Ep. 436 Should I Separate from Sinful People in My Church?

Ep. 9 Should I Separate from Sinful People in My Church

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Shows Main Idea – If a person in my church lives a sinful lifestyle and is a leader, how should I respond to that person? Should I sit under their teaching and leadership? Should I separate from sinners in the church? A lady asked, “I know I am to engage sinners for redemptive purposes because that is what Christ did to me. I don’t want to separate from them but influence them with the gospel. But what about the ongoing sinfulness of someone in your church?”

Show Notes

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You mentioned in a previous podcast if it was suitable to separate from sinners. You referenced a woman who wanted to know if it was right for a woman to attend a baby shower of another woman who conceived her child out of wedlock. But what if someone who claims to be a Christian is living with someone who is an unbeliever, goes against all counsel, and marries this person? Currently, she’s a part-time small group leader in our church. Does the same apply to this situation? She leads others in spiritual growth but has not submitted to God in this critical area.

I realize we all have sin issues that we’re dealing with, but surely someone leading a group should not be living in rebellious sin. I’m curious to know what you think about this, as I agree we should not separate from people based on their sinful actions, but I’m not sure it would be fitting to attend a small group where this person is one of the leaders. I’m pretty disappointed that the other leaders permit this, but I’m not sure I can do much about this without stirring up much trouble. Maybe I’m being too harsh? –Mable

General Concepts

  • How do you know she has not repented? How do you know she’s living in blatant sin? How do you know she has not come to her senses, recognizing the errors she has made?
  • Part of the dynamic in play here is how to make a biblical decision. You may take advantage of our decision-making resources.

Examine Yourself: Mable may have wrong motives and ideas about what’s happening. See Matthew 7:5-7. She wants high-level awareness of her heart, which she is doing in her last statement by suggesting you might be too harsh. She also talks about the ubiquitous nature of sin, admitting we all have problems—a humble acknowledgment. We all have presuppositional influences on how we see things.

Talk to Someone: What does her husband say if she is married? Her decision and actions will impact her spouse; he knows her and has insight into a path forward. If Mable is not married, she needs to address this matter with a confidant she trusts who is competent to speak about it.

Search the Bible: God’s Word guides us; we want to know what it says about the big and small decisions and conflicts in our lives.

Speak to a Pastor: Shepherds must lead, but they are not omniscient. If there are problems in the sheepfold, the shepherd must know. If she proceeds because she cannot let it go, she wants her pastor to shepherd her with joy, which may mean bringing him up to speed with what’s happening. See Hebrews 13:17.

Your Conscience: What is her inner voice saying? I’m not saying her conscience is correct, but she cannot sin against it. Perhaps her conscience needs recalibrating to the Bible, but she can’t sin against it now. See 1 Corinthians 8.

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Specific Situation

Leaders: James discussed how a leader is held to a higher standard in James 3:1, similar to Hebrews 13:17. There is a concept here: leaders have followers, implying the potential for harming others or leading them astray. All leaders can lead well or poorly, e.g., small group leaders, the band on Sunday morning. See also Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1.

The Template: An outline of what a leader should be is in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. I realize this template is about pastors, but the question you want to ask is, “Shouldn’t we all be this way, except for a teaching gift or possibly married?” This leadership pattern gives you an idea of what to look for from folks leading us.

Character: As you gain a more pixelated understanding of this person, what do you see in their character? Some of those pixels will reveal such things as integrity, affection, morality, self-control, goodness, gentleness, patience, motives, kindness, love, purity, passion, joy, faithfulness, honesty, and maturity. It’s easier never to promote a person than to elevate them only to find out later they have a flawed character. It’s much messier and more difficult to remove them in such cases.

Pattern or Episode: Is this a one-time sin decision that she made in her past, or is there a pattern of deception, stubbornness, and arrogance in her current life? If there are ongoing sin patterns, you must intervene and stay involved until she changes.

Repentance: You want to investigate—starting with her—to get the real story. You do not want to get others involved—at first—because if this is a past sin, you don’t want to advertise what God has forgiven and does not bring up as reminders.

Key: If she has repented, implying she has worked through it and is a leader of quality character, she will want to lead you by helping you work through your struggle.

Direct Video Messages

Call to Action

  1. Can you overlook this lady and the problem? Why or why not?
  2. Do you need to change your conscience? Is your conscience in-line with God’s Word, or do you need to recalibrate it to make it more biblically informed?
  3. If you should not change your conscience, you must deal with it by talking to the lady and, potentially, bringing in a third person who is a leader.
  4. What do your leaders say about this? How are they handling it? Are you in agreement with how it’s playing out?
  5. Do you need to leave the church? I’m not suggesting you leave, but it might come to this. What you cannot do is continue coming to the church meeting, engaging in this situation, or continue to bring it up, and it troubles your soul. You must be at peace about this matter, and if you can’t be around her, you must do what you must to reduce your soul noise.

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