Why should churches discipline members who consistently do not attend?
Some church members are prevented by infirmity or necessity (think military deployment) from regularly attending the church. Others, however, deliberately choose not to attend the church of which they are a member. Such non-attenders have a toxic effect on the church:
- They make evangelism harder. Everyone who bears the name of Christ—as affirmed by your church by calling them a “member”—yet who willingly chooses to live their lives apart from the covenanted community of believers is practicing identity theft. They’ve taken Christ’s name, but they don’t honestly identify with his body, the local church. Living unaccountable lives, they make evangelism harder for other Christians, because, often, they aren’t living like Christians.
- They confuse new believers. New believers need good models. When the doctrine they’re taught doesn’t sync with the models they see in the absentees, they become confused. They’re led to believe one can be a “Christian” and yet have little or no connection to Christ’s body. Non-attenders are not only reverse witnesses (see the previous point), they’re reverse models. They disregard and disobey countless passages of Scripture and fail to image God’s character in the most basic ways, even though they claim to be his adopted children.
- They discourage regular attenders. When a church allows non-attenders to remain members, they effectively gut the meaning of membership, which hurts and discourages the faithful.
- They worry their leaders. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” In light of this verse, a faithful pastor or elder should feel responsible for the spiritual state of every member of his flock. Like a father worried about his son who hasn’t yet come home late at night, a good shepherd doesn’t rest until all his sheep are accounted for. Non-attenders make this task nearly impossible.
Therefore, if a church member persists in the sin of non-attendance despite extended and patient rebuke, the church should excommunicate them for unrepentantly disobeying Hebrews 10:24-25.
(This material has been adapted from Matt Schmucker’s article, “Those Toxic Non-Attenders”)