Many brothers and sisters encounter difficult stretches in their walk to the Kingdom. At times, individuals may find themselves in disagreement with ecclesial decisions. In our area, several brethren and sisters have felt so strongly that the ecclesia had failed them, and not adhered to their definition of Biblical behavior, that they have left the ecclesia and our Central fellowship. The loss of any member is harmful to all members of an ecclesia and any nearby ecclesias.
Should members who feel that their ecclesia has failed them withdraw from the ecclesia? By no means. It is a commandment that we meet together to remember our Lord. The ecclesia is a structure designed by God to help shape our characters and assist us in our walk to the Kingdom. We are commanded to knock the dust from our sandals and leave groups of unbelievers, but that does not apply to our brothers and sisters. Partial or total withdrawal from the ecclesia is a natural reaction when we are hurt. This withdrawal can be carried to the extreme of redefining what fellowship means, and to members determining that they are no longer in fellowship with a portion of their ecclesia. This redefinition of the body of Christ is not in line with Ephesians 5:30, Colossians 1:18, or Colossians 2:19.
Individuals need to be aware of what impact their dissatisfaction will have on their brothers and sisters. In Philippians 2:4 we are commanded to consider the effect of our actions on our brothers and sisters. The effect of constant complaining and disagreement in an ecclesia can be disastrous. Murmuring can act like a leaven in the body, spreading until the entire ecclesia is affected (1Cor 5:6). The brothers and sisters involved in the problem need to resolve the problem and not allow it to fester (Matt 5:23-26).
Brothers have an extra burden, not to allow their disappointment with ecclesial decisions to carry over into their platform duties. Complaints against the ecclesia should never be expressed in exhortations or public prayers. When a brother is asked to prepare the ecclesia for the emblems via an exhortation or public prayer, he must overcome the temptation to vent his frustration. All of us need to keep the memorial service above the fray and not view platform duties as an opportunity to air grievances.
How we handle these difficult situations will be observed by our children and new converts to the Truth. We need to keep our young people, Sunday school classes, and youth groups out of the controversy. Our children are to be raised in the Lord, not used as foot soldiers or a battlefield in the struggle. Living in our area, we have a choice of four ecclesias. Whenever someone transfers to another ecclesia, everyone’s first question is always: ‘What issue upset them?’ Explaining why Uncle Bob and Aunt Alice no longer attend our ecclesia makes the already difficult job of raising godly children even more difficult.
The ecclesia has a responsibility to resolve the dissatisfaction felt by members. The ecclesia needs to recognize when its actions or inactions have caused offense in the context of Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 8. It may be felt that the ecclesia is right, and in accordance with Scriptures, in its decision; but the ecclesia also has an obligation to explain its decision adequately, and to attempt to resolve any resulting problem.
When a member of the ecclesia feels that the ecclesia has failed him or her, then a responsibility is created for both the member and the ecclesia. Everyone involved needs to put aside pride and determine if the issue can be resolved by following 1 Corinthians 6 and 7. Paul’s advice is that we should allow ourselves even to be wronged and defrauded, if necessary, to maintain peace in the ecclesia. Whatever the solution, it will not come easily (Prov 18:19). Everyone needs to recognize the need for a unified body and put their brothers and sisters ahead of themselves.