How do we deal with erring brethren?

Question:

I'm looking for clarity on "liberal church association." If I'm a conservative (non-institutional) brother, am I to fellowship with those who worship in a liberal church?

Here is my view and please correct me if I'm in error. As a Christian, I believe that outside of a worship setting it is alright to fellowship these individuals, so as to be an example or to have opportunity to change their ways. It is the leadership of those congregations whom I consider to be false teachers and I treat them as such. I avoid any public setting, such as Bible Bowls or gospel meetings they might have. I don't want my named tied to their beliefs in any way. I fear perception will hurt my example, so I try to avoid anything public.

I have fellow brethren who feel differently. They attend their gospel meetings, their Bible Bowls, and though it's their own private money they use to attend these events, it is the name on our congregation that used on Facebook and in the newspaper. I have a problem with this.

One more question if I can: How are we to treat Christians who have no membership in any congregation and are living in sin or have chosen not to worship regularly? Are we to mark them individually and avoid them as the Bible teaches, or is that the work of the church, and if they have none, do nothing? I struggle with those who claim to be Christians and spit in the face of Christ's ways. I want nothing to do with them until they repent publicly. But I may be wrong in my thinking. I just feel that if they know the Bible and chose to not place membership and not even go to church, I should treat them as I Corinthians 5:11 states. Until they have repented, the conversation when I meet those in error should be: "I'm pleading with you to repent of your ways; and if you won't, then I'm sorry, I can't help you or associate with you."

If I am wrong or confused on these matters please give me some clarity. I also want you to know it's a blessing to have this web site and to have brethren willing to listen and answer questions. Thanks so much!


Answer:

In both cases that you present, you are asking about how to deal with people who call themselves Christians, but are not following the teachings of the Bible in some way.

Most in the Christian denominations have not properly entered into the covenant of Christ because of disagreements on things like baptism in water. For these, we have to treat them like any other person who remains in the world. "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world" (I Corinthians 5:9-10). While the worldly won't be our best of friends, we still need the contact in order to teach them the true Gospel message.

Others do properly become Christians, but they don't practice Christianity in some way. "But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler -- not even to eat with such a one" (I Corinthians 5:11). If their life is clearly given over to sin, we cannot associate with them because doing so will give the impression of approving the sinful deeds they are practicing.

So what those who are mostly correct, but are off in their teachings in more subtle ways? John was dealing with so-called brethren who were teaching things that corrupted the meaning of Christianity. "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds" (II John 7-11). It again comes down to the fact that we cannot show approval for someone who is not teaching the Gospel fully and correctly.

I sometimes go to meetings that liberal brethren hold, either because the particular topic interests me or I'm curious what they will use to justify their position. I walk out when they start practicing something unscriptural because I don't want to be a part of it.

When someone is not a part of a church, the church cannot withdraw from such people -- there is no fellowship with the church itself, so there is nothing from with to withdraw. However, individually we need to make a distinction between faithful brethren and those who are not obedient to the commands to be a part of a local congregation.