I get emails. This tragic email is lengthy but important. A reader wants to know how to respond to having been disfellowshipped. Readers, what do you think?
(Edited for length and privacy. Posted and edited with permission.)
I have been reading and studying your website for some time now. First, let me say it has been very edifying and uplifting. It has cleared up many issues I’ve had and helped me find some peace in an chaotic time in my life. Thank You.
Second, I would like to get some advice on the practice of disfellowship in some conservative Churches of Christ.
I am a xxx-year old wife and mother of x children. I was raised in a very conservative Church of Christ and my entire family is very strong in this faith (x generations strong — EVERY member!) My husband was raised Baptist, but after we were married he was baptized, and even though he didn’t agree with all the ‘legalism’ in the Church of Christ — he did see the need for his repentance, baptism and following his Savior, and he joined the church where my family and I went.
After 15 years, we have had so many issues and doubts with their teachings. We found ourselves being dragged down with all the judging and legalistic views. I would go to church happy, edified and ready to serve, but leave upset, discouraged and frustrated. I studied with the preacher (who is a good friend) on many of the topics, but there was no room for opinions.
(By the way, my parents will not go to any of the Churches of Christ in our hometown — for 15 years we have driven 30 minutes to the next town to go to church — they disfellowshipped the Churches of Christ in our town for being weak and/or too liberal.)
Some of the issues were/are: musical instruments (which I don’t care if they are in the church or not, I wasn’t pushing for them to add them, that was never mentioned, I just don’t see the need or encouragement in condemning others to hell for it). This was taught over and over from the pulpit, “anyone praising God with an instrument is not obeying God’s commands and will go to hell for their going against Bible authority” our preacher believed (along with many others) that is was even a sin for me to listen to religious music on the radio.
This is pretty much all me and my little girls listen to. I can’t find in the scripture how this is sin. Your comments on this subject has strengthened my beliefs. I believe we can and should praise God in ALL we do.
One of my daughters is very musically inclined. She is only 6 and when she plays the piano she automatically wants to sing ‘love songs’ to Jesus. I think this is beautiful and God is happy with this praise from a pure and loving little heart. But my family (parents, grandparents) say we shouldn’t let her do this. They believe that even in the home you are worshiping God in a way he has not suggested. This has caused many ‘debates’ between us because I do not wish to teach this to my children. I want them to praise God for the talents and gifts he has blessed them with. I’ve told them that any gift they have is from our Father in Heaven, so to praise him with that gift is the best thing they could do.
Also, the Church of Christ here condemns (as a SIN) having a church bus, having a fellowship hall, supporting anything other than missionaries, etc. … all the basic things the conservative Churches of Christ condemn.
About a year ago, I really started having doubts. I kept studying daily on my own. I found myself being totally absorbed in God’s word. I couldn’t put the Bible down. After about 6 months of listening to sermons that were directed at me or my doubts, I really wanted to leave. I asked for this to stop, but our preacher told me he was afraid for my salvation and thought I needed to repent of my beliefs that disagreed with his.
My husband wanted to stop going to the Church of Christ and start going to the 1st Christian Church here in our home town. And our oldest children (teenagers) were asking to move too.
So we all started going to the Christian Church and have been there since Oct. (My husband felt it was a place we could find peace to study and grow without force.) It seems the Christian Church here is a lot like the Church of Christ where you are. They teach truth without all the legalism — and they show love to the community and serve the poor — and it’s the love and nonjudgmental attitude that has caused us to be edified and want to stay.
Needless to say, the first week I missed services at the Church of Christ I received a letter in the mail stating (very coldly) that I would have 1 month to come back or I would be disfelowshipped — it was addressed only to me, since I am the one who spoke my doubts.
The letter was signed by the men of the congregation, which included my father, grandfather and brother-in-law. None of them had come to speak with me about this. They just sent a 1 line letter. I called and sent a letter to the preacher and then the whole congregation saying I was very sorry for any bad feelings I had caused.
No one even knew anything was going on (except for my family and the preacher and 1 elder) until I had already been ‘warned’. I went to my parents’ house twice begging for their patience and begging for them to let us grow and study on our own for a while. I begged them not to disfellowship me. I told them I was sorry for everything. I told everyone to please be patient and realize I was not leaving or doubting God — I was just searching to settle some issues in my mind. I never condemned any of them for any of their beliefs — I just wanted the same in return.
I never meant to hurt them. But I felt like I was starving for spiritual guidance and spiritual food — my husband and I needed to go somewhere else. But this wasn’t allowed.
Now my children have such a ‘negative’ feeling towards the Church of Christ. My husband and I have not fueled this. I keep telling them to understand our family is hurt and upset right now, that it will all be ok.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas our kids were invited to the family dinner and holiday celebration — but I wasn’t. The kids of course didn’t want to go — but I asked them to go and show respect to their grandparents and the rest of the family and just to love and serve. I don’t want them to be bitter or hold a grudge towards anyone. I know that is where Satan will tempt up right now, so we are continually praying for God to keep our hearts good and help us not let any bitterness and anger in.
I kept calling and trying to go see and help my grandparents, until about 3 weeks ago, my grandmother told me on the phone (crying) that I could no longer call them or come see them. I don’t understand this at all —
I never talked to anyone else at church about my doubts, so I didn’t cause any division. I know God hates that. I just miss my family so much. I especially want to be there for my aging grandparents.
They have told my kids that we are all on the road to hell. Am I missing somewhere in the scriptures that teach this?
When I ask them what sin they have against me, they tell me I’ve been a railer (when I looked this up, the definition said ‘one who curses and rails against….’ ). I haven’t done this.
Another said I had chosen to neglect the assembly of the saints. And since they consider only Church of Christ members saints — they don’t consider going to the Christian church ok.
I’m sorry to be so long — I have grown to respect your blunt, honest, view. I won’t be insulted if you disagree and correct me on any of this. I would just like an unbiased, godly opinion to make sure I’m not being stubborn and ignoring something God is telling me.