How to Prepare for Sunday, 1/21/18

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church I’m beginning a two-part sermon series on the twin evils of abortion and racism. This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and I’ll be preaching on The Racist Roots of Abortion from Exodus 1. Check out my recent article to learn more about how to prepare for a Sunday like this.

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Pray for those in attendance for whom this sermon may be particularly difficult. These may include moms who have had abortions, men who have facilitated them, those who have worked/supported the abortion industry, and couples struggling with infertility, among others.

3) Read and meditate on Exodus 1, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

4) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

Holy, Holy, Holy

His Mercy is More

I Cling to the Cross

Revelation Song

O God Our Help in Ages Past

5) Think of specific people you can encourage this Sunday and specific ways you can encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25).

 See you Sunday!

 

Pastor Hopson

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Why Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is Risky

For the past several decades, many churches in America have set aside a Sunday in January to commemorate a horrible anniversary: the Roe v. Wade decision declaring a constitutional right to abortion on demand. Since the Supreme Court decided the Roe v. Wade case on January 22, 1973, most churches observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS) on the Sunday nearest that anniversary.

While I firmly believe there is great value in taking a special Sunday to deliberately expose the evils of abortion (Ephesians 5:11), we must do so with great care. While a special SOHLS service may generate plenty of hearty “amens” in your church, the truth is it’s incredibly risky.   Here are three pitfalls to avoid on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

The Pitfall of Legalism

First, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of legalism. It’s easy to forget that taking a Sunday to expose the evils of abortion is helpful, but not necessary. In other words, pastors and churches who choose not to address this issue the same way we do are not spineless cowards, pro-abortion, or anti-life. There may be many reasons why a pastor and/or a congregation may choose not to address the issue of abortion in such a focused way. While some of those reasons could be sinful (for example, fear of man), there could be legitimate reasons. After all, observing a special Sunday like SOHLS is not commanded in Scripture. Therefore, it would be foolish to condemn those pastors and churches who (for good reasons) choose not to address the issue. The church has advanced for 2000 years without SOHLS and its thriving in many countries across the world that have never even heard of SOHLS or Roe v. Wade. So let’s not turn a good thing into a requirement for everybody.

The Pitfall of Indifference

Second, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of indifference. It’s easy to forget that SOHLS may be a painful Sunday for many in your church. A couple wrestling with the pain of infertility may cringe through an entire sermon exposing an evil that to them seems very personal and unfair. They may be asking themselves (or God) “how can so many choose to abort their children when there’s so many couples like us that are unable to conceive?” An entire Sunday devoted to the horrors of abortion may feel like pouring salt on the wound.

Others in your church may have experienced the evils of abortion up close and personal. In your church this Sunday may be someone who’s worked (or is working) in the abortion industry, a young lady who aborted an unwanted child, a young man who drove his pregnant girlfriend to the clinic, an upstanding father who hushed up his daughter’s teenage pregnancy, or a lady who aborted a baby to cover up an affair. Whether these sins are recent memories or skeletons long hidden in the closet, a sermon exposing the evils of abortion will likely be very painful for those who’ve experienced it firsthand.

The Pitfall of Politicization

Third, observing SOHLS is risky because we can fall into the pitfall of politicization. If you asked ten random American adults which political party opposes abortion, what would they say? Virtually every American adult knows that the pro-life (or anti-abortion) cause is a decidedly Republican issue. Not that long ago one could find staunch advocates for the sanctity of human life on both sides of the political aisle, but that is becoming more and more difficult every year. The fact of the matter is, the Democratic party platform is unashamedly pro-abortion.

So what’s the point? The point is that while it is right to expose the evils of abortion, it is risky because it may subtly suggest that Christianity equals Republican politics. Let me be clear: following Jesus is not about following a political party. As Chuck Colson used to say, “the Kingdom of God doesn’t arrive on Air Force One.” Our Kingdom is not of this world. It’s bigger than America and it’s bigger than your political party. If as a Christian you’re not able to take your Bible and expose the propensities towards evil in both political parties, you’ve lost a little something of what it means to look like the God-Man who opposed and exposed sin on both the right and the left (Mark 8:14-15).

