While visiting with a man to rebuke him for disrupting his marriage over pornography, another elder and I discovered that his wife had cast aside her marriage vows. Confronting her, she balked at correction. Calling her to meet with the elders, she came but with venom that spewed in harsh, hateful words toward a group of men lovingly calling her to repentance. She left abruptly. We wept. Removal from the body by church discipline followed for the unrepentant, unteachable couple. They soon divorced.
She remarried and started a downward spiral of rebellion that led to another divorce and consequent brokenness. Occasionally, we would hear some report of her. She began to attend another church that accepted her for membership despite being informed of her being under discipline. After about nine or ten years, on her third marriage, broken over her sin, and desiring to be restored to fellowship with a church that had loved her enough to call out her sin and plead for repentance, she contacted the elder that had originally joined me in visiting with her.
She asked whether it might be possible for the church to forgive her and restore her to fellowship. After receiving her humble request, meeting with her to see the longing for restoration, we presented to the congregation this request to restore her to fellowship with our body. The church unanimously affirmed restoration! A few weeks later, at our Christmas Eve Communion Service, we offered her the bread and cup as a sign of this restoration to fellowship.
Since that time, she has visited with us on several occasions with much gratitude and joy. After initially stonewalling, he humbly responded to the requirements that we established. For another couple of years he showed great faithfulness, even publicly repenting and requesting baptism as a new convert. Unfortunately, he started to slide back into some of the old patterns.
He even threatened a lawsuit if we disciplined him. After following Matthew 18, we asked the church to remove him from membership, which they did. The path ahead proved hard for him, with much brokenness and heartache. Seven or eight years later, he asked if he could meet with me.Note: This is the conclusion to a four part series addressing the practice of Church Discipline over the course of the life of the Church.
The previous posts may be accessed in order herehereand here. Perhaps one of the most significant changes in the landscape of the Protestant Reformation by the time of the 19 th century was the various expressions of the faith which had come into their own. In 19 th century America a Baptist in the antebellum South would not have been inclined.
Regardless of the level of censure applied, repentance and confession were met with forgiveness and restoration. But what offenses might cause a 19 th century Baptist to come under discipline by the local church?
Haines reveals that the causes could be non-attendance of church meetings and worship services, withholding support, drunkenness, fighting, profanity, sexual immorality, and something called contempt. Of course this attitude did undergo some change by the late 19 th and early 20 th century to the effect that more cases of discipline were settled in shorter time with the outcome being excommunication instead of some lesser censure.
At first glance it would appear the church has not changed much from the late 19 th to the early 20 th centuries. Many Baptists may even fear the practice of church discipline would lend itself to a decline of local church membership instead of a strengthening of the same. Although many within the Southern Baptist community did not tend toward the practice of church discipline and restoration until the latter part of the 20 th century after its decline in popularity following the 19 th century, 13 at least one prominent Southern Baptist church in America sees it as part of a healthy church culture.
Dever is the author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church which was first published in In this work Dever comes to a level of agreement with Calvin in seeing church disciple as a mark of a healthy church. Outside of the Southern Baptist Convention are found examples of local churches recapturing this practice, especially in the non-denominational and Bible-church movements.
He often relates that upon his call to serve as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Southern California that a condition of his coming aboard would be the practice of calling wayward church members to repentance though the process of.
He was met with some of the same concerns Southern Baptists have put forth, that no one would want to be part of a church with such practices. Time has proven this to not be the case as MacArthur has recently celebrated 46 years as the pastor of an every growing local church.
In both examples, the goal of church discipline is the restoration of the sinning brother or sister. Much of the practice of the 21 st century church is reflective of church practice at the close of the 20 th century some fifteen years hence. Some churches still have a low view of church membership which is accompanied by a low view of the church discipline and restoration process in many cases.
Likewise, some churches legalistically enforce church discipline in such a manner that restoration does not seem to be possible.We must guard the sheep against wolves. For this reason, we must know how to build fences; that is, we must lead our church in practicing meaningful membership and discipline.
How should we confront the problem of wolves in the church? We asked three pastors to share a story of restoration—that is, someone who had been restored to membership after being disciplined for unrepentant sin. Three pastors answer one question each about church discipline, church attendance, and caring for a church member who is unwed and pregnant.
The goal of this piece is not to argue with or even to address the non-Calvinist pastor. Before a pastor leads a church to practice discipline, he must teach the church what the Bible teaches. But thankfully, the church does.
