Question & Answer Forum

Should the discipline of one assembly be made known in another, if the disciplined person may socialize with others from that assembly?

Discipline, whether internal or requiring excommunication (as in 1 Corinthians 5) is to maintain the holiness of God’s assembly (verses 4,5,13). Although believers grieve over a disciplined person, their social fellowship is restricted to preserve the assembly from ongoing sin (verse 6). Shepherds dealing with the erring person will encourage his restoration and instruct him to express his submission to God regarding this discipline (Matthew 18:15-20) by refraining from socializing with believers (1 Corinthians 5:11). If the overseers sense a lack of repentance and therefore feel he will maintain social fellowship, perhaps with believers from another assembly, it is wise to advise the other assembly’s oversight. The other overseers will privately advise those involved not to undermine the discipline imposed upon their friend. This action is to preserve the purity of and fellowship between the two assemblies.

Discipline in any assembly should be kept as private as possible in the hope of restoration to God and the saints (2 Corinthians 2:3-9). “Tell it not in Gath” (2 Samuel 1:20) is one principle, suggesting that some news is too sad or shameful to spread. “The churches of Asia salute you” (1 Corinthians 16:19) is another principle, expressing unhindered fellowship among assemblies. Both principles must be maintained.

J. Smith

What should I do if I am uneasy about a decision of the overseers and don’t feel I can go to one of them about it?

Such issues involve two hazardous extremes. One is the danger of the “unapproachable elder.” The people of God are not little children to be treated with a “Because I said so” attitude. Saul’s rage when questioned by Ahimelech (I Samuel 22:14,15) was because his actions could not bear the light of Scripture. The other danger is that of the “discontented believer” who views himself (and often he is the only one who does) as the “watch-dog” of the assembly. Absalom’s inquiries into problems (II Samuel 15:1-6) illustrate the work of a man with ulterior motives.

Ideally, spiritual elders will welcome honest inquiries by those who do not understand the scriptural reasons that guided their actions. Ideally, the believer expressing such a concern will be marked by a sincere interest to learn the ways of God. When the circumstances fall short of the ideal, as they do in III John 9, two immutable principles remain clear: (1) wronged believers lose nothing by showing submission; (2) the testimony is God’s, not ours: He will maintain the honor of His Name. No situation hinders our bringing the matter to God in prayer and leaving it with Him.

E. Higgins

Without being offensive, how can I handle the invitations of those whom I have brought to gospel meetings when they ask me to their “services?”

Because there can be no fellowship between the things of God and the things of this world (2 Corinthians 6:14-16), Paul teaches, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (verse 17). Returning to an unbeliever’s congregation disobeys this instruction.

No explanation is likely to be understood. Pointing out unscriptural features of that congregation will likely offend this friend. Instead, anticipate a reciprocal invitation. Pray for grace to answer in a kind, humble way. Express a sincere appreciation and understanding of his invitation. Make certain he understands that you value his friendship and company in contexts which don’t compromise your convictions. Be open to discussion, but direct the conversation toward the primary issue between you, the necessity for God’s salvation. Let him know that spiritual rather than social concerns motivated your invitation.

J. Slabaugh

What about attending a musical or such an event sponsored by a denomination as long as the event is not a church service?

Christians holding “non-church” services consider them a “ministry.” To attend these is to associate with “a ministry” that “edifies” believers by methods not guided by Scripture. This implies that God’s ways have failed to sufficiently provide for our edification.

In Old Testament times Israelites worshiped in two kinds of high places: those for idol worship (I Kings 12:32); others for worshiping the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:17), which seemed to them to be somewhat justified (I Kings 3:2). Jehovah approved of neither. All worship was to be in the place and in the manner prescribed by God (Deuteronomy 12:13-15). Now, by calling us to Himself and to all that expresses His character, God has separated us from all that He has not ordained. This includes gatherings marked by license (I Corinthians 10:21,22; 2 Corinthians 6:17), legalism (Hebrews 13:13), or denominationalism (I Corinthians 1:11-13).

He will supply every collective spiritual need in the gatherings of the local assembly.

J. Beattie