Walk the Line

So how can we expose the evils of abortion while avoiding the three pitfalls of legalism, indifference, and politicization?

First, we should humbly remember that while observing SOHLS is part of our church’s culture,  that doesn’t mean every other church will do it the same way. Don’t look down on Christian friends from other churches who do nothing to commemorate this day. Love them, pray for them, and trust that God is leading them to respond to the evils of abortion in an appropriate way for their context.

Second, we should be considerate to the hurting in our congregations. Pastors, take great care to extend grace to those who are haunted by the skeletons in their closets. Avoid careless and unnecessarily harmful statements that could hurt those you’re called to love. Church member, pay attention to hurting people around you this Sunday. Be sensitive to them. Just because SOHLS doesn’t conjure up painful emotions for you doesn’t mean that others aren’t deeply broken by the topic. Love them. Pray for them. And if someone sitting near you is deeply and visibly moved, don’t be afraid to put an arm around their shoulder and pray with them.

Third, we should intentionally look for opportunities to remind the church that the gospel is bigger than a political party. One of the ways we do that at PBC is by following Sanctity of Human Life Sunday with Racial Harmony Sunday. After intentionally exposing the evils of abortion (a sin often tied to the political left), we intentionally expose the evils of racism (a sin often tied to the political right).

Finally, in all these things don’t forget the most important thing: preach Christ. A world without abortion (or racism) and still without Jesus is a world on its way to hell. So even as we expose the polarizing sins in our culture, may we never do so without pointing sinners to the Savior who bore the wrath of God on a cross in our place.  Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)


© M. Hopson Boutot, 2018

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How to Prepare for Sunday, 1/14/18

This Sunday at Poquoson Baptist Church I will be sharing a vision sermon for the year based on 2 Timothy 2:1-7. Although it’s typical to think of a vision sermon being all about how a church will change, I think you’ll notice this one will be different. It’s far less about changing PBC and far more about changing me. I hope you’ll join us to hear what God’s laid on my heart.

Here’s a few specific ways to prepare for Sunday:

1) Pray and ask God to work in you for His glory.

2) Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 2:1-7, our text for Sunday’s sermon.

3) Below are the songs we’ll be singing on Sunday. Click on the links to learn any you don’t know so you’re prepared to sing.

To God Be the Glory

That’s Why We Praise Him

Hallelujah for the Cross

The Stand

Grace Greater Than All Our Sin

4) Think of specific people you can encourage this Sunday and specific ways you can encourage them (Hebrews 10:24-25).

See you Sunday!

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Why Preach a Vision Sermon?

There’s nothing magical about a new year. Perhaps one of the greatest reasons most New Year’s resolutions fail is that so many people assume a new year means a new you. Nothing could be further from the truth. On January 1 you’re living in the same sin-soaked flesh you indwelt on December 31. But that doesn’t mean it’s not wise or appropriate to reflect on the year gone by and reassess your priorities and refocus for the year to come.

That’s why as a pastor I’ve generally taken the first Sunday of the year (weather permitting) to preach a special sermon outlining a vision for the church. Although I firmly believe the church’s primary sermonic diet should verse-by-verse preaching through books of the Bible, its wise for pastors to preach a vision sermon at strategic times in church life. One such time is at the beginning of a new year. Since the primary means God uses to bring about change in the life of the church is the faithful preaching of the Word of God, it seems appropriate to strategically preach sermons that help set a course for Christ-honoring change.

That said, preachers should take great care to ensure a vision sermon is deeply rooted in Scripture. A vision sermon shouldn’t major on extra-biblical themes, but should call Christ’s church towards greater obedience to Christ’s Word. For example, it would be a stretch to preach a sermon on “Why We Should Build a New Building” or “Four Reasons to Hire a New Staff Person.” These discussions may be necessary in the life of your church, but they’re better suited for a Members’ Meeting, not injected into the Sunday morning sermon.

My first sermon at Poquoson Baptist Church was a vision sermon from Matthew 28:18-20. I shared with the church my vision that we be a disciple-making church, a church that shepherded sinners from lost to leader.

