There’s The Door: Dealing with Conflictual Christians

This post might be somewhat controversial but I want to discuss one more issue related to church members who create conflict, are divisive and manipulative, etc… You can read my last two posts on complaining Christians here and here. In one of the comments, a friend of mine, who also is a Pastor, asked if there was ever a time when I would show a manipulative Christian the door. I said “yes” and now I want to discuss this more.

First off, let’s observe several biblical texts (italics mine)…

Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

Titus 3:9-11 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”

What I want to observe from all three of these passages is the recognition that for both Jesus and Paul there comes a time when a person’s behavior simply requires that we no longer have anything to do with them, that we remove them from the church. It means that there comes a time when certain church members must be told “There’s the door” and then told to leave.

That might sound harsh but… If you were to discover that you had cancer in some part of your body, would you ignore it or try to tolerate its presence without doing everything to get rid of it? Of course not! You would do everything in your power to rid your body of cancer as quickly as possible because you know that without getting rid of the cancer, you will die.

1 Corinthians 15:6-7 “…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”

Paul is using the metaphor of yeast and I am using the metaphor of cancer. Some Christians choose to walk in flagrant and heinous sin while others are extremely manipulative and divisive, always causing conflict. Such Christians are a cancer to the local body of Christ and are as destructive to that church body as prostrate and breast cancer is to the human body. So why would a church (and its leaders especially) allow such people to remain among the body?

Well, I’ve heard plenty of reasons that all seem to boil down to the small remote possibility that such person(s) might repent. Of course, they might repent just like they might repent once they’ve been shown the door but that is not point. Such people are to be shown the door because by allowing them to remain, they become destructive to the spiritual health of the local body. The loss of spiritual health cripples the local body from participating in the mission of God, instead setting it on a course towards its own funeral. This course is usually a slow and agonizing process of denial as the church slowly dies.

Now do I have our attention? I haven’t addressed the in’s and out’s of when exactly a person should be told to leave, dismissed, or however we label it. That is because I have not wanted to distract our attention from the biblical reality that certain church members, because of their behavior, must be told to leave. Until church leaders get the courage to take such action when necessary, there will be plenty of churches left to die a slow and agonizing death which never live up to the calling God has gathered them for.

So what are your thoughts? Why do so many local churches tolerate cancer among their body? What could be done to give more church leaders the spiritual authority to identify and remove cancerous members from the church?

********************

Just in case you are wondering, all is well with the Columbia Church of Christ whom I serve as their Preacher and Minister. This post is simply a response to a question posed in another blog comment (as I mentioned above). My hope is that the post reflects both the teaching of the Bible and some wisdom I have gained through my experience in ministry.

10 responses to “There’s The Door: Dealing with Conflictual Christians

  1. Our churches will “point out” much more “egregious sins” and make a larger deal out of it than it should be at times. But, I have known a few such contentious individuals over the years, and some of the brethren, even in my experience, have a long-standing “relationship” with such ones and are not willing to deal with them. They may even have sympathy for “contentious ones” rather than being straight-forward in correcting them. I agree with you, they usually cause difficulty for a number of people, especially younger ones. (In short, they are bullies). This is usually to the detriment of the whole congregation, because people will leave rather than put up with it.

    • Your observations point out just how much churches can functionally misunderstand the horizontal or social nature of the gospel they are to embody as a church. Instead of being a body of people called by Christ and animated by the Spirit for the sake of God’s mission and glory, the church becomes nothing more than a social club with enough Christian religious practices to give us the appearance that we are embodying our calling in Christ.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Rex, thanks for this whole series. This is the most overlooked and seldom dealt-with sin that exists–perhaps in part because many Christians in our “freedom of speech” society don’t see it as a sin. Being “entitled to one’s opinion” is seen as a civil right. I tend to focus less on trying to change their opinion than on trying to get them to submit their behavior in light of their opinion to the Lordship of Christ. Not easy…and it often isn’t a successful attempt. Nevertheless, churches that letting “conflictual Christians” run free are out of obedience to the Lord, and ignoring passages like, “it’s out of the heart the mouth speaks,” or James’ instruction on the tongue.

    • So from a “restoration” perspective, such churches really have not restored biblical Christianity as much as they might think. Instead the values of Western Democracy shape the practical theology of the church….say it ain’t so. Unfortunately, I think your observation is more true than some churches realize.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Very good.

    It’s easier for me with people who are just starting to come to the church. I love the idea of giving new people coming into the church a clear picture and vision of what we do and don’t do as a church. It makes it a lot easier up front to say to someone who thinks we need to be more [fill in the blank] to simply say, “I don’t think we’re the right church for you” and give a helpful suggestion as to a better fit. (of course this doesn’t make them “conflictual Christian”)

    But one of my greatest regrets in the story here, as you are familiar with, is that we somehow assumed you had to let anyone stay at the church no matter what they said or did (unless of course it was sexual sin…then we would take care of that immediately!). Looking back, I wish we would have exercised – patiently, prayerfully, and with great caution – the option of saying to certain “conflictual Christians” it is time for you to go.

    • I like the idea of informing new comers as to who we are as a local church so that we can help them make the decision as to whether this is the sort of local church they are looking for. It certainly seems easier to do that up front than to do that once a person has been a member for some time.

      Now what is humorously ironic is that there is one experience in which a church wanted me to tell a member to get lost because the person was living in an immoral lifestyle and I was the one telling the church to be patient. It later turned out to be a good thing that we were patient but that is for tomorrow’s blog post.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: Remaining Patient: Dealing with Sinful Behavior Among the Church | Kingdom Seeking

  5. Pingback: Confronting A Christian: The Neglected Passage in Scripture | Kingdom Seeking

  6. Pingback: We Who Are Without Sin…? | Kingdom Seeking

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