The sins of "Concealing" and "Isolation"

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Pergamum, Oct 4, 2019.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have a friend. He decided to go to a different church service two Sunday nights last month. The elders of his home church now want a meeting and mentioned that, since he did not tell them beforehand about visiting these other churches that this might be the "sins of concealing and isolation." My friend is confused and feels that a non-sin issue is now being dealt with as a sin issue and he is being accused.


    Does anyone know of churches who discipline for their members attending other services sometimes on a Sunday night?
  2. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Yes. I have heard of the practice.
    Here is a resourse that might help you to understand their thinking.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

  4. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    It seemed relevant to me. I'm not even supporting the position necessarily, just trying to help. If you look into the subject for more than 7 minutes, you will see that there are other concerns as well. Visiting other churches puts the visitor in the unusual position of having no accountability. No elder oversight. This aspect of occasional hearing is as much of a concern to those who take this position as is a difference in doctrine.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    A person spends 20 hours a week watching tv. Surfing the net. Visiting friends who may or may not believe. Listens to podcasts. No big deal. But he visits another church on a Sunday a church meeting must be called. Sounds fishy to me. Folks protecting their business or lording it over others.

    p.s. the Stillwater Revival folks seem a bit on the fringe.
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  6. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Yea, I know. But the Reformed Presbyterian Church of olden days really believed this.
    And, please don't sound like you are arguing with me. I'm just the messenger. You did ask...
  7. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    I struggle to think of any churches in my area that have an evening service on the Lord's Day, so this scenario is rather foreign to me. Moreover, I'm unfamiliar with the phrase "sins of concealing and isolation." Nonetheless, I can see where the elders would be concerned if a member of the congregation was choosing not to attend worship services at their home church.

    Did your friend provide the reasons for why he is attending the evening worship services at another church? I suspect the answer to that question is needed to really get to the heart of the matter and further discussions here.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    It seems an over reaction to what should have been kept as a simple elder query. Now, instead of perhaps ensuring he stay this inquisitorial approach is bound to achieve the opposite. Not knowing the details this may have very little to do with the occasional hearing doctrine which was the fruit of the separatistic views of the Cameronian groups that stayed out of the revolution settlement church. It was picked up as one of the teachings of the Steelite reboot in the 1990s. Let's refrain from promoting those teaching it by linking to their materials.
  9. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    It sounds like they are religious authoritarians. Be very wary of such people. While people should spend the bulk of their time attending their own congregations, any reasonable person knows that, occasionally, they are going to attend another congregation.

    For one thing, what is a person supposed to do when they are on vacation. Just sit at home because he is not directly accountable to the leadership of the church he is visiting? Anyone with any common sense knows that such a position is nonsense ... not to mention a violation of the Fourth Commandment.

    Also, the old RP position on "occasional hearing" contradicts Westminster Confession chapters 25 and 26. I wish many of those who worship the early Covenanters would actually read and understand the Westminster Standards.
  10. RJ Spencer

    RJ Spencer Puritan Board Freshman

    I feel like we are not given a full picture. Is the tithe effected by his absence? Perhaps the church has noticed a change and is concerned. I understand that many feel uncomfortable discussing tithing, but I believe that a person should tithe at the church where they hold a membership. If they are choosing to go to another church on certain evenings and decide to give to that church, they should not take away from their normal tithe.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    No problem. No argument here. Just testing out the hypothesis.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes. The reasons are that he has gone to the same church for 10 years and only this one church and he was wondering what other churches do. There is some admitted discontentment that something is not quite right in his church, a suspicion that something is lacking. And so he visited a nearby church 2 Sunday nights and found it very refreshing. Then a day or two afterwards when confronted by the elders, he felt accused. And they mentioned these two possible "sins" of "concealing" and "isolation." And really, by the way the elders handled this issues, it really seemed to verify some of my friend's suspicions about his home church that something was not right.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    No tithe effected. He's literally only visited another church twice on Sunday nights.
  14. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

  15. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't know any of the groups involved. I would, however, suggest that attitude toward church attendance has changed radically.

    Do you remember Sunday school pins where you received a new tier each year? In my church, we had to attend every week but we could miss a single week if we brought a bulletin to show we had visited another on vacation. This was in a mainline Presbyterian church, no less, the northern church which had already plunged into lousy theology but still held to the older traditions. Now tee times, curiosity, boredom, and soccer games rule the day.

