Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Consequences of Neglecting Biblical Church Discipline

A girl who is a leader in the church youth group is found to be pregnant. A deacon in the church is sued for tax evasion. A Sunday school teacher decides to divorce his wife due to "irreconcilable differences." A musician who has led the church in praising God ceases attending church at all.

Each of the above situations would, of course, become topics for conversation and perhaps gossip within virtually every church member's home. In many churches, however, these kinds of situations- involving sins known to all- would NEVER be addressed from the pulpit due to the pastors' fear of both offending the parties directly involved and making other members uncomfortable.

When the leadership in a church fails to call the congregation to biblical church discipline- church discipline that both (1) honors God by taking the authority of His Word seriously and (2) loves people by seeking to restore church members to full, unashamed fellowship- public discourse is separated from private discourse, and the unity of the church is corroded.

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The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline ensures that controversial subjects discussed in each church member's home- the subjects that church members find most interesting- are never addressed before the congregation as a whole; church members are thus left without guidance in learning to discern a biblical framework for understanding how to respond to controversial interpersonal matters [such as those described at the beginning of this post].

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline undermines the power of his preaching as he urges his congregation to sacrificially submit to the will of God, yet he himself refuses to submit to the authority of Scripture in regards to how a church should function.

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline may do so in order to preserve [a superficial] unity within the church, but a church without biblical church discipline is highly susceptible to a church split, for in such a church specific members at strife with one another will not be urged (sometimes publicly) to live in harmony with one another.

The pastor who fails to lead his church in practicing biblical church discipline places his own job in danger, for if a pastor has not led his church to submit to the authority of God's Word regarding church discipline in general, how can he expect his church to respect the limits that the New Testament places upon bringing charges against pastors (see 1 Timothy 5:19)?

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The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to feel shame whenever they are in the congregation, without providing them with the Scriptural mechanism by which that shame can be alleviated.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites corruption among church leadership, as the character of church leaders is not properly tested and safeguarded.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to become vow-breakers, as church members take vows before the congregation [specifically marriage vows], then- when times get really tough- they break those vows [with the majority of the church unaware until their status changes from "married" to "single" on Facebook], with no formal rebuke from the church to match the formal affirmation of the vows that the church had previously given.

The church that does not practice biblical church discipline invites its members to disappear without a formal contact from church leadership (to match the formal welcome that the church had previously given when the member first joined) and without the seriousness of such self-chosen excommunication being impressed upon them.

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The Southern Baptist theologian J.L. Dagg noted: "It has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it." Such a remark is appropriate not because a church that fails to exercise church discipline has neglected to check a box on a list of some religious leaders' ideas of what a church should look life, but because a church that does not have biblical church discipline will allow members, unchecked, to regularly engage in activities that grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.

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