This message will take the form of a simulated conversation between a Jehovah's Witness named Joe and a Christian named Chris. Joe recently accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour.
Joe: Chris, the elders came over to my house this week and I am concerned that they are going to start the disfellowshipping process.
Chris: I remember you said last week the elders were interested in what was going on with you. Why would they threaten to kick you out of the Watchtower organization?
Joe: They told me that they could tell that something was bothering me and they kept pushing me until I shared with them my concerns. I told them that I could clearly see that the Watchtower was lifting itself up into a place of prominence instead of lifting up Jesus. I shared with them that I have been reading the Bible and in John 14:6 Jesus says that he is the way, the truth and the life. I told them that I could not see why the Society teaches that it is the truth when the Bible says that it is Jesus who is the truth.
Chris: Why would that make the elders upset at you?
Joe: They wouldn't answer my questions, they just said that I should know the answer since I have been a Jehovah's Witness all my life. They also said that I should stop reading the Bible without the Watchtower magazine and put more time into the door-to-door service. They also said that I should trust Jehovah's organization to lead us into the truth in Jehovah's timing and that I should not run ahead of the organization. They also asked who I had been talking to that was causing me to question God's organization.
Chris: How did you answer that?
Joe: I told them that I had met a Christian in the door-to-door work and that this Christian had raised some questions in my mind that had troubled me. I said that I wanted to sit down with them to discuss these questions because if I am wrong in my thinking then I want someone to correct me with the Bible.
Chris: Were they willing to sit down with you?
Joe: No. They are not willing to answer any questions that may have come from an opposer. They told me that I am forbidden to see you again and that if I continue to talk to you and to question the Society then they will tell the congregation to mark me. Marking is where the congregation avoids a member that is considered unclean. They also said that refusing to follow their lead would result in my being branded an apostate and lead to my being kicked out of the Watchtower. They said that this would be necessary in order to keep the congregation clean.
Chris: Joe, how can this kind of treatment be justified from the Bible?
Joe: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 says that one should not associate with a brother who is immoral. We are forbidden even to eat with a person like this.
Chris: Joe, in 1 Corinthians 5 it says not to associate with those who claim to be Christian brothers but who are sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. Are you sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler?
Joe: No, of course not.
Chris: Then clearly that passage cannot apply to you. An apostate is someone who professes to be a Christian but who opposes God's word. Are you an apostate from God's word?
Joe: No, I'm not. They couldn't consider me an apostate from God's word but they would consider me an apostate from the organization if I continue to question their authority.
Chris: Where is it scriptural to consider one an apostate of an organization?
Joe: I know that the Jews kicked people out of their organization.
Chris: When men create their own reasons to kick people out instead of using God's stated reasons, it opens people up to unjust treatment. The Bible contains an example of one disfellowshipped from the Jewish congregation. In John chapter 9 there is a story of a man who was born blind that was healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. The Jews pressed the man and his parents to confess that Jesus was not from God because he healed on the Sabbath.
In verse 22 it says that the man's parents feared the Jews because the Jews had agreed among themselves that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ would be kicked out of the synagogue. The parents would not confess that Jesus had done a miracle for their son because they were afraid that they would be disfellowshipped. When the Jews approached the man that was healed, they pressured him to confess that Jesus was a mere sinner. But the man stated that only someone from God could heal a man born blind.
The Jews derided the man for daring to try to teach them. They accused the man of being immoral and disfellowshipped him. But Jesus did not shun the disfellowshipped man instead he searched for him. John 9:35-38 says "Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, He is the one speaking with you." Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped Him."
Joe, in Jesus' day the Pharisees were threatening people with disfellowshipping. John 12:42 says that even many of the Jewish rulers believed in Jesus but because they were afraid that the Pharisees would kick them out, they did not confess Jesus. Verse 43 says that they kept silent about Jesus because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Jesus predicted that those who chose to be his followers may face disfellowshipping. In John 16:2,3 Jesus said "They will put you out of the synagogues, yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me." Even Nicodemus, a Jewish leader, though he believed that Jesus had "come from God" was intimidated enough by the Pharisees to wait until the night time to visit Jesus, incognito.
Jesus' view is very different from the Pharisees. In the story of the good shepherd, the ninety-nine sheep were safe in the fold, but the good shepherd left the ninety-nine to go after that one lost sheep. He did not shun the sheep or treat it harshly but brought it back into the fold.