Question: So About Church Discipline

Anonymous asked:

What is your understanding from Scripture of how church discipline should be done and what it should be done for? I have reason to believe that someone at my church has been disciplined falsely, and honestly, it is tearing me apart emotionally as I do not know either side of the story fully, nor can I ever expect to. I want to do the right thing.

Most ministry leadership bases their “church discipline” on Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5.  Basically, there are terms given for a firm approach on sin and possible excommunication from the church.

But my question is: Why are these the only guidelines for church discipline?  It feels like these passages are often twisted to force people out that are disagreeable or who take “too long” to beat sin.  There are just as many passages to restore a brother and show grace for failure.

In other words, while it’s possible your church has done everything to restore this person by the grace of God, it’s also very possible they jumped the gun and did this person a great deal of harm.  If you truly feel something is amiss, the right thing to do is to continually bug the leadership until they have fully explained their position.

I hope you also do this with grace and not with a stubborn heart.  These situations can be tricky — every story has not just two sides, but multiple versions of the truth.  People are also not one-dimensional evil cartoons, and many of them might have made a horribly conflicted decision that was not easy for anyone.  A sincerely gracious church often hates doing church discipline, but often have to for an unrepentant person who has been caught in a serious moral compromise.

Also know that sometimes even your best efforts to do the right thing will be met with zero change.  But yes: we must at least try to reconcile where we can.  I’ll be throwing you a prayer.

— J.S.

3 thoughts on “Question: So About Church Discipline

  1. In my experience you should be VERY careful taking a side in something like this. I seen a situation where a couple was brought in and the church leaders intervened in a situation, because things were spiraling out of control. They used what moral authority they had to get this couple into the counselling they needed. They were to “take a break” from ministry work while in counselling. One of the members of this couple viewed this as “church discipline”, and took issue in all kinds of ways to what was done, and told many people that the church leaders were abusing their authority and created much division. Sometimes it is all in the perspective of the person being “disciplined”, and you don’t always know what was in the hearts and minds of the church leaders making these decisions. So as I said, be careful until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes and have taken some of the criticism and abuse they take for making the RIGHT call sometimes.


  2. Alas, despite verbal homage to Matthew 18 organized religion has trouble implementing it; it curtails its power over others. The process call for compassion (“I’m doing this because I care, not because I want to prove me right or you wrong!”). I was banished from a congregation even though in a secret meeting they admitted they didn’t follow God’s process because they “didn’t get around to it”.
    And that’s the other part – in the Old Testament justice happened at the city gate where the whole story was available to everyone, and it was obvious if justice was done. Now we do it in secrecy (fake confidentiality) and play the devil in giving half-truths, innuendo to ensure the result in favour of the dominant power (which can be either accused or assembly).
    I have also seen a person who truly committed a crime and the secrecy let them off the hook and they went on to another position where they could do the same! Wrong!
    Compassion, process, openness.
    Note, in the process if someone refuses repentance, they are to be treated like a “tax collector and a sinner”. What are we to do with such people? Love them into the kingdom. Banishment may be from the inner workings of the assembly of believers, but not from our lives! That part is almost always missing.
    Funny, the motivation has to be love, but that is often replaced by deceit or power.


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