Summary: This is the first of three sermons on Church Discipline, fo provide a positive foundation on the issue, and later to restore a fallen member. It deals with misconceptions on Church Discipline, and the importance of church discipline.
The Loving Act of Discipline
Today we look at an issue within the church, that we all would dearly love not to have anything to do with, but unfortunately at times we must come face to face with. That issue is church discipline.
I believe part of the reason that we avoid the subject, is the unique nature of the church. Take a look around you. Within the walls of this sanctuary are people that we love. People who are our spiritual brothers and sisters, and so when we address the subject, we are not talking about people who mean nothing to us, but rather people we care about dearly.
I believe another reason that we avoid the subject, are the negative feelings that are associated with it. As a church body, we can draw together when we lose a member through death or through a move. It is a far greater challenge to attempt to deal with the disappointment, betrayal, anger, and hurt that comes when a brother or sister is caught in such a sinful practice that forces us to use the extreme measure of church discipline.
I also believe that within the church today, there is a feeling that we are invulnerable from falling into sin. We can look at a pastor and his wife and claim that they are the models of what the local church is like one week, and then be devastated by the news that one partner is in an adulterous affair the next. We say "that can happen at other churches but not here. We’re too solid for that to happen." In the past two months three churches in our convention who thought just that, received the resignation of their pastors for moral failure. To deal with the issue of church discipline is to admit that we are vulnerable to fall and may need correction (Proverbs 3:5-6; 5:1-6). For some of us, that is too hard to deal with.
While I understand and can empathize with these reasons, the one that I find most troubling in the church today, is it’s own conformity to worldly values. We write sin off as a "mistake", or "falling at a moment of weakness", and by doing so allow unrepentant sin into the body of Christ. In doing so, we are destroying the testimony of the church, family and individual. Remember that the church is called to separate its ways from the ways of the world (1 Peter 1:13-16). The regenerate church in reality is the only body that can discernfully exercise church discipline, as it is the only body who actively seeks the will of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and who’s final authority rests in the Word of God.
It is my hope that when we leave here today, you will have a different outlook on church discipline. It is my desire that we will see that church discipline is by design, a positive element of our church life, when it is used properly. It is also my desire to walk you through the process and show what our biblical responsibility is should we ever be faced with a situation where we need to use it.
POINT ONE: COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS CONCERNING CHURCH DISCIPLINE
A) The first misconception of church discipline that I would like to address, is the feeling that it is a negative process. It has been my experience, based on hearing of six cases and involving four different churches, that when church discipline is used in a biblical way, positive results usually follow. Out of these six cases, in five, church discipline was used, one case did not involve discipline. In four of the five situations where church discipline was used, the members was eventually restored and the church grew spiritually. In the one where it was not used, it has resulted in the resignation of the pastor, and leaving the church hurt, discouraged, and ripe for a split. A biblical use of church discipline can be a positive practice.