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International Sites.I cannot confirm them privately, either. These are well-known people in Christian circles who I still believe are doing helpful things, despite the terror behind closed doors.
I must be careful here, because 1 they would absolutely crucify me if they saw this post, and 2 they could also deny having ever met me, despite email correspondences and recorded conversations. But I have to speak up. I want to tell you about my most horrifying church experience ever, because it began so ordinary and subtle, and I want to protect you from the nightmare I eventually woke up to.
Years ago, I befriended the lead pastor of a church ministry that was doing amazing things in the community and we first became friends over the phone.
The pastor explained that every church in America was doing it wrong.When Is the Right Time to Practice Church Discipline?
In the first few months, he offered me a position at his ministry, but I was obligated to my current church. However, I was still able to visit. I was completely seduced by the way he and his team did ministry. Their preaching was fun, their services were boisterous, their praise team was incredible and they knew every single family by name. They were well-respected by the community and they were funded completely by other churches and individuals from all over the world.
I even bought some. One thing I noticed right away is that these guys constantly agreed with one another about everything, both in public and private. They never, ever disagreed on theology, ministry or even their preferences. I was also a little troubled by their constant disregard for other ministries, especially megachurches and Christian authors. They like their Starbucks more than Jesus.
No one ever disagreed. Soon when it came to my turn, I found myself answering in a way that would please the lead pastor. I was afraid to say something stupid or misaligned with their theology. I remember sweating and shaking while I answered their questions. The crazy thing is, the lead pastor would affirm my answers and I felt great, like I had suddenly unlocked Christianity, and the thousands of years of church history were all wrong.
It felt so amazing to have the Secret-Sauce that no one else had. I was intoxicated with being on the inside, of having the keys to the club, bumping chests with the boys.
Finally, I had made it to the inner-ring. About a year later, I was highly involved with the ministry. I felt increasingly anxious around them, like I always had to say the right things according to their view of church, or else I was an idiot.
So I wrote the lead pastor about a minor disagreement I had with him. I made sure to show the letter to both my mom and to two friends, to see if I was being fair and gracious. I reworded it several times to ensure I was making a suggestion, not a rebuke. That night at 3 a. For the next 42 minutes, the lead pastor yelled and cursed and demanded my apology.This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.
Do we know better than Paul? Broadly, people might make a distinction between formative discipline referring to teaching and corrective discipline referring to correcting sin. To excommunicate is to ex- communion someone, kind of like a reverse baptism. In spite of its biblical basis, the idea of church discipline can be controversial among Christians and churches, even though people readily accept the fact that other organizations or group must have some means of correcting or removing its members.
A fraudulent lawyer can be debarred. A volatile player in the NBA can be fined. A malpracticing doctor can lose his or her medical license. A teacher can be fired. This reaction to discipline in the church speaks volumes about the individualistic nature of spirituality and personhood in the West. There are many wrong motivations for church discipline, which have led to abuses in the process. The one right motivation for discipline is love.
Churches should practice discipline for the sake of loving the individual caught in sin, that he or she might come to repentance 1 Cor. Toward the end of the 19th and early 20th century, churches became more interested in reforming society e. The advent of church marketing in the middle of the 20th century led churches to focus more on product appeal than on holiness.
No voices rose up to speak against discipline. Rather, the practice just faded away see Greg Wills, Democratic Religion. The Bible provides no exhaustive list of which sins should lead to excommunication. But thinking theologically, we might say that a church should move toward public discipline only when a sin is simultaneously unrepentantoutwardand significant. The sin must be unrepentant, meaning the sinner refuses to let go of the sin or to fight against it.
10 Things You Should Know about Church Discipline
It must be outward, meaning the sin can be seen or heard. No doubt, every situation requires the exercise of careful judgment. No two cases are alike. Provides an accessible framework for understanding church discipline, offering nine case studies and several practical considerations for leading a church through disciplinary situations with grace and truth.
In general, Christians should be leery churches where the leaders play favorites, punish those who disagree, have a temper, use the silent treatment, must always have the last word, cannot be wrong, emphasize external conformity, are consistently dogmatic on both the big and small issues, seldom if ever admit they are wrong, have difficulty giving authority to others, only promote their closest friends or family members, and generally need control.
So said Baptist theologian John L. And he was right. Everything in our culture rages against any idea of correction or exclusion because it feels intolerant. But Christ means for his churches to be trained, exercised, and disciplined so that they will share in his holiness.The spread is how you pay your spread betting provider to open the position on your behalf, instead of paying commission.
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Stories of Restoration after Church Discipline
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