Church Discipline

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by MennoMan, Feb 17, 2004.

  1. MennoMan

    MennoMan
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    I am curious as to the number of churches out there that practice Biblical Church Discipline. It seems that the number of churches that do so grows smaller every year.

    If your church practices Church Discipline, what steps does it follow in doing so, and for what reasons?

    I am including an article I have written on this matter.

    Church Discipline
    Christianity's Most Overlooked Doctrine

    Few facets of Christianity are less talked about or practiced than church discipline, also known as "the ban," or excommunication. Those who do practice it are often looked down upon by other Christians. But what is the reason for this stigma attached to church discipline? What is church discipline? Why should church discipline be practiced? One must look to the scriptures in order to answer these questions.

    The first mention of church discipline is found in Matthew 18:15-17, and is instituted by Christ Himself.
    Matthew 18:15-17
    Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.(KJV)

    In verse fifteen of the preceeding passage, the reason for taking the steps of church discipline is found, "if thy brother shall trespass against thee." It is somewhat disputed if the two words "against thee" were part of the original manuscripts. It is possible that those words were added as part of a scribal error. However, even if this is the case, the principle remains the same in either situation.
    Looking on, Christ says "go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." The one who confronts his brother should do so quietly and privately, in an attempt to lovingly restore his brother. "Tell him his fault" means that one should express the point of offense clearly to the erring brother. This should never be done in anger, but rather with a spirit of love, and the hope to see the brother turn from his sin. To fail to speak up will only lead to a spirit of bitterness held by the one who was wronged.
    Next Christ tells His disciples to take witnesses if the erring brother refuses to be corrected, "But if he will not hear thee, then take...one or two more." Note that the next step is not to run out and tell others that this brother is refusing to repent. When Christ tells them to take one or two witnesses, He quotes a passage in Deuteronomy 19:15 dealing with the number of witnesses necassary to establish a murder case. Christ is telling His disciples that a situation such as this is just as serious as accusing a person of murder. According to Old Testament law, in order for a person to be found guilty of murder, there had to be more than one witness. The same rule applies attempting to correct an erring brother.
    Christ next tells them that if this brother refuses to hear the witnesses, the matter must be taken in front of the entire church. Again, this is not to be done in bitterness, but with Christian love, in the hope of seeing this brother restored. This is the final step in church discipline. If the brother refuses to hear the church, he is to be treated as a "heathen and a publican(tax collector)."

    The next passage of scripture dealing with church discipline is found in the chapter of 1 Corinthians 5. In this case, the entire chapter deals with the matter of church discipline.

    I Corinthians 5
    It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present concerning him that hath done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good, know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one, no, not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore, put away from yourselves that wicked person.(KJV)

    In this matter, there was a man in Corinth who was called a Christian brother who had taken his father's wife. This was a sin that not even the wicked, immoral Corinthians partook in. The church in Corinth was so arrogant and carnal that they did not even reproach the sin of this man. Instead, they ignored it. Paul, although he was not present, had heard of this matter and had already judged on it, and in his letter told them what to do. He commanded them to put this person out from the congregation, not out of malice, but with the hopes of restoring this person once again to Christian fellowship.
    Paul then tells them "I wrote unto you...not to company with fornicators." The word company here means to mingle together with and carries the idea of fellowship and close association. However, he feels that he must expound on what he earlier told them. "Yet not altogether with fornicators of this world," means that he was not commanding them to stay away from non-Christians, for in that case, they would have to leave the world. Rather, he was telling them not to fellowship with so-called Christian brothers who were fornicators, idolaters or drunkards. If there was a Christian brother who was doing these things, other Christians were commanded not even to eat with that person. The reason for that is found earlier in the passage where Paul makes references to leaven. Just as a little leaven makes the whole bread leavened, so a little bit of sin in the body of Christ would damage the church.