    Attending your congregation's services is critical to your own spiritual health and to all around you. In many churches you vow before God to support the work and worship of your local church. Good shepherds account for the sheep in their folds.

    Clearly, if you are growing concerned about your church (and I mean over serious doctrinal issues) you may have to seek another. Do so openly and with your leadership alerted to the situation.
  16. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    If he meets with the leadership of the church, he should stop by a Dollar Store and pick up a cheap hand mirror. And then offer it to them at the meeting to help them more easily spot sinners.

    It does sound like his concerns about his present church (cult?) may be well founded. I do sense some isolationism on their part.

    Some of you theologians help me out, however, since I've never heard of the sins of "concealing and isolation".
  17. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd like to ask this question but would it derail this thread if I ask this question? If it does, please ignore it. I don't want to derail it.

    What do people here think of "church membership"? I mean in the strictest sense that would entail the OP.

    If I "joined" or put in my membership to the original church my parents and I attended when we moved here, I wouldn't be where I am now. Would I be unhappy? I'm not sure. I know God can work and do things. But I left as I was having big difficulties there. After that I went to another church, but it still didn't sit right. I'm not looking for the perfect church (as in "the building / denomination" -- there isn't one) but I still think there should be that possibility to find where to go.

    I don't believe in flippant attendance, but then again I don't believe you're "married" to a building.

    Am I thinking too hard? :(
  18. StephenMartyr

    StephenMartyr Puritan Board Freshman

    There doesn't seem to be anything in the WCF that states positively anything about disciplining failed / neglected church attendance:

    Chapter 30:
    III. Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren; for deterring of others from the like offenses; for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel; and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.

    IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime and demerit of the person.
  19. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Well I’m glad I’m on a looser leash. Biblically speaking, I don’t see how ‘local church’ can be reduced to a solitary congregation in an area without resorting to sectarianism of a cultish sort. We at least once or twice a year end up worshipping at another church in our city. It’s usually due to a baptism or ordination and at another Reformed church. Even though in these circumstances we’re not skulking around for new church on the sly, I don’t see how throwing us under church discipline would cause us to stay.
  20. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Isolation probably refers to the person in question isolating himself from the congregation of which he is a member while attending somewhere else. It is probably a reference to Proverbs 18:1, "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment." (ESV)

    I am honestly not sure what they mean by "concealing" being a sin, but they seem like the sort of people for whom inventing sins is a hobby - so who knows?
  21. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Concealing would seem to be in reference to the fact that he didn't advise them of where he would be ahead of time. Some churches insist on being informed of planned absences (and certainly, as a courtesy, that sort of information is always appreciated).

    Isolation might relate to the exclusion of himself from the congregational activity of the Sunday evening service on two occasions.
  22. BLM

    BLM Puritan Board Freshman

    Knowing neither the friend nor the elders it wouldn't be prudent of me to comment further on this specific situation based on the limited information provided.

    Pergamum - I hope your friend can resolve his issues and find peace.
  23. Von

    Von Puritan Board Freshman

    Due to work, I attend a different church than my home church about 1-2 times a month (morning service). I have been advised to let my elder know (so as to know whether I am apostasizing:)), but they do not have a problem with it per se.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    He and the elders are going to have a meeting tomorrow. I will update you.

    Yes, "concealing" meant that he attended another church without telling the elders. Not that it was a secret or anything, he just didn't think to tell them.

    They also brought up that he might become a "stumbling block" to others by those who witness and notice his absences. That seems a fair point.

    The pastor is very big into Nouthetic Counselor and is the one who corrects people when they speak of "feeling" something over thinking or believing something. The doctrine otherwise seems very sound in the church. and I admit I am biased against Nouthetic Counseling devotees.

    It seems that they want to look out for his spiritual good. It just seems strange that they'd flex in that manner after 2 Sunday night visits to another church. It is not like he went to a bar. My friend did visit these 2 times at another place, however, because he has come to feel (....ummm...I mean think) that there was something missing in this church.
  25. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior


    Let me tell you a story from my ancient past. I am almost 70-years-old, so I guess I have a right to go on a bit.

