The Seriousness of Disfellowshipping


22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

~ Jn 9:22

The Pharisees put people out of the synagogue for declaring that Jesus was the Christ.  Was that a good reason to do so?  After all, wasn’t the person who would do this going against their established doctrines?  Perhaps the Pharisees thought such people were causing division within the synagogue.

Are the Pharisees a good example to follow?


16 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

~ Jn 16:1-2

There are people in this world who would gladly kill you or I in the services of their god.  However, notice the first part of the sentence.  People put others out of their religious organization thinking they are doing God a service as well, don’t they?

I am not of the opinion that Arlan Weight expressed in “Is Disfellowshipping a Christian Practice?” that the Bible never stipulates a person is to be disfellowshipped, but he does raise some important issues.  Not the least of those issues is that most examples of someone putting people out of a church or synagogue in the Bible are actually unlawful, including the case of Diotrephes in 3 John.

I said it before that we don’t know both sides of the story in regards to the elder who was disfellowshipped after deciding that the church organization he was with was keeping the holy days at the wrong time.  However, if he truly intoned that he merely wanted to attend without causing a fuss, and if he meant it, then I also said I wasn’t so sure that disfellowhipping in this case was the appropriate action.

Assume, though, that he did mean it.  Assume that the church leadership knew he meant it.  What is the appropriate action in this case?

Author at Preaching the Gospel published an article today on “Should Members or Ministers Be Disfellowshipped for Disagreeing about the Calendar, New Moons, or Eating in Restaurants on the Sabbath?”  It is a worthwhile read.

Disfellowshipping someone is serious business.  I don’t see where in the Bible it says that unless you agree 100% with the church’s teachings that you cannot attend.  If that were so, no one would be left!  Even ministers disagree on minor matters from time to time.

Going back to Weight’s article, I will agree with one of his points.  We in the COGs have over the years accumulated a collective attitude of judgmentalism that needs to be overcome.  It is at the core of the many splits.  It is fanned by those who would gain the most by having the divisions to begin with.  The pointing of the finger and labeling others as “Laodicean” is the surest sign of someone who ignorantly does not understand that they are revealing who the true Laodicean is.  It is time to drop the labels and the accusations and learn to get along.

Frankly, it is time to grow up.

There will be a follow-up article to this one that will show biblical reasons to disfellowship a member, so stay tuned.  However, for now it can be said that one of those reasons is not a mere difference in opinion.  There must be more to it in order for it to be a biblically based putting out of a member.

This is why I am critical when any group too narrowly defines “fundamental beliefs” that stray from the real fundamental beliefs as listed in the beginning verses of Hebrews 6.  Once human opinion starts replacing Scripture, even to a minor degree, it opens up the possibility of unlawfully putting someone out, which can actually cause division rather than avoid it.


John D Carmack

About John D Carmack

I am an avid computer geek and Christian. My parents were baptized in WCG around 1973, and a lot of it made sense even then. I went out "into the world" for a while, but God brought me back when the time was right. A true prodigal son, it has deepened my conviction that this world really does need the intervention of Jesus Christ to keep it from destroying itself.


One thought on “The Seriousness of Disfellowshipping

  • Big Red
    Big Red

    Well, you’re right. Disfellowshipping somebody is pretty serious business. You have to worry about the effect upon the individual and his relationship with family and friends in the Church.

    Back in the early or mid 80s, HWA wrote a big, two page spread in the WWN about church government. He made an emphatic statement that was considered a little shocking: “The WCG, Inc is NOT the Church!” He went on to say that the church was a spiritual organism, not a physical nonprofit organization. That statement stuck in my head, because it had the ring of truth to it.

    What am I getting at? We can get caught up in church politics in exactly the same carnal way that the world gets involved in their politics. And it’s hard to fault people for that, because they have put so much emotional stock into it. But what is the Church? A physical nonprofit organization or a spiritual organism?

    I know what I’m trying to say, but I can’t find the right words, so let me put it this way:

    If some church organization kicks you out for keeping the Sabbath, does that mean God rejects you? Of course not. If some COG group kicks you out over a minor disagreement, does that mean God rejects you? Of course not. The Church is a spiritual organism, not a physical organization.

    It can certainly be tough. The thing that keeps coming back to me is, “fear God and keep His commandments; for that is the whole duty of man.” It’s like a rudder in the storm.

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