    Further instructions are given in scripture concerning excercising church discipline on church elders or pastors. These instructions are found in 1 Timothy 5:17-20.

    I Timothy 517-20
    Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain and The labororer is worthy of his wages. Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest may also fear.(NKJV)

    In this instance, no accusation made against an elder was to be taken as true unless two or three witnesses established it. If the case against the elder was true, the elder was to be publicly rebuked in front of the church, that the other elders, and the congregation would learn from this man's sin.

    Church discipline is also mentioned in II Thessalonians 3:6-7, 14-15.

    II Thessalonians 3:6-7, 14-15
    Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly among you....And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.(KJV)

    Here, again, Christians are told to seperate themselves from so-called Christian brothers or sisters who were living in sin. Not only that, but if any brother did not obey the Apostle's commands found in this letter, the church was to seperate from him as well. Again, this is not to be done in malice or pride, for the Apostle writes "count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

    Again, over and over in scripture, wherever church discipline is commanded to be excercised, it is seen that the purpose of this is to restore the fallen individual to full communion with the church once again. In I Corinthians 5, Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians telling them to put out from their midst a fallen brother who was not repenting. In II Corinthians 2, Paul writes again to the Corinthian church this time telling them that they should restore the fallen brother to full fellowship since he had repented of his sin.

    II Corinthians 2:5-11
    But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent-not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore, I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.(NKJV)

    Paul's urging the Corinthians to restore their brother was so that this man would not be overcome with sorrow. Paul realized that there is no limit on God's grace, and that the church should never try to impose their own man made limits on it. Christians should not lord over their fallen brothers in Christ, nor should they hesitate to return a repentant brother to the fold.

    Biblical church discipline consists of the following ingredients:
    1. A desire to see the fallen brother or sister repent of their sin.
    2. A private meeting with the erring brother clearly indicating the offense he or she is guilty of.
    3. A second private meeting with one or two witnesses
    4. The issue is then to be taken to the church, and the church is to corporately reprove the offender.
    5. Cutting off fellowship with the fallen brother or sister
    6. If and when the offender repents they are to be restored to full fellowship in the church.

    As is seen, church discipline is commanded in scripture. It is never an optional issue, and is never to be conducted out of vengeance or malice. It is to be done with a spirit of love and humility, with the hopes of seeing the offender repent.


    Copyright © Will Rogers 2004

    In Christ,
    Will
     
  2. JFS

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    I am reading a book called "Characters of the Inquisition". It is strickingly funny that the above perscribed method of dealing with church discipline is the same perameters that the "Inquisiters" used. This almost sounds as if it were an inquisition. It was also the medieval churches wishes to have people repent of their sins and return to the "Church"

    God Bless

    John
     
  3. MennoMan

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    Funny thing, is that this was taken directly from scripture. How is the "Inquisition" comparable to the Doctrine of Church Discipline?
     
  4. faithcontender

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    Hi MennoMan,

    I had post this topic once, and like your post there are few who are interested to talk about it. It's because now a days church discipline is not a popular practice. Many are only after for quantity not quality.
     
  5. MennoMan

    MennoMan
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    Faithcontender,
    Of course it's not a popular practice...many churches would actually have to discipline members. I know of very few churches that do it, most are Mennonite or Reformed Baptist. I'd like to have those who disagree or who don't practice it post to tell why they don't. It can become an interesting topic of discussion if you let it. ;)
     
  6. Brother Adam

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    We recently followed this method to discipline a youth member and a youth sponser in the act of adultery. Both of them have been cut off from membership rights and they cannot take communion. During the course of discipline, our pastor lost 23 pounds fasting. When he finally recommended that a church vote be taken, he looked a wreck. We knew it was out of love and not spite that he was putting them on discipline.
     
  7. Meercat

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    So then what happened BroAdam?

    I sure hope I'm not in-appropriate for asking! (blushing red) Did these two repent?

