Should Disfellowship Letters Be Shared Outside Of The Congregation Disfellowshipping Someone?
Should disfellowship letters be shared outside of the congregation disfellowshipping someone? Please provide scriptures to support your answer.
In the New Testament, the church in Ephesus wrote a letter to the brethren in Achaia about a faithful brother, Apollos.
Acts 18:27: “And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace;“
This should prove that a church can write to another to tell them about the conduct of an individual (whether faithful or not). Note that Achaia is a region and Corinth is just a city that region.
When Ananias and Saphira were disciplined, the Bible says “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.” (Acts 5:11). This proves that people outside their group heard about it. Whether the church wrote and circulate it, I do not know. But one thing is certain: people heard it! The record of this incident (as well as other incidents of discipline of God’s children when they sinned) are clearly written in the Bible and people today (including unbelievers) can read about the bad attitudes of the individuals who were members of the Lord’s church.
The man that took his father’s wife in I Corinthians 5 was commanded to be disciplined by the church. When he repented, he was asked to be forgiven and received by the same church in II Corinthians 2. However, these records are there for us till today. God did not have to exclude that part of the story so we would not see and circulate the evil that was done because he later repented.
The truth is that God always record both the good and bad actions of men for people to learn. Romans 15:4: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Imagine if all the sins of the Israelites, the hypocrisy of Peter, the persecution of Saul (later known as Paul), etc. were not written to be circulated today?
I believe that the purpose of disfellowship is to make a man repent. Such should be ashamed of himself and then repent. God doesn’t hide the bad side of his people when they err and we (as a church) should not hide it either. Hiding it will make the people outside see us as condoning sin. We are to mark and avoid those who cause offences contrary to what we have received (Romans 16:17)
I remember a situation where a preacher was disfellowshipped for sexual sins and an outsider appreciated the church for excommunicating him. He said the church of Christ is not like the other churches that covers the sins of their pastors. That seems like a commendation from an unbeliever and that shows he recognizes that the church of Christ does not condone sin. Imagine if such was done secretly and it was not clearly announced to everyone that the individual was disciplined, what would such say about the church?
Some have wondered why a church has to share a disfellowship letter to different churches or social media but I think that the focus should be on asking why did the individual commit the said sin? People will hear it whether we like it or not. The aim is to let the people know we are not in support of this sin and the sinner! So I think it is not out of place to make such announcement.
A church has the discretion to send out letters of disfellowship to those they want to. And if a church chooses not to, they have not sinned. But I think it is expedient to let people know that a bother is “faithful” or “unfaithful” in other to help others.