I know I have been busy but I decided to take some time out this week just for Moi! It’s not healthy to work alllllllllllllllllllll the time. So I decided to share my thoughts on chucking people out of churches.
Here we go!
The following is an essay discussing a few of my opinions on the Biblical and practical justification for Pastors/Leaders to remove individuals from their membership/assembly/smallgroup which I shall just call “church” from now on. I begin with some practical reasons why I think it is necessary to remove people who are not compliant from your church, following that I discuss the biblical justification as well. Finally, I discuss the hypocritical nature of keeping non-compliant individuals and end with my own thoughts on the matter.
Pastors chucking people out of their churches has become an unpopular act partly because in some circles it has been abused and misapplied and partly because it’s not a pleasant or easy thing to do. However, the church has both a right and an obligation to publicly disassociate themselves from anyone who claims to be a Christian but persists in unrepentant sin (Spreading The Fragrance 2020). This is because people who are non-compliant with the expected standards of behaviour putrefy the spiritual atmosphere of a church, as their behaviour inevitably spreads to the whole church and no one can remain unaffected by it (Spreading The Fragrance 2019). Meaning that it really is not practical to keep them, knowing that a sinful influence that is tolerated will pull others down, affecting the outward testimony of a church and compromising their mission which is saving souls (Spreading The Fragrance 2020). Let’s dig into exactly how the mismanagement of unaligned/non-compliant people in your church is not constructive in a, pragmatic, common sense way first and deal with the Biblical reasons second.
The Impracticalities Of Not Kicking People Out Of A Church When You Should
Unaligned people always cost you something (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave) and with all the costs that one already incurs with running an organisation it’s not financially viable to keep them. One must remember, we have to pay to physically keep the doors of a church open and the organisation running, it’s not free. A website is not free, corporate email is not free, utilities are not free, insurance is not free, maintenance is not free and the kind of administration that a public body has to do is not free either. Churches cannot – on top of that – have people that are costing them time and energy, they infect others with their apathy causing a lack of momentum (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave) which compromises the mission of the church and diminishes its viability as a good investment, whether that be financially, socially or emotionally – which, at the end of the day – affects the bottom line.
This is why having the right people is better than simply having people. Before a church can have more people the church need the right people. The right people are: people capable of taking on leadership; are aligned around a common mission, vision, strategy and values and have the character to withstand the tests of leadership (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave).
As an organisation a church does not need disengaged people, disengaged people can go and be disengaged elsewhere and to be perfectly honest, church leaders need to just accept that not everyone is even ready to engage. As far as I am concerned, disengaged people cannot serve, do not give and do not invite their friends to church. They just take up space. Whereas a few aligned people can change the world. Jesus did it with just 12! (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave).
Some people will find a better-fit elsewhere and church leaders need to be insightful and forward thinking enough to let them go. Church leaders will be serving certain people better by letting them find like-minded people at another church, giving them more space to find like-minded people who will help them accomplish their mission more effectively. Honestly, some people will thrive in a different environment, sometimes you need to let them go (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave).
Trying to people please and lead in a way that avoids people leaving is a terrible strategy. Yes, it’s uncomfortable when people leave and only sociopaths don’t care when people leave but I assure you, it’s irrational and unhealthy to keep some individuals. The moment a church leader focuses on who they want to keep, as opposed to who they want to reach, they will compromise the entire mission of the church (Nieuwhof 2020, When to panic).
Additionally, church leaders need to also be mature enough to understand that the church as a universal body is for everyone but their particular church that exists in their particular microcosm isn’t. Let me explain, we as Christians are part of a much bigger body, one church alone will not reach an entire city, it takes all the different varieties of churches and leadership that exist within a city to reach the people (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave). People need to be in a church appropriate for them. Not every church is blessed to do everything. God gives out blessings appropriate for people the same way Jacob blessed his sons before he died in Genesis 49:28 [NIV] where it says:
“ All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.”
Church leaders need to make an effort to really understand their appropriate blessing and know who their particular church is designed to reach and focus on that (Nieuwhof 2019, Why You Need To Stop). The music of one church is going to attract some people and bother others. The teaching style and content of another church is going to connect better with some and irritate others. The leadership style of a further church will be compelling to some and not so attractive to others. Even the location and the architectural style of the building in which a church group gathers, whether it’s a school, theatre, gothic cathedral, contemporary suburban mega-church, A-frame 50’s landmark or even a living room home church style get-up will make some feel at home, while pushing others away (Nieuwhof 2019, Why You Need To Stop).
