Should I leave a church that is not withdrawing from sinful members?


Dear Sir,

I belong to a church of Christ that is sound in its teaching.  I enjoy worshiping God there and the people are loving and kind.  The problem I have is that we have leaders who are too kind to take a real stand to correct people who are in error to the point of withdrawing from them.

There is a couple who have been having marital problems for almost ten years who in my opinion need to be withdrawn from, but the leaders will not do it. They have met with them separately to no avail, when I and others met with the leaders on this matter we both agree that the couple always have conflicting stories of who is right and wrong. They said they really do not know what to do. I believe by virtue of the couples' outward wrong attitudes toward each other constitutes correcting (Matthew 5:24; Ephesians 4:29; I Corinthians 5:1)  The entire congregation knows about this. The couple came to church when they were living together and would sit separately, angry with each other. Now he has moved out, and as a result of her not being intimate with him for years, he has impregnated another woman and now has a child.  My husband and I have had numerous marital sessions with them to help them work things out and the elders seem to have just given up and seem to have turned a blind eye to them. I guess they hope it will just work out, and they will not have to deal with them.  I truly love our shepherds, but I feel my soul may be at stake.

I need an unbiased opinion. I understand that each church works independently, not but my question relates to whether or not I should continue membership with this congregation.  I have been studying the seven churches of Asia and learned that there were some in Smyrna who had not defiled their garments, which to me indicates that some members' actions were not completely pleasing to God but others, who strive to do what right, were not condemned. Shall I stay at the church, continue to serve God, and just not let this situation bother me anymore? Or shall I just find another congregation? Will the entire church be condemned by the leaders not meeting their responsibility?  Thank you for your help.


Each person's salvation is completely dependent on his or her own action (Ezekiel 18:20; Philippians 2:12). No other person or church can change your status. "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). The danger in attending a church that is straying is that it is very easy to follow the crowd and, thus, jeopardize your own salvation. Conversely, attending a good church will tend to spur you to do what is right, though that is not always guaranteed.

When Paul scolded the Corinthians about accepting the fornicator in their midst, he told them, "I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people" (I Corinthians 5:9). I cannot judge the situation at your church since I only have your view of it and I don't have all the facts. If this man did not repent of his adultery, then even if the church is reluctant or slow to withdraw from him, you should remove your social ties from him anyway and be clear that it is because of his continued sin that you are doing this. I've always found strife between a husband and wife difficult to judge because they rarely tell a complete story and you lack multiple witnesses.

The problem your elders face is that by tolerating sin in the congregation they promote the spread of sin. "Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" (I Corinthians 5:6). Like Corinth it is easy to be distracted with "Well, at least they are coming to church," and not see the impact they are having on other members. But if they are making mistake in this case, they will be answering to the chief Shepherd. It is their salvation and any who are lead astray who are being impacted, not you. That is why a church, like Sardis, could be mostly dead yet still have faithful members.

Do what you can. Take a stand against those who are clearly sinning. Encourage the church as a whole to do its duty. What I've typically found is that if a church doesn't wish to be faithful, the congregation will eventually turn against any who sound an alarm. If that happens, then it is time to move one to a more faithful group. But if it doesn't, leaving isn't going to improve the situation for them. I've seen too many brethren who seemingly don't have enough love for their brethren to remain as long as they can to encourage them to live righteously. As a result, churches fall further and further away because of the attrition of its sounder members.

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