No Fluff Accountability
There are many people today who have a very low regard for church membership. This is not at all surprising when you consider that many churches do not uphold God’s standard for church membership. Even though the Lord commands the leaders of the church to “put away from yourselves the evil person (1 Cor 5:13)," and even though He has instructed us clearly in Scripture “not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not to even eat with such a person (1 Cor 5:11)," these instructions from our loving heavenly Father are completely ignored by the fluff church.
If persons are allowed to continue as members of the church even when they engage in behaviour or hold beliefs that are inconsistent with a credible Christian profession, it makes church membership meaningless. If someone is a certified mechanic, you expect him to have a certain level of expertise in repairing cars. But if the certification standards are not upheld, it becomes meaningless to be certified. So it is with church membership.
A church member is supposed to be a person who is reconciled (living at peace) with God through Jesus Christ. If a member is living in open rebellion against the Lord, he should not be allowed to claim that he is reconciled with Him. It is wrong for him to be recognized as a disciple of Christ (Luke 9:23-26, Eph 5:5-7) by the church. Of course this is not to say that any true Christian claims to be perfect; far from it. Part of a true Christian profession includes a frank acknowledgement that we continually come short of God’s standard and are in constant need of forgiveness through Christ crucified. If we do not admit this, we are liars according to 1 John 1:8-10 and should not be allowed to remain in the church for that reason. But it is one thing to struggle with one’s discipleship, quite another to deliberately live in defiance to the Lord’s calling, doing what one knows to be contrary to His commandments (1 John 3:10) without repentance.
Therefore, if one member discovers another member living in rebellion, it is his duty to go to that member with loving concern, humility, and gentleness to try to persuade him to return to Christ (Matthew 18:15, Gal 6:1-2). If the member refuses, the one trying to restore him is to get help from one or two others in the congregation (Matt 18:16). If this fails, the offender is to be taken before the church (before the elders who are appointed to give oversight), and if he still refuses to repent, he is to be put out of the church (Matt 18:17). Every effort is to be made to restore him, but if he will not be restored, it is wrong to allow him to continue as a member (1 Cor 5:1-2).
Note well that the receiving and removal of members is not left up to individuals. It is rather the responsibility of the church as a whole, acting through the elders. The Lord has ordained that a plurality of qualified elders be appointed in the church with the task of giving oversight to the congregation (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4). It is their responsibility to examine the profession of those who are received into the church to be sure they understand the gospel and are living in conformity to their profession, and it is also the duty of the elders to remove those who fall away and refuse to be restored. To carry out this fearful responsibility, these elders are to be held to an even higher standard as is set forth in Timothy (1 Tim 3) and Titus (Titus 1), and are to be removed from their office if they fail to maintain that standard (1 Tim 5:19-20).
The fluff church often objects to church discipline on the grounds that it is contrary to Christian love, but this is bogus. The Lord Jesus is the One who has called us to love, and He would never give us instructions that are contrary to the love He has appointed. If you think about it, it is very easy to see that the only loving thing to do when a church member is not walking with Christ is to warn him and to make every effort to restore him. If a person is in danger of ruin and you do not warn him, that is not love. Moreover, it is the only loving thing to do for the rest of the members in the church and for the surrounding community who will get a distorted message about what it means to follow Christ if the impenitent person is allowed to remain a member in good standing. Sadly, the fluff church is sending a false message to the world that those who live in defiance of God will inherit the kingdom of heaven when the Bible says that they will not (1 Cor 6:9-11). The failure to remove those who depart from the truth has brought about the ruin of entire denominations. The Lord Jesus Himself rebuked several of the seven churches He dictated letters to in Revelation 2 & 3 because they did not remove the ungodly from their midst. The fluff church needs to repent.