Why should local churches practice church discipline?

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.

Posted in Battling Sin, Discipleship, Oversight of Souls
5 comments on “Why should local churches practice church discipline?
  1. Mathew Sims says:

    Thank you. Discipline at it’s heart is about restoration and love and we can’t forget that. Inevitably when talking with people about confronting someone about sin in their life, I hear “but it may make things worse” or “what if they get angry and reject Christianity altogether?” I always feel like although the questions are heart felt that they miss the point of church discipline.

  2. John Abbott says:

    One of the problems that the United Methodist Church faces is the refusal of Bishops and Dist. Supt. to file charges against errant pastors. The few that are charged seem to always get away with their sinful behavior thus the local church seems to adopt the thought that “a person can do whatever makes them feel good.” In churches where Pastor’s have attempted to use the biblical command for discipline in the church have been sent off to the churches version of Siberia. On the other hand I can only remember one occasion in my years of ministry that deserved church discipline and it was successful at the earliest step in the process.

  3. Craig Hurst says:

    Paul, on your read of Scripture, are their only certain kinds of sins that if gone unrepentant of could lead one to be disciplined or is it any sin that one is confronted on and unrepentant of?

  4. Ken Ritchie says:

    Thank you for this post. We will be covering 1 Cor. 5 in about a month as we work through 1 Corinthians. This is a helpful and concise way of keeping the conversation in a good direction.

  5. Paul says:

    Most established churches can’t practice discipline because they are not willing to purge their church roll of inactive members. Some have hundreds ( many are wayward children and relatives ) that have not attended church in years, and are openly living disgraceful lives. How can a church discipline an active member unless they are willing to clean up their church roll? A pastor who wants to correct this will often end up with a split church, or asked to resign. These churches no longer have a Godly testimony in their community. They have become a social club, a place to run to when sick, or a place to be buried at death. We are truly living in the Laodicean period. It’s easy to see why we make the Lord nauseated – “spewed out of His mouth”.

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  4. […] conclude this set with a positive one from Brian Croft: why local churches need to practice church discipline. That’s all, folks. Have a great weekend! Share this:EmailPrint Probably Related PostsWeekly […]

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