not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins
Hebrews 10:25-26 (ESV)
Neglecting the meetings of the church is a sin and church discipline is to be used in the case of unrepentant sin. Church discipline not only restores wayward sheep, but also removes unbelievers from the church and protects the corporate witness of the local church. If a member is not attending, it is likely that the elders would not know if the member is living in sin and the member becomes a liability to the church’s corporate testimony. Failing to enact church discipline for non-attenders also allows members the option to quit attending to escape discipline for other sins.
When a member moves away without telling their church family, it should not be a surprise to them that their church family is concerned. Local church membership provides us with the blessing of accountability. It would be wrong for us to forsake a member of the church and end our relationship of accountability with them simply because they have left the church. In fact, this is the time accountability is most important.
This Biblical position does raise a couple ecclesiastical issues that should be part of the local church’s ministry process:
- The church’s position on discipline should be made known to the members before they enter into the covenantal relationship of church membership so that expectations are clear from the beginning. Consider adapting Restoring Those Who Fall for this purpose.
- An accountability process must be clear to ensure that a member becomes a part of another Biblical church before they are released from membership.
Restoring Those Who Fall is the position statement of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City on church discipline. This position statement is the best explanation of church discipline policy that I know, I recommend you read the entire position statement. Restoring Those Who Fall is also available in print from Christian Communications Worldwide.
Persistent and willful non-attendance is a sin requiring church discipline (Hebrews 10:24-26 [expanded to include v.26]). Except where persistent non-attendance is the result of unavoidable circumstances (e.g., extended illness or military service), it will be considered a public offense and addressed accordingly. Those who persist in their non-attendance without a legitimate excuse, even after exhortations and warnings from the church, will be expelled from membership.
No specific length of time has been established to designate non-attendance as “persistent.” Each situation will be treated as unique. Without delay, our elders will be diligent in conducting the most thorough and comprehensive investigation possible in determining the reason(s) for non-attendance. Everyone should assume, until conclusive proof to the contrary exists, that the reason(s) are legitimate. Only when it becomes certain that the offender is willfully and sinfully avoiding our church meetings will he or she be disciplined.
A member who leaves our church is accountable to us, and remains under the supervision of our elders, until he joins another true church or is expelled. If the member lives locally and believes it is God’s will for him to seek another church, the reasons must be discussed thoroughly with the elders. The member will remain under the counsel of the elders and the accountability of the church during this temporary process. If the member is unsuccessful in finding another church after a reasonable period of time, he must either return to regular attendance or be removed from our membership for non-attendance. The church will not retain non-attending members except due to illness, military service, or other extenuating circumstances.
If a member has moved out of town and we learn that he has not joined another true church within six months (unless a longer period of time is agreed upon with the elders), he will be removed from our membership. Certain exceptions apply, such as members who move to an area where there is no true church, or overseas military deployment. College and graduate students are expected to join a church near their school unless they are close enough to permit continued attendance with us.
If a member commits a disciplinable sin after having moved, the elders will do what is necessary to restore him and to help him find a local church where he can be cared for. If he will not repent, he will be removed immediately from our membership according to the normal process. Also, if a member leaves our church and joins a false church, cult, or non-Christian religion, he will be removed from our church.
Copyright © 2003 (Revised 2008) Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. Reprinted from Restoring Those Who Fall with permission.
Additional resources: 9 Marks. Class IX: Church Discipline and Cleaning the Membership Rolls (Part 2) – The Care List By Matt Schmucker