Persons Expelled from the Church and Attending Church Meetings

Persons Expelled from the Church and Attending Church Meetings

I have often heard through the years that those who have been disciplined out of a church should nonetheless be allowed to attend as non-members. I want to submit my view on the matter.

The passage about the man who committed incest is instructive. This is found in 1 Cor 5. Look carefully at what Paul instructed the Corinthian church to do concerning this man. Note the strong language:

—“so that the one who has done this deed would be removed from your midst,” v2
—“deliver such a one to Satan,” v 5
—“Clean out the old leaven,” v7
—“I wrote you not to associate with immoral people,” v9
—“But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person . . .” v 11
—“not to even eat with such a one,” v11
—“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” v 13

These seven statements make the case for me. We should not allow the man or woman who has been disciplined out of the church attend at all. The early church ate a meal together weekly, called the Lord’s supper (ch 11). When Paul said to not eat with such a person, he meant for the Corinthians not to allow him to attend the regular meeting of the church, or, in addition, to have any relationship with him at all (unless the person is in the family). How would it be possible “not to associate with such a man” if he is in the meetings? No, we are “to remove the wicked man.”

I suppose that the idea of inviting the disciplined person into the Sunday meetings of the church comes from the prevalent view about church meetings being primarily evangelistic–a reaping time. In my view, the meetings of the church should principally be for believers and our evangelism needs to take place, on the main, outside. Of course, there are unbelieving children and the occasional relatives and friends who come regardless. We instruct our people to bring true seekers or newly converted people, but we do not think it is our purpose to fill our meeting space with nonbelievers. We carry on vigorous evangelism outside our meetings. The church gathering is about edifying the believers first of all, and for worship that only believers can do. The disciplined person is no longer welcome to these meetings.

I believe the instructions are plain and simple. We cannot post a bouncer at the door to enforce our view, however, but the passage does not in any way allow for welcoming people under discipline back into our meetings before repenting. In fact, it is the lack of fellowship that may cause the man or woman to repent. We don’t want to short circuit God’s work in his or her life.