On January 1, 2017 I preached a vision sermon for PBC from 1 Peter 4:8 on our need to love one another.

This Sunday I’ll be preaching a vision sermon from 2 Timothy 2:1-7. I hope you’ll come excited and expectant for God to move in us and through us for His glory.

© M. Hopson Boutot, 2018

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Holy Ground

Image result for bible sandalsWe’ve all heard the story. Moses, a former prince turned fugitive is hiding out in Midian tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he sees something unusual. It probably wasn’t strange to see a bush on fire, but this was different. The fire wasn’t consuming. It was just burning. So Moses drew nearer for a closer look. And that’s when it happened. The voice of God came to Moses from the bush: “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:1-5).

Holy ground. That’s not something you see every day. In fact, the ground is usually regarded as dirty, unholy, filthy, unclean. In another Bible story a man named Uzzah was so mortified that the holy Ark of the Covenant was about to touch the unclean ground that he committed the unthinkable and reached out to stop it from falling. The ground is not holy.

Most of us think the same way still today. How many parents applaud their children when they eat food off the ground? How many wannabe grill masters season their hot dogs with a quick roll in the dirt? That’s ludicrous. The ground isn’t clean, it’s unclean. So unclean, in fact, that it makes clean things unclean.

Except when it doesn’t. Except when a holy God is near. In the presence of God, unclean things don’t contaminate the clean. In the presence of God, the unclean becomes clean, the dirty becomes holy. When God invaded Mount Horeb everything near Him became holy, set apart for His service.

A few thousand years later, not far from that mountain, a Galilean carpenter did something similar. In those days the unclean had the same power to pollute the clean. No self-respecting, God-fearing Jew would think of touching a filthy leper, or a corpse lest he become unclean. Everyone knew in those days that touching an unclean things made clean people dirty.

Except when it didn’t. Except when a holy God came near. In the presence of Jesus, unclean things don’t contaminate the clean. In the presence of Jesus, the unclean becomes clean, the dirty becomes holy. Christian, when God invades your soul you become holy, set apart for His service. So become who you are.


© M. Hopson Boutot, 2018

Image Credit: http://www.ucg.ca/bible-study-tools/gods-church/why-remove-sandals

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What to Expect on Harvest Day

On October 1, 2017, Poquoson Baptist Church will be celebrating a special day of renewed commitment to Christ and His church.

General Overview

We believe the Bible teaches that a local church is the most important organization in the world. Therefore, due to its sacred nature and the teaching of Scripture, the local church should have high standards for membership. The New Testament pictures the local church as a body filled with activities like burden-bearing, serving, fellowship, accountability, confession, discipleship, mutual submission, and church discipline. But if a church does not know its membership, doing any of this well is impossible. Therefore, every local church should strive to have meaningful membership.

For months we have been discussing the importance of meaningful membership at Poquoson Baptist. We’ve taken some small steps to move in this direction, but the reality is we still have a long way to go. We still have many “members” on our list that have not shown any recent interest in being involved in PBC life.  We believe these inactive “members” should be encouraged to decide whether or not they want to remain a member of this church.

For the health and wellbeing of Poquoson Baptist Church, we’re taking a giant leap towards meaningful membership by asking existing members to “opt-in” to affirm their membership.

What to Expect on Sunday

With God’s help, this Sunday will be a major day in the life of PBC as we celebrate our love and commitment for one another. With that in mind, much of our main worship gathering will be moving us towards this moment in PBC life. Here’s what you can expect:

We’ll begin by worshiping in song like normal.

Next, we’ll welcome our guests, being careful to explain some of the unique aspects of this particular worship gathering.

We’ll continue to sing together before the sermon

I’ll preach a sermon on our fifth identity as a local church–We Are Family. Central to this sermon will be an invitation to publicly reaffirm your commitment to this family (as well as an invitation to new faces to join the family with us!)

At the conclusion of the sermon, we’ll recite our covenant together as a church family

After the sermon we’ll stand and sing together. During this time we’ll ask families to retrieve their children from the nursery so all our childcare workers can join us in the Worship Center.