    I must say that your pastor exercised good judgement and courage. It is NEVER easy having to "ex-communicate" someone and you expressed it quite well. God bless you and your pastor! - Meercat
     
  8. Salty

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    I have been a member of many churches (due to military moves) over the years. Their is only one instance that I have seen a case of church disclipine.
    I was church clerk and was going over previous entries. A family had requesed to join our church by letter. The other church informed us that mom and the 2 kids letters would be sent, but they would not send dads letter, beacuse he had an outstanding bill for tuition at the Christian Day school. I dont remember, but it is possible that our chruch accepted dad on "statement of faith".
    At another church, we had somewhat of a church split. One of the members who left was the treasuer. (Yes, he left all monies and records @ the church.) Two and a half weeks he decided to come back. Thats right, he was treasuer again!

    Then at another church we had a couple living together (not married). They were getting ready to leave Germany, and upon their return to the states, they were going to go to Bible College. What action did the pastor take, now take a good guess....the pastor had the church take up a love offering to help them in Bible College!

    I suppose if we enforced church disclipine, we would loose too many members and too much $$$$$.
    Not only that, but folks would be mad at us.
     
  9. Harley4Him

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    Now that is a really good question! Could it be that the purpose of the inquisition was to enforce the doctrine of church discipline.

    One of the problems, Menno, with enforcing church discipline is that excommunicated members can just go ahead and start their own churches. This is especially true among the more unusual fundie and pentecostal, and even among baptists to a large extent. The problem with these churches is that they're so person-centric that if you excommunicate a strong personality many other people might go with him, and where does that leave the collection plate?
     
  10. Harley4Him

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    BTW, when I was at the March for Life in January, someone showed me a full page ad where some RCC bishop told his priests to refuse communion to any politician who supports abortion. There's some modern day excommunication for ya!
     
  11. MennoMan

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    Now that is a really good question! Could it be that the purpose of the inquisition was to enforce the doctrine of church discipline.

    One of the problems, Menno, with enforcing church discipline is that excommunicated members can just go ahead and start their own churches. This is especially true among the more unusual fundie and pentecostal, and even among baptists to a large extent. The problem with these churches is that they're so person-centric that if you excommunicate a strong personality many other people might go with him, and where does that leave the collection plate?
    </font>[/QUOTE]So we should just throw the doctrine of Church Discipline out the window?
     
  12. Harley4Him

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    I don't think I said anything even remotely suggesting we should.
     
  13. JustAsIAm

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    Harley, Care to back this up with some facts? I've yet to be in a Baptist church that is "person-centric", yet my husband's family belongs to a catholic church (pentacostal type) that had the pastor retire. The church lost 1/2 its attendance. I know that isn't typical for a catholic church, but the point I'm trying to make is that it is dangerous to make generalizations. People tend to take what you say less seriously.
     
  14. JustAsIAm

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    BTW, I left the catholic church almost 12 years ago. I've run into my former pastor a number of times since, and he knows I've left the church. I've never been formally disciplined, ex-communicated or even approached as to why I left.
     
  15. MennoMan

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    Harley, Care to back this up with some facts? I've yet to be in a Baptist church that is "person-centric", yet my husband's family belongs to a catholic church (pentacostal type) that had the pastor retire. The church lost 1/2 its attendance. I know that isn't typical for a catholic church, but the point I'm trying to make is that it is dangerous to make generalizations. People tend to take what you say less seriously. </font>[/QUOTE]IFB(Independent, Fundamental Baptist) churches tend to be person-centric. At least in the ones I attended, and the ones that I knew from college.
     
  16. Deacon

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    Church discipline should only be applied to church members. The trendy habit in modern churches is never to join, only to attend the church; this bypasses the crucial aspect of church discipline.

    Since the church is a public meeting place, telling a person to stay away may evoke legal action. There are ways to deal with this problem but it can be complicated. Following the biblical admonishion to have two (or more) witnesses is helpful.

    Rob
     

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