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Your thoughts on church discipline?

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  • Your thoughts on church discipline?

    The New Testament lays out the guidelines for church discipline in no uncertain terms. Some pertinent passages are Matthew 18:15–20, 1 Corinthians 5:1–13, 1 Corinthians 5:6–7, 2 Corinthians 2:5–8, et al. The purpose of the administration of church discipline is to protect the church, correct sinful behavior and restore a sinner to the right path, and, hopefully, to renew and restore church fellowship.

    What are your thoughts on the application of church discipline? Have you seen it in action? Have you seen it in inaction? Do you think the modern church is falling down in this regard?

    Thank you for sharing.

  • #2
    As someone who grew up in a religious country, attended religious schools on all three (elementary, high school, college), and having older teachers bark at everyone to force them into going to mass every morning (yes, that was a thing), I don't think it's that bad to be honest. They meant well, or I at least thought that was the case growing up. The teachers were fair, and we were introduced to different sacraments from an early age, reading through different Bible studies, and being disciplined accordingly when we make faults, such as counseling, and even community service. I really didn't mind, and I think a lot of problem children were fixed by this system.
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    • #3
      I have attended churches that run the spectrum of this. From churches that just let you be, to others that are a bit more active in watching their congregation. It is the "seeker friendly" churches that take the more hands-off approach when it comes to discipline, but when it comes to actually becoming a member they take a look your lifestyle and if there is a specific sin issue you are not addressing they will not allow you to become a member (i.e., a man and woman living together who are neither related, nor married).

      I currently attend a church that actually went through a split shortly before we started going there due to a sin issue that was addressed by the session (pastors, elders and deacons) that polarized the congregation and many of those who supported the party who was subject of discipline left.

      This last part is really why so many churches refuse to get involved when there is a sin issue that needs to be addressed in one of the congregants, though it is a testimony to the faithfulness of the session of our church to not be bullied into not addressing and "just letting it go." I do not know the specifics of the sin that was addressed, and don't really need to, but understand that it is one of the more important duties of the session to undertake as part of the church leadership.
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      • #4
        For those who might be interested I wrote a post on one of my blogs about this very topic.
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        • #5
          There was this adventist preacher who often prayed for and the sick in his church. There were some who were healed but since adventists don't approve that he was warned and told to stop doing what he did. He didn't stop and was ex-communicated. This is the sort of things churches do these days. Christians who flagrantly disobey God's laws and live immoral lives don't get punished but someone who does something the chuch does not approve gets punished. Hypocrisy . . .
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Smithee View Post
            There was this adventist preacher who often prayed for and the sick in his church. There were some who were healed but since adventists don't approve that he was warned and told to stop doing what he did. He didn't stop and was ex-communicated. This is the sort of things churches do these days. Christians who flagrantly disobey God's laws and live immoral lives don't get punished but someone who does something the chuch does not approve gets punished. Hypocrisy . . .
            I wouldn't exactly call that hypocrisy, per se, however, I would call it the elder board not having their priorities straight.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Smithee View Post
              There was this adventist preacher who often prayed for and the sick in his church. There were some who were healed but since adventists don't approve that he was warned and told to stop doing what he did. He didn't stop and was ex-communicated. This is the sort of things churches do these days. Christians who flagrantly disobey God's laws and live immoral lives don't get punished but someone who does something the chuch does not approve gets punished. Hypocrisy . . .
              These types of things are highly controversial. Not praying for the sick, but certain spiritual gifts like faith healing. It makes me wonder about the context of his prayers...

              Check this out:






              I'd expect Church discipline would be enacted upon some people, especially concerning faith healing in a Reformed church. Today there are those that even claim to be Prophets, and they threaten to splinter a church. Just look at how many people attempt to come into this forum as "Prophets". Personally, I am a cessationist, and like many other cessationist will argue that miraculous gifts opens the door to many questionable claims such as Prophecy, a certain gift that was limited to the apostles and their close companions. The gift of faith healing or other miraculous gifts, for example, accompanied the giving of Scripture, and since there is no new Scripture given today, we should expect no miracles today. Cessationists will also argue that miraculous gifts in fact ceased when the apostles died, because the purpose of miracles was to give authentication to the apostles. A final objection from the cessationist position is to say that a church that emphasizes the use of miraculous gifts is in danger of becoming imbalanced, and will likely neglect other important things such as evangelism, sound doctrine, and moral purity of life. Note: This does not include the illumination of the Holy Spirit in believer's lives. However, even in this point controversy arises because there is a question with respect to guidance as are abuses.

              In short, those who take a cessationist view argue that once the last New Testament book was written, there were to be no more words of God spoken or written in the church. This is especially relevant for the gift of Prophecy, according to the cessationist position, because from that point on Scripture was the complete and sufficient source of God's words for his people. To add any more words from continuing prophetic utterances would be, in effect, either to add to Scripture or to compete with Scripture. In both cases, the sufficiency of Scripture itself would be challenged, and, in practice, its unique authority in our lives compromised.
              • 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

              It is further argued by cessationist:

              "The imperfect" things mentioned in verses 9-10 prophecy, tongues, and knowledge - are incomplete means of revelation, all relating to God's making his will known to the church. "The perfect" in this context must refer to something in the same category as the "imperfect" things. Therefore, "the perfect" in this context must refer to a means of revelation, but a completed one. And this completed means of God's making his will known to his church is Scripture. Conclusion: When "the perfect comes" refers to the time when the canon of Scripture will be complete.
              • 1 Corinthians 13:12 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

              Note: this is not to say that "the perfect" refers exactly to the canon of Scripture, but rather to "the completed revelatory process" that resulted in Scripture. Furthermore, in verse 12 in response to any objection raised to seeing God face to face, it simply means seeing "plainly" as opposed to "obscurely."