After a song or two, we’ll invite everyone to the front who desires to (1) reaffirm their PBC membership or (2) pursue membership at PBC. We’ll have a basket near the stage where individuals can place their Reaffirmation Cards. And don’t worry if you forget to bring your card–we’ll have extras in the bulletins and in the pews.

After we’ve reaffirmed our membership together, we’ll sing one more song then pose for a congregational photo before we’re dismissed.

When the worship gathering ends, we’ll continue the celebration in our gymnasium with a family dinner provided by our Hospitality Team.

We’ll wrap up the day’s festivities with a special tableside Lord’s Supper service in the gym.

Brothers and Sisters, I am pumped to celebrate with you this Sunday! See you then!

 

Pastor Hopson

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Ask the Pastor: Did Jesus Go to Hell?

Scripture tells that after Jesus died, He went to hell. What exactly does that mean? 


Did Jesus descend into hell after His death on the cross? Belief in a literal descent into hell are grounded in three primary sources.

 

Ephesians 4:8-10

First, some appeal to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:8-10:

“When He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that He had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

What does it mean that Jesus “descended into the lower regions, the earth?” I think it means exactly what it says at face value, that Jesus descended into the earth. In other words, Jesus existed in heaven prior to His incarnation as an embryo in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1-18; Luke 1:26-38). So upon a closer examination, Ephesians 4 does not appear to teach that Jesus descended into hell, but onto the earth itself in His incarnation. (Note: Another possible interpretation of Christ’s descent is that Jesus descended into earth by being buried in the heart of the earth, as Jesus predicts in Matthew 12:40).

 

1 Peter 3:18-20

Second, some teach that Jesus went to hell based on Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:18-20:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

While Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 seem to be fairly easy to understand, Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3 are incredibly confusing (Isn’t that ironic, given that Peter once complained about Paul’s confusing writings–2 Peter 3:16?). While some interpret these verses as referring to Jesus’ presence in hell, this interpretation has several problems. First, it ignores Jesus’ clear words to a repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Second, it ignores the connection Peter makes between Jesus and the work of Noah. Peter appears to be saying that the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus also was preaching through Noah to his hearers, who were imprisoned by their sin. Although this interpretation still has its difficulties, I believe it is the best interpretation of a difficult text in light of the biblical storyline.

 

The Apostles’ Creed

Finally, some argue that Jesus descended into hell based on a line from the Apostles’ Creed, which says:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

Thinking through this phrase is more difficult than it might first appear (read a more detailed discussion on this phrase in the Apostles’ Creed here). However, Christians must remember that our ultimate authority is not ancient creeds and councils, but the Word of God. Nevertheless, we should not hastily dismiss our fathers and mothers in the faith. That said, it is helpful to understand that the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed was originally “descended to the dead” in Latin (descendit ad inferos) but was later changed to “descended into hell” (descendit ad inferna). Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that the Apostles’ Creed teaches Jesus’ descent into death, not His descent into hell.

 

Near the end of Jesus’ torment on the cross, the Messiah cried out “It is finished!” In what sense was His work finished? In the sense that everything necessary to atone for the sins of humanity was accomplished. Jesus did not need to go to hell to suffer further. He had already “gone to hell” on the cross.** Christian, Jesus tasted hell on the cross so that you’ll never have to. For those who are in Christ, this earth is the closest to hell you’ll ever experience.

 

* The word “catholic” in the Apostles’ Creed should not be confused with the Roman Catholic denomination. The word “catholic” literally means universal. That is, the true Christian church of all times and all places.

** To be fair, some Christians believe that Jesus descended into hell, not to suffer, but to preach victory over those in hell. Although this interpretation is more tenable than the idea that Christ suffered in hell, it still has several issues.

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Harvest Day 2017

On October 1, 2017, Poquoson Baptist Church will be celebrating a special day of renewed commitment to Christ and His church. The following is excerpted from our congregational strategy to cultivate meaningful membership.

General Overview

We believe the Bible teaches that a local church is the most important organization in the world. Therefore, due to its sacred nature and the teaching of Scripture, the local church should have high standards for membership. The New Testament pictures the local church as a body filled with activities like burden-bearing, serving, fellowship, accountability, confession, discipleship, mutual submission, and church discipline. But if a church does not know its membership, doing any of this well is impossible. Therefore, every local church should strive to have meaningful membership.

