Ostracization: A Church of God Tradition

Over the past 2 years I have visited many congregations in several states, affiliated and unaffiliated with various "Church of God" organizations. Sadly, one common denominator that weíve inherited from our collective past, is still in unfruitful operation today in many different settings: ostracization.

There is a great need being met by the various church organizations that continue to provide basic training for Godís thousands of saints. Unfortunately however, a common adjunct to this basic training is that our brethren are led to believe that they have already "arrived" when they have really only re-arrived...at the beginning! If only this basic training was available to everyone who needed it—regularly, or occasionally as a refresher, with no strings attached! Then God would be served because all spiritual growth is to His glory, and for His purposes and pleasure.

If it was more common for those who offered this basic training to do so because they truly wanted to further Godís purposes for His people instead of being obviously secondary to preserving their own prestige, and encouraging Godís people to remain dependent upon the organization to preserve the comfortable status quo...then we would have a win-win-win situation and God would probably be more inclined to call more individuals into His Church. Is it really any surprise why most of us can count on one hand the number of people who have come to a saving knowledge of Godís Truth during the past few years?

Instead, most of our brethren today (many of these could be aided by a little basic training refresher) have been forced to conclude that the cost is just too great; the politics are too thick; the implications of even being a guest necessitate too much disclaimer; and frankly, the atmosphere is just too devoid of uplifting, constructive, inspired content to partake of such basic training.

In todayís situation, men "lead" various divisions of the Body, and abhor the potential for further division within their division, but are quite comfortable with upholding the "distinctions" of their division by discouraging fellowship across imaginary organizational boundary lines—because the existence of their division justifies themselves and their roles.

Another, even sadder, division of the modern Church is a chronological division of all things! Since the now largely discredited cultic culture of the past exuded an implicit ownership of Godís Truth and His People—those who wised up to the systemic spiritual paralysis are often ostracized by those who didnít figure it out until later and by those that figured it out a lot earlier. The tragic result of this is that the church groups are littered with outcasts from each other—either by their own decrees or by their actual practice. This cultural, ostracizational response has resulted in a little-acknowledged mountain of judgmental sins to be repented of and has created a most difficult barrier to fellowship and worship in large assemblies, especially for the earlier outcasts.

"Early outcasts" are hard to accept because other brethren probably spoke against them—maybe with no facts at all—when they were "cast out." Also, thereís a huge likelihood that these outcasts may know about mistakes that the big groups would like to keep hidden. It is much easier to be objective about such things when outside the organizations! But at least one thing will be almost certain—they will have asked themselves, "Just how much of my former church experience was truly of God, and how much was simply me standing in the firing line of the propaganda of men couching their own agendas in spiritual-sounding language?" Thatís a good question for all of us!

Perhaps most tragically, though, the days of outcast-production are not over! To further corporate goals of uniformity (commonly mislabeled as "unity"), more outcasts can be readily made simply by the pronouncement of a few choice innuendos from the pulpit. Then presto, the old practiced pavlovian ostracizational reflex fires nearly as well as it did a decade ago and the basest cultural force in our collective "Church of God" memory churns out another fresh batch of outcasts—yet another schism in the Body. Those outward bound are now probably tarred with one of the most stinging "Church of God" epithets, "They sought to cause division!" To the detriment of the spiritual organism, the organizational imperative is allowed to play out; relationships are ruptured as the leaders of the larger division (church organization) congratulate the shunners for their discernment and faithfulness...never mind that their day will come as God continues to grant discernment to His people.

May the Almighty strengthen the hands of those who seek to serve His people with no spiritual conflict of interest or agenda of their own!

May He raise up more and more of those who will not concern themselves with turf battles over the Lordís heritage! Then perhaps places will emerge where our Father can call new people into where they and their calling really will count for something more than statistics—places where the lessons of the past will have been internalized but baggage such as what Iíve written here wonít be part of what the new converts must vicariously navigate! May God speed the day of the truly empowered end-time Church (which appears to be taking shape on the horizon) and then the coming of His Kingdom!

—Jon D. Pike

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