego. This one is more subtle, but it causes some issues. Those who lead out of pride will cause a few things to happen. First, they are often placed on a pedestal and can become an idol to the church. They create divisions, and their teachings often glorify the teacher and not Christ. They cause some serious pain in the church, and I am sure many of you can attest to this. Don’t let them teach, don’t let them lead.
The Pastor who is a bully. Pastor means shepherd. A shepherd’s job is to take care of the flock. A bully pastor does not take care of the flock, he takes care of himself. A pastor who hurts people to get his way is not leading the flock, he is driving them towards a ledge. He will end up driving good people away. Dictatorships lead to revolution, and you don’t want a civil war in your church. If your pastor is a selfish bully, get him out. He has no business in the pulpit anyway.
Now, if your people, your leaders or your pastor stumble, there is often chance for repentance and restoration. Aside from the issues like immorality, greed and theft, bullies or ego maniacs, there can be repentance and restoration. For the member, there can be mistakes made and forgiveness offered. There are times even in sexual immorality where forgiveness is demonstrated by our Lord. He forgave and did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Perhaps we should seriously look at that, and see how restoration is possible when the person agrees to repent and reform.
We need to be a people of forgiveness for mistakes, but a people who will not tolerate a lifestyle of unrepentant sin. Immorality, greed, pride, division, malice and destruction cannot be allowed to run rampant in our churches. Perhaps we have given in a little too much and allowed those who profess Christ to remain in the church. After all, we think they are better off with us, but Paul told the Corinthian church to, to paraphrase, throw that guy out. Perhaps we would do well to follow the Biblical instruction.