              Just some things to think about.
              God bless,
              William
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              • #8
                A church that exercises discipline will lose those members who are there so that they can feel good about attending church, network with other church members, and use the church as a social club. However, for a church to live up to its true role, there has to be discipline. That said, a lot of the problems stem from how it is done. The goal should be to keep the members of the body moving in the right direction, and to include rather than exclude, and by that I mean including the member, not the sin. Still, those members who refuse to acknowledge or let go of the sin have to be dealt with in some way or the body as a whole is adversely affected.

                I have a friend who is a pastor of a Baptist church in Pennsylvania. He is going through a problem right now where one of the church's Sunday School teachers is living with someone she is not married to, and several members of the church have left because he refused to simply turn his back on that. So far, the elders are sticking with him but it's been months, and there is still pressure to allow them to continue in that role. He says that even some of the elders would rather that he just let it go, so as not to cause problems. He isn't suggesting they be excluded from attending church, by the way, but that they not remain in a leadership position.
                Last edited by Ken Anderson; 06-14-2016, 12:31 PM.
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ken Anderson View Post
                  A church that exercises discipline will lose those members who are there so that they can feel good about attending church, network with other church members, and use the church as a social club. However, for a church to live up to its true role, there has to be discipline. That said, a lot of the problems stem from how it is done. The goal should be to keep the members of the body moving in the right direction, and to include rather than exclude, and by that I mean including the member, not the sin. Still, those members who refuse to acknowledge or let go of the sin have to be dealt with in some way or the body as a whole is adversely affected.

                  I have a friend who is a pastor of a Baptist church in Pennsylvania. He is going through a problem right now where one of the church's Sunday School teachers is living with someone she is not married to, and several members of the church have left because he refused to simply turn his back on that. So far, the elders are sticking with him but it's been months, and there is still pressure to allow them to continue in that role. He isn't suggesting they be excluded from attending church, by the way, but that they not remain in a leadership position.
                  If he were to follow a biblical outline, he would go with a witness to address this sin to the church "member". I'll explain in a moment why I emphasized "member". If that person refuses to repent then further action should be done, and ultimately the member should be excommunicated. I emphasized "member" vs an "attendee" because the OPC as well as other Reformed churches have formal membership. Those that vow to not only uphold a standard, but also to be disciplined should they be found delinquent in both life or doctrine. While they may be excommunicated, they may "attend" the church as long as the matter does not affect other members. Example, a person begins to promote a heretical doctrine in the church from which a council has convened and addressed in order to stomp it out. Our church not only vows to address life issues but also doctrine. It is unthinkable for a Reformed church, for example, to allow a Pelagian or even Arminian evangelize as a representative or fill the position of Missionary.

                  And your example is nearly the exact same thing that I witnessed from Calvary Chapel. A woman was living with a man not her husband. The elders of the church (Witnesses) came to her house and convened with her in order to reveal her sin in hopes that she would repent. She refused. They repeated this process numerous times. It ended up that the church brought her sin to the entire congregation's awareness, and no further contact with this woman was asked until she repented.

                  God bless,
                  William
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by William View Post

                    And your example is nearly the exact same thing that I witnessed from Calvary Chapel. A woman was living with a man not her husband. The elders of the church (Witnesses) came to her house and convened with her in order to reveal her sin in hopes that she would repent. She refused. They repeated this process numerous times. It ended up that the church brought her sin to the entire congregation's awareness, and no further contact with this woman was asked until she repented.

                    God bless,
                    William
                    Kind of the passive-agressive approach to excommunication. My wife and I were members of an Assembly of God church prior to joining the OPC. During our pre-membership class it was mentioned that there was a couple who were also seeking to become members, but they were living together and unwed. The church told them they could not become members until they either lived in separate residences, or got married.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Knotical View Post

                      Kind of the passive-agressive approach to excommunication. My wife and I were members of an Assembly of God church prior to joining the OPC. During our pre-membership class it was mentioned that there was a couple who were also seeking to become members, but they were living together and unwed. The church told them they could not become members until they either lived in separate residences, or got married.
                      I would expect that from the OPC as well but a "hearing" or "court proceeding" for active members that may fail to repent. If I may, you would probably be best to address the necessary steps the OPC takes in church discipline, because this is least of my familiarity or study thus far.

                      God bless,
                      William
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                      • #12
                        On the topic of church discipline, here's the Orthodox Presbyterian Church position:

                        Question: Do most of the OPC congregations hold strictly to public church discipline or rebuke?

                        Answer: I would say yes to the above with some qualification. Judicial discipline is required in churches where members are guilty of serious doctrinal divergence from the Bible or serious violations of the Law of God. "Judicial Discipline" is the process by which we deal with such offenses against God's Truth and His Law.

                        If offenses are private in nature (that is, between but a very few persons), trials may be held privately, and if there is genuine repentance, publicity may be avoided. However, apart from such sensitive exceptions, most discipline matters, though administered by the elders of the church (including ministers), are open to the membership.

                        As for "rebuke," that is one of the degrees of judicial censure. The order of censure is as follows in ascending order: Admonition, Rebuke, Suspension (from either office or the Lord's Supper), and Excommunication.

                        All censures can be lifted when demonstrable repentance is forthcoming. Some offenses which are for petty sins such as we all are subject to commit do not require formal discipline. And judicial discipline doesn't happen every day or every year in the average OPC. Yet a church which does not exercise discipline in matters serious is subject to eventual decay and even extinction as a true church of Jesus Christ.

                        If anyone cares to know more about church discipline in the Presbyterian church: Book of Church Order -Christforums
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