"These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:14,15). These words from the apostle Paul to Timothy give us a beginning place in considering the subject before us. The testimony that is given forth by the church is the testimony of who God is and what He is like. What is seen and heard by men is not just the word spoken by ministers, but the lives of all the members of Christ's body. "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually" (I Corinthians 12:13). The testimony given forth by the whole body is made up of the testimony of every member. It is a wonderful privilege to be fully identified with God in what He is doing, and yet at the same time it is an awesome responsibility.
There is no problem if all the members are mature, conducting themselves properly, and giving forth a testimony that is pure and holy. But what should we do if this is not the case? What is our responsibility if one who is identified with the church is giving forth an impure testimony? On what basis do we take action? The body of Christ is also a place where believers grow up into the full stature of Christ. How do we leave room for growth and yet maintain purity in testimony?
Some might say that the safest way is to leave everything in the hands of God and pray. Yet we have many admonitions in scripture to take action together in certain cases. Can we spiritually discern the different conditions and know the mind of God? Can we know the wisdom of God and His timing? We want to consider these and other questions, so that we might move responsibly before God in the matters before us.