    Once upon a time, while my family lived in Pennsylvania, we were members of a Reformed church in a well-known denomination, which was 35 miles away in New Jersey. We had two services on the Lord's Day--morning and evening. The evening service was sparsely attended, with maybe 25 people on average. I was asked to preach there for three weeks in a row while the elders examined my gifts. But because of the distance and our having four teenage children, we rarely participated in the p.m. service considering it more profitable to teach our children the Bible and the Catechism at home. So far, no problem.

    But soon, some of our Pennsylvanian Christian friends, two of which were also members of our Church, started joining our little gathering which grew week after week until we had as many as 30 children learning the Catechism, memorizing Scripture, singing, and praying together. We were having a great time, and the Lord seemed to smile on our little group. It was wonderful.

    Before we grew to this level, I ran the idea past my assigned elder to be sure it was OK with him and the Session. FYI - Formerly, I served as an elder and adult Sunday School teacher for many years in our NJ Church. But I was off Session temporarily because I had been a "borrowed" elder to a start-up work in PA. When we went back to New Jersey, it was just a formality before I was again active on the Session.

    But there is a little detail that deserves its own paragraph. My elder forgot to inform the other elders of the work in PA among the children.

    About two months later, when our meeting was at its zenith, I received a cease and desist order by a letter from the Session due to the unauthorized meeting since it competed with a stated meeting of the Church. Wow! I thought. This is weird. How in the world did this happen? The letter went on to inform us that two elders were going to visit us in person to discuss the matter. It turned out to be a very unfriendly meeting that ended by reiterating the cease and desist order. We told them about our talk with our elder, that we received his blessing, that we were not attending the evening service anyway, and how obviously God-blessed the meeting was. All to no avail. They said they knew nothing about any talk I may have had with the elder, and that had they known of it, the rest of the elders would not have agreed. The discussion ended with a very uncomfortable prayer and a cold farewell.

    "Well, that went well," I said to my wife.

    The group ceased immediately, and we were dumbfounded. We were so upset and confused that we stopped attending the Church at all. We wanted to work this all out but needed some time. But before very long--like in way-way too short a time we received a letter stating that our whole family had been erased, including my eighty-year-old grandmother and her sister, my great aunt.

    Like I said, that was over 25 years ago, and all is well now. We long ago reconciled with the pastor and at least two other elders, but never returned to the Church.

    But to this day, I still wonder what that was all about.

    The End

    Psalms 77:19
    Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
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  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thank you for that story. Feel free to "go on" anytime you want. I will read it.

    It is alarming that a church would seek to dissolve a growing work of God. Even Gamaliel had more sense in Acts 5:29.

    I know a couple who, like many Reformed Baptists, drove 45 minutes to church. When a nearer church opened up the family was glad now to drive 3 minutes to church. But when they told their church, the church responded very negatively even though the new church was sound and so much nearer to this family, who was already suffering health problems (back problems, which driving exacerbated). It appears that we are competitive, even within the body of Christ.
  27. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Sophomore

    Our elders would inquire of someone who began to absent himself from regular attendance, since their task is to watch over our souls. And regularly attending another church while ours was having a meeting would eventually cause concern--our constitution requires attendance at all meetings unless a good reason intervenes, and they're pretty broad in accepting reasons. But they often do counsel people to transfer to a church that is closer, so they can get into the life of it more easily, and they don't police attendance while one is on vacation.
    And they would never call a meeting to discipline someone publicly for attending elsewhere. So I think oversight is a good thing, but like all good things it can be overdone, and all the good of it gets evil spoken of.
  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    "...our constitution requires attendance at all meetings."

    Is this the norm? Wednesday nights, too?
  29. My Pilgrim Way

    My Pilgrim Way Puritan Board Freshman

    It is possible your friend discerns some underlying issue that is yet to surface. That happened to us at our previous church. Something was "off", and the pastor was asked to resign for a moral issue. It is probably good if your friend discusses his concerns.

    I agree with what you say regarding how one spends the Lord's day that the elders may know nothing about even if you attend faithfully. And, you can attend faithfully and still break the 4th commandment if your motives are not right or your heart is not in it.

    One thing I've not read (unless I overlooked it) is that it is Christ's church not the elders' church. We are one body in Christ in union with Him. Yes, the elders are to keep watch over the souls in their local assemblies, but I do not agree that members are "married" to one local body and can never leave or visit another church.

    If someone attends another sound church, I don't see an issue with that. It may come down to motives on the part of your friend.
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    He is really sort of trying out other churches with the possible intent to change if anything good turns up.
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