Posted by: chuckbumgardner | June 27, 2007

Expulsion before admonition?, followup

I interacted with my good friend John Linville about the “expulsion before admonition” model of church discipline. Although in agreement with my general line of thinking, John pointed out that on a practical basis, the offender may be unavailable for admonition in a given situation, and removal from the rolls would seem to be necessary nonetheless.

The key situation where this would be true is in the purging of a church’s membership roll. It is axiomatic that pastors ought to keep in touch with their flock, but after an interim period between pastors, or after a pastor resigns who was lax in this duty, a new pastor ought to attempt to contact those with whom the church has lost contact. It may be that certain people have moved from the community, and the church has neglected to remove them from the membership roll. It may be that they have ceased attending, and are nowhere to be found.

It is one thing if such people can be contacted, and as appropriate admonished to reestablish attendance the church again (obviously, the communication will be different if a person has moved from the community, or is providentially hindered by illness from attending). In the case of inability to contact such people after due diligence has been exercised, however, the congregation ought to remove them from the membership of the church. This is due to the fact that a member cannot fulfill the covenant of a church if he or she has no contact with the other members of the church, and neither can that member be discipled by the church if they are not in contact with the church.

In the case of persons removed from membership for non-attendance because the church has lost contact with them and cannot reestablish it, we have the situation of removal from membership before admonition. However, when such cases have been handled properly, a reasonable effort has been made to admonish the person, and expulsion without admonition is acceptable. Depending on the situation, such removal from the membership rolls may or may not be equivalent to expulsion based on unrepentant sin, but it seems clearly right in spite of the lack of admonition on the part of the church.



  1. Good points. The topic of ‘categories of membership,’ including ‘absentee membership,’ came up briefly last night. We did not get into it formally, but we expressed some hesitancy at that category.

  2. I suppose instead of saying “admonition before expulsion,” it would be better to say “attempt at restoration before expulsion.” That would cover a proper removal from the roll of those who have not attended for some time and cannot be contacted.

    As to the category of “absentee membership,” it would be better in my judgment to retain a single category of membership, and instead to put strictures on which members can and cannot vote on given issues. So, for instance, if a church fears that non-attending members might come en masse to sway a particular vote, it might put language in the bylaws to prevent such a situation. So, for instance, one might say, “For any given business of the church brought to a vote of the congregation, only those members may vote who have attended at least 20% of the church’s regularly scheduled services in the past three months, unless hindered by ___________.” Or, probably better, the church could just keep up well with situations of members who are not attending regularly, which should keep to a minimum the number of members who might try to sway a business meeting.

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