Whatever Happened to Church Discipline?

Church discipline has never been popular. It has also been abused. We have had people burned at the stake for not believing the dogma of the who is jesus christ or for owning a Bible. Also, in our own nation we have had witches put to death. These are abuses of “church” discipline. This is not the kind of church discipline that is becoming to a Christian church. Real church discipline is motivated by a love for the truth and the redemption of the offending party. It must be without partiality.

It cannot be motivated by a get-even spirit. It must be done in such a way as to bring unity to the church and blessing to everyone that is affected by it. It must be administered by the whole church. The pastor and church board should be coordinating it for the whole church. It should be done in a spirit of love and forgiveness. It should not be done without proper preparation. This should include prayer and fasting for the situation to be resolved in a godly manner. The offending party should be given an opportunity to turn from his or her sin before church discipline is administered.

The stages of this process are: (1) the offended person should talk to the offender to attempt to work out a solution; (2) if this does not work, the offended person should take two or three others with him or her to work out a solution with the offender; (3) if the offender does not work out a solution with the offended person, the next step is to bring the problem before the church board; (4) finally, if no solution is reached, the offender is removed from the church fellowship with the understanding that repentance and restitution will bring him or her back in fellowship with the church. If the offender does repent and make restitution, the church should celebrate with a fellowship gathering and all parties should be supportive of one another. The church should forget the past and unite to fulfill its God given mission to the world. The offender should be treated as if nothing ever happened. If the offender goes back to his or her old ways and comes back, he or she should be placed on probation before being allowed to be a full member. No offender should be allowed to have a leadership position in the church until he or she proves his or her repentance and restitution were in good faith.

Perhaps this can be better understood if we understand the reason for church discipline. The reason for church discipline is so it will be a godly witness in the world. The church is not a social club like the YMCA or YWCA. The church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” Jesus tells us, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life.” The church is a fellowship of like-minded believers. It is made up of those who have been made “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” The church is not of this world. The church is made up of people who have forsaken the world, the flesh and the devil. We read in Ephesians 4:11-16 the functions of the church. These are: (1) perfection of saints; (2) works of ministry; (3) edification of the body of Christ; (4) unity of the church; (5) increased love for God and others; (6) keeping the church doctrinally correct; (7) speaking the truth in love. Anything that is done in the church that is not carrying out the church’s purpose or functions should be disciplined.

Some things that should be disciplined in all branches of our churches are as follows:

1. People who are denying the main message of the Bible should not be allowed to have leadership positions in the church. There are many things that are allowed in the church that would fit this category, such as those who deny Jesus is the only way of salvation, which leads to a personal relationship with God; people who refer to the “blood of Jesus that cleanses from all sin” as a “bloody religion;” and those who bring in “new age” religions into the church.

2. People who are not morally pure should not be allowed to have leadership positions in the church. Only those who love God with their whole being should lead the church.

3. We find in 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus guidelines for church leaders. These guidelines must be followed. Those who are not doing these should not be allowed to have leadership positions in the Church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

4. No one should be allowed to be a member of the church that is warring against the commandments of God. Even though we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not free to go against the plain teachings of the Bible. Those who love God keep His commandments.

The church is in a mess because we have not administered proper discipline to its membership. Without proper “pruning” the church will continue to bring forth “poisoned fruit.” It will continue to be a disgrace to all that is good and godly in this world. In an hour when the message of the church is needed so badly, the church is powerless to bring redemption to our sin-sick world.

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