For months we have been discussing the importance of meaningful membership at Poquoson Baptist. We’ve taken some small steps to move in this direction, but the reality is we still have a long way to go. We still have many “members” on our list that have not shown any recent interest in being involved in PBC life.  We believe these inactive “members” should be encouraged to decide whether or not they want to remain a member of this church.

For the health and wellbeing of Poquoson Baptist Church, we’re taking a giant leap towards meaningful membership by asking existing members to “opt-in” to affirm their membership.

Before you misunderstand, let us explain what this effort is notFirst, this is not church discipline.  Church discipline is to be exercised in the case of (1) unrepentant immorality (1 Corinthians 5), (2) unrepentant doctrinal heresy (Titus 3:10), and (3) unrepentant disunity in the church (Matthew 18:15-17).  While it’s possible that a severely delinquent member could fit one or more of these categories, that is not our primary concern with Harvest Day.

            Second, this is not a witch hunt.  We are far more interested in gaining people than in losing them, but we feel that the Lord’s church should not have standards of membership less stringent than the nearest country club. Meaningful membership is not about having names on a list, but a body of Christ-followers who have covenanted together and are actively involved in each other’s lives.

Third, this is not kicking people out of heaven. Removing a name from our membership list means nothing of the sort. Only God knows their true spiritual condition.   Many of the names on our list may be faithfully serving Jesus in some other local church. We’ve just lost track of them through the years. Don’t forget that the idea of a membership list is really more tradition than anything.  The body consists not of those who are on a membership card or in our computer, but of those baptized believers who are actively committed to the local church.  We simply want our membership list to be as close to reality as possible.

Fourth, this is not laziness on our part. Our existing constitution permits us to remove names from membership after two years of inactivity. Many of the names on our membership list haven’t been active in far, far longer. But rather than simply removing these inactive names from membership, we want to restore a culture of meaningful membership. And we believe this is the best way forward.

Fifth, this is not cutting people off. Many of our active members have children and/or grandchildren that are inactive members. Removing those names from our membership list does not imply that we no longer care about these individuals, or that they are no longer welcome at Poquoson Baptist Church. To the contrary, we hope that by finally being honest about what membership means, those who aren’t with us will be drawn to return.

What we have agreed upon is a comprehensive effort to update our membership list to discover who really is a part of this church family.  We believe if we follow this plan, we will grow to reach even more people.  In addition, we may gain some of those we have not seen in a long time.  Finally, we will implement certain checks to make certain this will never happen again.  God being our Helper, we are committed to keeping track of all of our members so that we never let ourselves get in this position again.  Soli Deo Gloria!

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The Gospel and Racism

Racism is alive and well in America. It takes a special kind of blindness to doubt or deny that statement, especially after the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. How should Christians think through the events that unfolded last weekend? I’d like to share a few thoughts from a sermon I preached in January at Poquoson Baptist Church.

During that sermon I argued that racism isn’t just politically incorrect or morally suspect. It’s blasphemous. It preaches a Satanic anti-gospel that undermines the central truths that Christians have upheld for 2000 years. This is true for no less than three reasons:

Racism Preaches a Blasphemous View of Creation

The Bible clearly teaches that God made man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Regardless of our skin color, all of us come from the same dust. All of us. Paul tells us in Acts 17:26 that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” The blasphemous anti-gospel of racism preaches a lie about the brotherhood of man. It implies that some races or ethnicities have lesser dignity, value, or worth than others. The Gospel says that all men are created with equal value, regardless of what they look like on the outside.

Racism Preaches a Blasphemous View of the Curse

When Adam fell, all humanity was subjected to the curse of sin. All of us. Every single one. Racism implies that some individuals are more fallen than others. We do this in more ways that we realize. Ask yourself, who is more likely to become a Christian? A good ole’ white “hayseeder” farmer from Poquoson, or an olive-skinned Middle Eastern Jihadist, or an African-American pimp from Detroit? The Gospel tells us that if any of these repent and believe it’s a miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel says that all of us are equally fallen.