Because of this and because of the diverse and subjective tastes of human beings churches that try to attempt the impossible by being all things to all people often end up being nothing to no one and lose their effectiveness in the process (Nieuwhof 2019, Why You Need To Stop). So, are you going to reach everybody? The answer is a resounding no (Nieuwhof 2019, Why You Need To Stop).
Furthermore, in order to accomplish the general mission of all churches, which is to reach the un-churched, one cannot spend time trying to retain people who call themselves Christians and are not engaged and causing trouble, especially because they want a church for the already convinced. Church leaders cannot be worried about reaching Christians who have no passion or respect for friends, family, fellow congregants and people who are not in a relationship with Christ. Church leaders need to focus on the few things and people that will help them accomplish their mission and they need to feel free to design a Sunday service that will create an experience that UN-churched people will want to come back to.
That requires being as culturally diverse as the community around them, so they don’t function as a club as opposed to a church; it is also a requirement that they make sure that they have a mixture of psycho-social realities, meaning that the church needs to have a mixture of rich people and poor people, churches with only rich people bothers me; church leaders also need to spend time attracting individuals who will not make the future impossible (Nieuwhof 2020, Why You Need To Stop).
Yes, it’s human nature to want to cling to people, especially in small churches where every number seems to count but some people hold a ministry back and yes I would much rather have people move beyond their own personal preferences and show grace but for some people, regrettably, that kind of humility is not possible and church leaders need to give them permission to go (Flowers 2020).
Know when to accommodate and when not to. Often a first or second offence is a time for accommodation but one must use ones discretion to evaluate when to hold attendees accountable. When accommodating becomes commonplace because of a continual breach of expectations, we need to hold those people accountable and ask them to leave (Pelletier 2020).
Yes, churches need good pastoral care initiatives because they cannot try and wrestle with principalities and powers of this world with nice HR practices. However, they must balance the need for pastoral ministry, with strong leadership that will not let Satan send our churches away from the mission they are intended to fulfil and a leader must avoid being satisfied in dysfunction and keep their church on course and sometimes this means making a tough call (Brookshaw 2020).
The church is God’s and must not be held to ransom by any leader, member or attendee. All are welcome, unless they are causing harm to the body of Christ and I personally do not think that there is any reason why leaders should allow divergent visions for a church among members and or attendees (Excellerate 2020).
Biblical Justification For Kicking People Out Of A Church
So, what kinds of things qualify a person to be kicked out of a church? 1 Corinthians 5:11 [NLT] has the answer:
“ I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.”
- Immoral people: (gr. “pornos”) The literal meaning of the word is a male prostitute, but in the Bible it is used of all kinds of sexual immorality.
- Covetous people: People eager to have more, especially what belongs to others. Covetousness is really a form of the next sin, which is Idolatry (Eph 5:5, Col 3:5)
- Idolaters: Idolatry is when God is not of primary importance to you. You don’t determine this by your ability to manipulate yourself into a certain state of emotion but rather by what you tends to fill up your mind, what your actions are aiming toward and what gives you comfort, security and pleasure.
- Revilers: A reviler is one who assaults and abuses with words. He or she will make harsh insults and accusations, intended to humiliate someone or damage their reputation.
- Drunkards: No further explanation is needed, except perhaps to point out that any compulsive or addictive behaviour, that inhibits your sound judgement, could be a form of this sin.
- Swindlers: (gr. “harpax”) It can mean a swindler, robber or extortioner. Basically anyone who by violence, threats or deceit takes something that rightfully belongs to another.
These six examplars are the types of sins that qualify for church discipline i.e kicking someone out (there are more but this list is a just one example in the Bible) (Spread The Fragrance 2020). Appearing to be a believer and not following what the Bible says as grounds for being kicked out is reiterated in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15:
“…dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.  Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed.”
Also, in 1 Timothy1:20 where Paul talks about people who were supposed to be believers that he himself threw out of his community for purposely going against the Word of God:
“ Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.  Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.”
