This morning I was reflecting on I Cor. 5…you know, the one about incest and excommunication, or as we Protestants like to call it, “disfellowshipping.” Disfellowship somehow sounds more nice than excommunication and definitely sounds better than, “We’re gonna kick you out of the church.”
You don’t hear much about excommunication these days. I’m not sure it really works anymore. Apparently, in regards to the ‘I Cor. 5 episode’ it worked because if you continue to read on into II Cor. it appears this nasty fellow was eventually admitted back into the church.
I think the difference between then and now is that today if you kick…disfellowship someone they can, and usually do, just leave your church and begin attending someone else’s church. There were fewer local churches to choose from at Corinth in the first century. In addition to that, you had this ‘Apostle’ by the name of Paul overseeing this region with, apparently, the power to “…deliver such a one over to satan for the destruction of his flesh.” Yikes!
Today if you ex…disfellowship someone they will do one of four things.
1. Admit their guilt, apologize, and stay put.
2. Hire a lawyer and sue you for defamation of character. Don’t laugh, this happens.
3. Quit going to your church or anyone else’s church for that matter.
4. Leave your church and slip into some other church.
So, I have a better idea, and this is based on the assumption that disfellowshipping doesn’t work. Two ideas that will be costly but would work.
Ellen has worked for three teaching institutions: San Jose State University, Southern Oregon University, and Rogue Community College. Each time before they hired her they ran a background check to see if there was any criminal activity in her past for which she had been charged.
What if there was a national or regional “Church background List?” (Ellen said, “Or a church terrorist data base.”) Ellen is much more cynical than I am.
So let’s imagine this scenario.
Bob and Judy visit your church. They mention that they have been looking for a new church. You run your background check on them. The next Sunday after the service…
“Hey Bob and Judy, could I talk to you for a minute?”
“We’re really excited about you coming here, but…” Judy interrupts.
“Oh pastor we are also. The worship is so wonderful and your teaching…you really teach the meat instead of the milk like at our last church.”
“Yeah, well that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You see I ran a ‘church background check’ on you and discovered three counts of gossip, and one count of slander in your most recent church. I’m afraid we can’t let you in until you take care of this.”
You know those metal detectors in airports? What if someone invented something like that to spot trouble-makers who go from one church to the other? Here’s how it would work.
First…invent the technology. (Win Tony Stark to Jesus and get him to attend your church.)
Next, train your greeters to direct your regular church members one way but church-shoppers another way, i.e. through the detector. If an alarm goes off, it looks like this.
“Sir, could you please step to the side?”
You wand them. (Another technology yet to be developed but once you win Tony Stark this will be no problem.) That weird buzzing sound goes off.
“I’m going to have to ask you to empty the content of your pockets (or purse) into this basket.”
Now if they are carrying with them forbidden items such as:
Rebellion towards authority
General and persistent negativity, your greeters say…
“I’m sorry sir. These items are not allowed. You’ll need to either leave them behind or you can’t get on board.”
Give it some thought. Meanwhile I’m going to look for some investors who like my ideas and see if we can’t market this thing.