Racism Preaches a Blasphemous View of the Cross

The heart of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). We are redeemed, not by the color of our skin (or even the content of our character), but by the cross of an olive-skinned Middle Easterner with calloused hands and stripes on His back. When we treat some people as lesser than us due to the color of their skin, we’re implying that the cross was enough to redeem us, but what they need is a little bit more. The Gospel says the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

Racism Preaches a Blasphemous View of the Church

Maybe you’re reading this and you say, “Of course God created every race and ethnicity in His image. Of course we’re all equally fallen. Of course the ground at the cross is level.” But you might affirm all those things and still suggest that even though we all get to heaven the same way, we should worship separately until we get there. Maybe your solution in Paul’s day would be a church for Jews and another one for Gentiles. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Are you comfortable with this? What would you do if your ethnicity became a minority in your church? Would you stay? If you’d be tempted to leave, perhaps it’s because you’re brought into the subtle lies of a demonic heresy otherwise known as racism. The Gospel says that the church should reflect the Kingdom of heaven, a Kingdom with a kaleidoscope of colors (Revelation 7:9-10).

So let me be as clear as I can possibly be. The white supremacist racism demonstrated in Charlottesville last weekend is demonic. The leadership and people of Poquoson Baptist Church condemn it as godless heresy. This is not who we are. And may God forgive us for anything we’ve said (or left unsaid) in the past or present that would hint at any equivocation on our part. Soli Deo Gloria!

 

© M. Hopson Boutot, 2017

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Ask The Pastor: What Do You Believe About Excommunication?

Do you believe in excommunicating people? For example, if a gay or transgender person attends our church, but refuses to change his ways. He participates in all activities, but believes he doing nothing wrong even after the loving and gentle rebuking of leaders and friends, and continues his lifestyle. Is that when excommunication comes in? — Susan F.

—————————————————————————————————–

Great question, Susan! Yes, we do believe that sometimes excommunication is necessary as a last resort (for examples, see Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-4). However, there’s a few things to remember.

First, excommunication is for members not attenders. No one (regardless of lifestyle choices) should be told they cannot attend a local church service (The only exception would be if someone were purposely disrupting the worship gathering). Whether it’s a cross-dressing man, a lesbian couple or a turban-wearing Muslim, we would welcome them to attend. After all, what every sinner needs is to hear and believe the gospel. What better place for them to be confronted with the gospel than the local church? That said, a member (someone who had made a profession of faith, followed Jesus in baptism and joined the church) living in a lifestyle of unrepentant sin would be treated differently.
Second, excommunication is meant to be a last resort. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus presents a model for confronting sin in the church. We confront them personally, then in a group with witnesses, then the entire church gets involved. Excommunication should only occur after the sinner repeatedly refuses these attempts to be restored. When the church excommunicates someone they’re publicly saying “based on this individual’s refusal to repent when confronted, we no longer have confidence that he/she is a genuine follower of Jesus.”
Third, excommunication is never final. Jesus says to treat the excommunicated person like an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17). How do we treat unbelievers? We love them. We serve them. We share the gospel with them. But we don’t assume they’re Christians. Paul says that the act of excommunication may be used by God to deliver them from sin (1 Corinthians 5:5). Maybe he/she will finally be opened to the seriousness of sin when they’re confronted with a church that loves them enough to call them to repentance. All this simply means that an excommunicated sinner who repents can and should be welcomed back into the church. In fact, I believe that 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 is written about the same man who was excommunicated in 1 Corinthians 5. Only this time the sinner has repented and Paul tells the Corinthians Christians to welcome him back into the fellowship.
Finally, excommunication is an obedience issue. If it’s difficult to accept these things, that’s probably not a bad thing. It should be hard for us to swallow. We shouldn’t relish this sort of thing in any way. Our love for each other should cause us to dread this sort of thing. But our love for Jesus should be greater. And if Jesus tells us this is how the loving church should function, we must fight to trust Him. And we must obey, even when it hurts.

Have a question for Pastor Hopson? Email him at pastorhopson@poquosonbaptist.org.

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