Dealing with Trouble in the Local Church
2 Timothy 2-Titus 1
No one likes controversy—at least they shouldn’t; especially in the local church, which ought to be a close-knit family. Conflicts are painful, and ought to be avoided as much as possible. Brethren ought to bend over backwards for one another, submitting for the good of their brother and peace in the congregation. Over and over again, peace is called for among Christians (2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:13).
However, there are times when some Christians do not have peaceful intents, and the best efforts by loving brethren to deal with them net few results. What are we to do then?
“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:10-16).
Those are strong words from an apostle that often preached the need for peace and patience with one another. But the fact is sometimes after the gentle way has been employed, if those causing trouble refuse to settle down, they must be dealt with firmly.
What types of problems are we talking about? First, those who are “insubordinate”— who continue to be disagreeable after leadership or the consensus of the church have “settled a matter.” Obviously, we are not talking about matters of right or wrong—or at least not clear teachings of right or wrong. We are talking about matters of personal opinion. When decisions are made, they refuse to go along, and often withdraw themselves or pout. Then, Paul mentioned “empty talkers.” These are members who “blow a lot of hot air” and stir up problems about issues of no consequence. The third group is more nefarious—“deceivers.” Specifically, Paul was speaking of Judizers promoting false teachings. For us today, it would be those who try to spread their false teachings and turn people away from Christ. They often carry out these efforts through secret meetings and seeking out weak members they can exercise sway over (2 Timothy 3:6).
We are not dealing here with people who are simply in need of gentle rebuke. We are dealing with people who have an “agenda”—and that agenda is not in the best interest of the local church. How are they to be dealt with once their motives are clear? Love is certainly employed first, but when that does not work, “…rebuke them sharply…” Deal with them for what they are once it is clear—“They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” Such judgments are not made hastily, or without much consideration of “their works.” But, for the sake of their souls and the well being of the local family, divine directions instructs they must be done.