What happened in our church today has great practical bearing on this "the church is dead"/"departing out" issue, which I would urge each of you to prayerfully consider.
At the end of morning worship, an announcement of excommunication was made. With his eyes wet and his voice breaking, our minister told us how he and the other elders had met with Mr. _ for weeks, pleading with him with prayers and tears to repent of his sin of repeatedly violating the seventh and ninth commandments, to no avail.
Mr. _ has moved out and left behind a godly wife with three beautiful little redheaded boys, the oldest age seven. Repentance and reconciliation will be sought.
We were exhorted to continue in prayer for Mr. _ and Mrs. _ and the children; to help in any way possible as the needs make themselves known; to guard our own hearts and those of our spouses and families, that we take this as a warning and not fall into sin ourselves; to know that the elders are available at all times if anyone wants Biblical advice or counsel or strengthening to protect their marriages; and that if, God willing, Mr. _ should visit our church in the future, he be treated with courtesy and not shunned, but as an unbeliever with whom we urgently need to share the gospel and plead with to repent and reconcile with his wife.
Those of you who are pondering "the church is dead" matter, I prayerfully urge you:
If you are in a God-fearing church similar to ours described above (and it is a very real church), why would you want to throw this away? Why would you even consider letting some obscure-at-best teaching persuade you to cut yourself off from the benefits and protection and fellowship and mutual encouragement that such a church offers?
Conversely, how do you handle this if you have departed out of such a church, huddled around the radio in your living room Sabbath by Sabbath? Certainly not impossible, by God's grace, but immensely more anguish and difficulty is involved going it alone.
Or, perhaps you are meeting in a group that was once a church but has since "disbanded" and now calls itself a "fellowship". What would be done then? There is no authority to excommunicate such a one, to demonstrate to a watching world that we take such assaults upon the character of God and the body of Christ seriously, and to shake up the sinner and bring him back to his senses, God willing, to exhibit true repentance unto life and restore him to fellowship.
Or, might your "fellowship" have such an authority structure, you claim? And you would use the same Bible verses and reasons and take the same steps that our faithful church did today? Then, you are a … (dare I say it?) - church. Quit kidding yourselves.
Yes, yes, yes, I know - the power is of God, and the faithfulness and all the benefits that I have enumerated are of Christ. None of us will deny that. Also, many of you may be in churches that would not, or do not, handle such situations in a faithful and Biblical manner. That is another matter. Now, wake up and smell the coffee. Realize how much more effectively all of this is communicated within a church. That is why God has given them to us, until the end of time, not until 1994 plus half of the great tribulation.
Faithful churches come and go. Five years from now or six months from now, we may need to leave our church. If so, we will, though that is presently not even on the radar screen. And you can safely bet that we would be looking for another faithful church, or banding together with others of like mind and seeking to form one.
Callers to the Open Forum who have the courage to challenge "the church is dead"/"departing out" doctrine are currently being taunted with, "Dare you to be wiser than God?" Dearly beloved, it is time for all to quit playing footsies with this heinous teaching and wake up and realize that the shoe is on the other foot. God, in his wisdom and for our benefit, has given us churches - visible, corporate churches, with real office bearers and government - for our benefit, until the Lord returns, not for some abstract reason and disputed period of time. Do not commit a grievous sin by being part of any effort to trash the few good remaining ones.
Wishing you all God's richest blessings and much wisdom.