I had a friend talk to me recently about a mutual friend who’s walking away from God. This would be sad enough in and of itself, but she’s make a joke of Jesus in the process; celebrating her new found lifestyle, and expecting us to do likewise.
The issue is big enough that I was asked, “Shouldn’t we kick her out of the church?” I hesitated. It was a hard hesitation. Based on this woman’s unresponsiveness to a number of confrontations, the answer is sadly yes. My reason for hesitating however, from a pastoral standpoint, is that excommunicating this woman for her issue means we’d have to excommunicate 17 others in our church with the same issue.
Do I have an excommunication back-log? Have I been unfaithful in addressing sin issues in our congregation? I whimpered through the rest of the conversation and felt like a failure.
In all Biblical fairness though, excommunication isn’t supposed to start with the pastor. It’s going to sound kind of funny, but Friends ought to Excommunicate Friends. Whoever is closest to the individual and the issue ought to be the first to bring it up. If there’s unresponsiveness, the two friends closest to the issue ought to bring it up together. Still no dice? Then the pastors/elders get involved to solidify the goodbye the friends have already set in motion.
I’m not trying to absolve myself of responsibility as a pastor, I’m just saying the church cannot function if friends aren’t taking responsibility for correcting each other. It’s less than ideal, even less than Biblical, for pastors to take every confrontation issue upon themselves.