Just the other day I was on the phone with Sister Anne, one of the older members of our church. At some point in the conversation I inquired of the welfare of Sister Thelma, another lady who yet remains with the “Primitive Baptist” church that I used to serve; the one that excluded me when I began preaching, as they referred to it, “unsound doctrine”. They both remain good friends and are in constant contact with one another.
This is good. I do not feel the scriptures to teach that when a member has been excluded that all communication is to cease. I believe 2 Thessalonians 3:14 establishes this fact. My deceived friends could learn a lot from this. I’m quite sure there have been many cases where a member was either excluded or left of their own accord in which not a single member of the church reached out to them to try to win them back. Was there bitterness in their heart which prevented them from so doing? Fear? Lack of concern? Maybe their Hyper-Calvinism had convinced them that if they are a true Old Baptist the Lord will just bring them back. After all, we shouldn’t “help” the Lord, should we?
I asked Anne to convey to Sister Thelma how much I and everyone else would love to see her. She’s traveled a rough road of late, losing her husband to cancer and not in good health herself. Anne said she had already invited her to our church but to no avail. The reason given came as no surprise to me. It is one I have known about far too long.
She was scared.
Scared to visit a church which had been deemed “out of order”.
Ponder this reader, especially if you are of the Calvinistic persuasion. I believe strongly in election, predestination, and total depravity (the most emphasized doctrines among the Hardshell church), having never recanted them. Yet simply because I grew in grace and the knowledge of the truth, burning the midnight oil in hours of study, and came to see that God makes use of means in effectual calling and that the saints will persevere in their allegiance to Christ, I was excluded and my current home church labelled “out of order”. Each member who chose to come with me received a personal letter in the mail a week or so later stating that they had all been excluded.
When I hung up I took a deep breath, deeply saddened because of two things. First, that a church can be called out of order simply because it believes in the basic truth of evangelism advocated by the majority of Christendom, and secondly, that an elderly member is afraid of being disciplined by her home church or being made the subject of gossip because she chose to visit it.