I have no intention to answer this question with a unique argument for this practice. There are many good older resources, as well as some helpful modern ones that have covered this topic thoroughly and made compelling arguments. My intent in this post is to remind us why we should practice church discipline. We, as pastors of our church, recently shepherded our congregation through a very difficult church discipline situation. These are some of the most painful issues I deal with as a pastor. Yet, they must be done. Some of you may ask “why?” I submit to you 5 reasons why we willingly walk through these painful moments as pastors with our congregations:
Church discipline should be practiced…
1) Because Scripture commands it. (Matthew 18, 1 Cor. 5, 2 Thess. 3, Titus 3) It is hard. It is painful. But it must be done if we are to obey God’s commands.
2) Because it demonstrates love to the disciplined person. Although so many struggle that discipline is an unloving act, Scripture teaches the opposite. Discipline is done out of love for the person and a concern for their soul.
3) For the sake of purity within the local church. Christians are commanded to “deny ungodliness and to live righteously and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:12). The bride of Christ is to resemble Christ. Not in its perfection yet, but should still look differently than the world. Discipline holds Christians to a standard of holy living that reflects Christ’s righteousness and the transforming power of the gospel.
4) To provide a warning for those who carry the name of Christ. Discipline reminds not just the person under discipline, but the whole church that they are to live “a new and holy life” because they carry the name of Christ to the world. A person who professes Christ, but lives an ungodly, scandalous life in unrepentant sin, presents a defiled picture of the gospel to those around them.
5) Because it defends the beauty and treasure of the gospel. Discipline is ultimately practiced so that Christ is accurately seen as his bride, the church, portrays him to a watching world. His bride is a redeemed bride. It is a beautiful bride. It is a bride that has been washed by hIs own blood now to be seen by the world, thus validating the message of the gospel.
We as pastors and a congregation recently were reminded of all 5 of these reasons through carrying out discipline. It is hard. It is painful. It sets you up to be criticized by those who do not understand it both inside and outside the church. Yet, it must be done. If you are leary of this practice, may these reasons open up the discussion of its essential need.
I intend with Friday’s post to recommend some helpful resources on this topic. Stay tuned.