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 living church ministries youtube channel 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.

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