What do churches and pastors do with members of other churches who come to them? Our church has nothing to do with this subject right this moment, so this isn't personal. It is a regular issue all over the country and I think pastors should consider their policy, whether they are handling this occasion in a scriptural way.
I have never had a pastor call me about a former church member. I'm telling you, I've been pastoring for thirty years, and I've never had another pastor call me about a church member who has left our church. When I say "left our church," I mean of all types of leaving, including church discipline. On the other hand, I have called other pastors about members who have left their churches every single time -- every time. How could I pastor for thirty years and never have another pastor call me about someone who has left our church? Hopefully that sounds really bad to you. It's true though. What is with men who practice this way? Do pastors and churches even care?
Other churches have taken in our disciplined members. One lady who was a member of our church had committed adultery, so we disciplined her, she was unrepentant, so we removed her from our church. She went to a local evangelical church, called a "Bible church." She told them she was from our church. They were fine with her being there. She told them she had committed adultery and had been disciplined out, and that was fine too.
Our church disciplined a man from the church and he went to another independent Baptist church about thirty minutes away. That church accepted him in. Our church sent a letter to that church and offered them the opportunity to reconcile with us, because they had taken in a disciplined member. That was our attempt to remain in fellowship. They rejected even having that meeting.
When people talk about unity and fellowship, very often they mean "putting up with false doctrine and bad behavior." If you are not willing to put up with false doctrine and bad behavior, you are causing disunity. If you were to join a group of churches in a meeting, and there you saw your disciplined member, the right behavior is to keep your mouth shut and act like nothing happened. This is called fellowship. The one who opens his mouth would be called divisive, a harm to unity. I'm not kidding.
Several years ago, the closest church in doctrine and practice in our area got a new pastor. I called him and invited him to lunch, mainly to talk about this very subject. We both agreed that if someone from his church came to ours, I would give him a call. If someone came from our church to his, he would give us a call. In the years following, we had one person come from his church to ours, and I called him. We had three different people go their church and I never received a call, not one time.
Later I saw the pastor of the previous paragraph at an event and I asked him why he went ahead and took in our members without a call. He said he didn't think it would matter since our church separates over certain doctrine, so that we weren't in fellowship anyway, so he didn't think it mattered if he called or not. I have found this typical of fundamentalism.
Even if two churches are not in fellowship, they should not allow members to hop from church to church without a call. It's possible that people have a good reason for leaving a church. Perhaps they should be in your church. You should still call the other church for many reasons.
One, a church deserves respect even if it isn't doing right. Two, churches shouldn't allow people to run from unrepentant sin. That's about God -- He should be respected. Three, nothing tests fellowship like what churches do with members of another church. If churches really are about fellowship or unity, they have to try to unify where it really counts, not in the sentimental fake unity. Four, pride is involved with the thinking that you can take someone and work them into your church, who has left another church. Five, people need to be taught to deal with their problems correctly even if they should have left the other church.
No pastor or his church wants other pastors and churches believing lies about them. When a person comes to your church from another church and says the former church stunk, that could be a lie. The former church deserves due process. We want due process, so we should give due process to others too. Believing whatever someone else tells you about another person is not a biblical or godly practice. We should give someone else or another church an opportunity to defend themselves. Even if we wouldn't fellowship with that church, we don't have the right to believe a lie about it.
I get what happens. Your church member goes to another church. That church sees a new member. You know, who doesn't want a new member? If you get a new member, your church gets bigger. Getting bigger is good, is the reasoning. If you behave like you are going to call the former church and maybe believe that church, you may lose a new member. Instead of risking the loss of a new member, you do not make the call. I think that's what happens. This is a faithless lack of trusting God. It's many more other things, but faithlessness is a start. It might be just be putting your head in the sand. If you find out the bad news, then it means you are responsible for that bad news. The truth is that you are still responsible because you wouldn't even call to find out.
We had a man come to our church from an American Baptist Church. Many of the American Baptists are liberal. It's the right thing to call and find out what's up before someone can be considered for joining. Why should an unscriptural church start having respect for scripture if the so-called scriptural church doesn't have respect for scripture? Scriptural churches should handle things scripturally.