Finally, Titus 3:10 warns that divisiveness is cause for kicking someone out of a church where it says:
“ If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them.  For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”
We can’t really apply a one strike and you’re out policy because that’s not what God does. He gives grace and second chances to those who are repentant (Spreading The Fragrance 2020). So how does a church go about getting rid of someone? Church discipline and the steps to remove a trouble maker from a community is clearly spelled out in a 3-Step plan in Matthew 18:15-17 where it says:
“ “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.  If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
So, you talk to the person privately, if they don’t listen you take other people with you to talk to them, if they still don’t listen you tell the church, if they still don’t listen to the church you have done your job, get rid of them to demonstrate holiness to your congregation.
Lack Of Church Discipline Is Hypocrisy
Given what the Word says it would be outright hypocrisy to retain people who cause trouble in our churches after the biblically mandated steps have been taken. God hates hypocrisy, it misuses religious man-made ideas for self-advancement, the self advancement in the case of not getting rid of a trouble maker would be any advantages a leadership might feel that it would gain by people pleasing, instead of doing the holy thing to do. God’s laws are the only laws that Christians should be preaching, when we twist these around to meet our own desires it angers God.
It has been communicated to me on more than one occasion that no-one has the right to remove an individual from a church as it’s neither Godly or holy. Matthew 7:1 has become one of the most quoted verses in the entire Bible. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”. It is commonly used as justification for not expelling people from a congregation. However, if someone ever throws this verse at you, ask them if they think it’s wrong for you to judge others. When they say yes, then ask them to kindly listen to their own advice and stop judging you. If you feel up for it, try to explain to them the difference between judging someone and telling them what the laws are (Spreading The Fragrance 2020).
Disgustingly, I have found in my own experience that more often than not, people who quote such things at me have removed people from their own houses and or refused to host or even eat with other people because they believed they were quote “too much trouble and wouldn’t tow the line”. Such hypocrisy repulses me, isn’t one of the main accusations that are levelled against the church that there are so many hypocrites in it? How many people have been turned off from the Gospel because the church has not done it’s job and cleansed out those who only claim to be Christians, but really aren’t? (Spreading The Fragrance 2020). Think about it, how many peoples lives have been destroyed because churches wouldn’t kick out a peodo priests? Sometimes the churches knew about it and did nothing. I do not understand why those people were not only kept in the church but allowed to be in charge of small children.
The kind of judgement Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7 was a kind of is a self-righteous hypocrisy that set up a higher standard for others than for the self. Jesus never said we should stop differentiating between right and wrong. Not only do we as Christians have to differentiate but when someone claims to be a Christian and consistently acts in a way that brings reproach to the name of Christ, then the church is not only authorized but commanded to judge them, what happens on the outside of the church God will judge but what happens on the inside of the church, we are supposed to be judging according to 1 Corinthians 12-13 [NLT]:
“ It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.  God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”” (Spreading The Fragrance 2020).
Such hypocrisy must end look at Matthew 23:27 [NLT]:
“ “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”
Hypocrites are self-deluded fools who need to read their Bibles more carefully. They are deceiving themselves into thinking that their hypocritical deeds of obscuring a leaderships decision to remove a person, despite what the Bible says, is somehow evidence of “true godliness” or even worse they dare to think that they will have the ability to merit God’s favour. This is a terrible misconception and ultimately hurts the persons in question as well as the church community and you lose favour with God not gain it when you don’t adhere to biblical principles correctly and obscure others from doing so.
Hypocrisy is also offensive to God and man. No one finds hypocrisy to be an attractive quality. Not God, not the world. You don’t want to become everyone’s enemy. Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because they make themselves appear godly; God hates them because they merely look godly.
Hypocrisy also brings no comfort in death. You labour hard in life to do the wrong thing, arrogantly pretending to be godly, painting over your depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness, with standards of other people that are unreasonable that you don’t even attempt to live up to yourself and regrettably, at the end of the day, as you are doing the wrong thing and are trying to make others, who are trying to do the right thing do the wrong thing, you will eventually end up in hell as Galatians 5:19-21 says that sinners will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Crosswalk 2020).
If you want to go to hell with your false Christianity, please go to hell by yourself and leave your ministry and it’s leaders alone because unaligned people cost them and their congregants something, they make organisations unproductive, which damages their viability as a good investment in the eyes of others (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave). It’s not common sense to keep them.
Everyday all of us are just trying to run the race of life just trying to get ahead ourselves as individuals, as it says in Philippians 3:14 [NLT]:
“ I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”. We have all got things on our plate and we don’t need any more drama.
Church leaders need to think about where they are now and where they are supposed to be. They are losing so much precious time pandering to people and things that will not satisfy the church or Jesus in the end. Whereas everyone else and every other church who is behaving in a functional and biblical way, churches who get rid of people and things that are unhealthy, they are out there getting on but others who don’t are standing still, trying to retain people, things and practices they should not because they are rationalizing with their human senses. Especially in small churches where leaders see they are only small and keep on comparing themselves to other big churches when they don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes with the big churches. All we see is that they have more people, so they keep burning so much energy just to retain, when their focus should be somewhere else and I for one do not think that any church leader should be willing to let those things and people that are unhelpful keep distracting them and their minitry (Anthem Lights 2020).
Having the right people is better than simply having people. (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave). Some people will find a better-fit elsewhere and church leaders need to let them go (Nieuwhof 2020, 7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave). Its unhealthy and unholy to keep some people, especially those whose conduct compromises the holiness of the church and thus it’s entire mission (Nieuwhof 2020, When to panic). Yes, it’s human nature to want to cling to people and old ways, especially when a church is small (Flowers 2020) but church leaders need to know when to accommodate and when to not (Pelletier 2020). It is usually not perceived as a good thing to get rid of people but church leaders, for the sake of holiness, cannot afford not to do it. The truth is that some people are of Christ and some are of the devil. If church leaders allow the latter to infiltrate the church and muddle the line between the two categories, that is a wicked thing to do (Spread The Fragrance 2020).
Let us as Christian focus on what our appropriate blessing is, which is what your church is designed to do and who your church is put here on earth to reach and what you are here to do (Nieuwhof 2019, Why You Need To Stop). Not every church is going to please every person and churches should not be changing their God mandated focus for people who should be elsewhere.
I for one don’t want spend my life trying to fight for what’s not mine or lose myself in someone else’s dream instead of God’s. I know those who are truly meant to be in a particular church are made with a purpose to reach past the surface and live life fearlessly for God in their area and I want nothing less for my church at least, than to be who we are meant to be (Anthem Lights 2020).
Anthem Lights. 2020. ‘Who I’m Meant To Be Lyrics’ A-Z Lyrics Web site, at: <https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/anthemlights/whoimmeanttobe.html> 16 January 2020
Brookshaw, P. 2020. ‘Q&A – When Do You Ask Someone To Leave The Church?’ Pete Brookshaw Web site: <http://www.petebrookshaw.com/2013/09/q-when-do-you-ask-someone-to-leave.html?m=1> 7 January 2020
Crosswalk, 2020. ‘5 Warnings for Hypocrites in the Church’ Crosswalk Web site, at: <https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/5-warnings-for-hypocrites-in-the-church.html> 7 January 2020
Excellerate. 2020. ‘How to Handle Rebellion in Church’ Excellerate Web site, at: <https://www.excellerate.com/articles/how-to-handle-rebellion-in-church/> 7 January 2020
Flowers, A. 2020. ‘The Six People You Should Ask To Leave Your Church’ Western Seminary Web site, at: <https://transformedblog.westernseminary.edu/2014/03/04/the-six-people-you-should-ask-to-leave-your-church/> 7 January 2020
Nieuwhof, C. 2020. ‘7 Reasons You Should Invite People To Leave Your Church Even Though It Scares You’ Carey Nieuwhof Web site, at: <https://careynieuwhof.com/leave/> 7 January 2020
Nieuwhof, C. 2020. ‘When To Panic And When Not To Panic When People Leave Your Church’ Carey Nieuwhof Web site, at: <https://careynieuwhof.com/when-to-panic-and-when-not-to-panic-when-people-leave-your-church/> 7 January 2020
Nieuwhof, C. 2020. ‘Why You Need To Stop Thinking Your Church Is For Everyone’ Web site, at: <https://careynieuwhof.com/why-you-need-to-stop-thinking-your-church-is-for-everyone/> 7 January 2020
Pelletier, K. P. 2020. ‘Can I Ask Someone To Leave My Small Group’ Christianity Today International Web site, at: <https://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2016/can-i-ask-someone-to-leave-my-small-group.html> 7 January 2020
Spreading The Fragrance. 2020. ‘An introduction to kicking people out of Church (1. Cor 5:1-8)’ Spreading The Fragrance Web site, at: <https://2cor214.blogspot.com/2011/06/introduction-to-kicking-people-out-of.html> 16 January 2020