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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Church Discipline – Adjusting the Focus

As I stated previously my intent is use the comments from my previous post as a springboard for my thoughts on Church Discipline. I am grateful for those who commented and I appreciate those who have offered related articles either affirming or questioning my understanding. In the comments Dorsey questioned why the topic of homosexuality should be highlighted when there are numerous sins that are a threat to the welfare of the body and listed several sins that once were considered worthy of discipline but were now readily accepted in most assemblies. He also made it clear that the tolerance for these sins seems proportionate to their “relative” proximity. In other words when it hits home we seem to be much more willing to tolerate them than when it’s “those people” who are so vile and degenerate. I think his comments have provided an excellent basis for an overview on how the Church has misplaced the focus on discipline.

Let me first answer the question as to why I addressed homosexuality in particular. To be honest I don’t believe I chose that particular sin. It was presented to me as being one that is relevant and an important issue on which the Church should reevaluate its position. If someone had asked me to consider any sin such as adultery or gluttony and there was a press for the Church to accept it as good then I would address those sins in particular as well. I have no desire to highlight any particular sin. That was the choice of others. I want to highlight the need for the forgiveness of sin and forgiveness will never be sought where sin is taught and accepted as good and right. I would be just as opposed to a “polygamy friendly” Church. I am also at odds with most others who would argue against them. The problem is not the severity of this particular sin. It’s in the severity of any sin.

For most people the word discipline has an implied meaning of “judgment and punishment”. While the Church may eventually be called to make a determination, the discipline itself is not administered as the result of any judgment nor is it done in order to punish an offender. It is only offered as a means for helping to “disciple” an errant brother and is to be done in accordance with Christ’ command. Nowhere did Christ instruct the Church to be a “terror to evil doers”. That is the responsibility of the government. If Church discipline fails to lead to discipleship then the issue is no longer a responsibility of the Church.

There is also the tendancy to perceive the Chruch as an institution having a governing body who sets moral standards that should govern the behavior of its “members”. Brothers and sisters the Church is you and me. It is every member of the body and it is governed by Christ alone. Only God sets the standard by which we live and Church discipline is not administered as the result of a failure to live up to a prescibed moral code. Church discipline starts when an individual member sees a brother overtaken in a fault or is personally offended by another believer. It does not begin before the whole assembly and result in a vote or a committee descision on behavior and activities nor does it start when someone tattles to a minister concerning some activity so-and-so is involved in. It starts when we remove the beam from our own eye so that we can help our brother remove the splinter from his. Church discipline is not the punishment of a criminal as determined by some governing body. It is an act of love done with the sole intent of the full restoration of fellowship between all believers for the edification of the body of Christ.

There are some key principles related in scripture that are critical in determining when Church discipline has been successful and no further action is necessary. Consider Matthew 18 beginning with verse 21. After having commanded Church discipline Jesus explains to Peter that if a brother seeks our forgiveness we are to give it no matter how many times he might need it. Church discipline is successful when it results in repentance toward the offense. 1st John 1:9 states that if we confess our sins that He is faithful and just to forgive us. Church discipline is successful when it results in repentance toward God. The focus of discipline is not toward punishment or control but is toward forgiveness and reconciliation.

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29 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I think you are on the right lines, but I htink it is crucial to see the theological reason for discipline in maintaining the holiness of the Churhc as a peculiar people. Those who are united to Christ must not be joined to what is evil.

God Bless

Matthew

3/26/2006 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Patti said...

KC,
I think this is the first time I posted on your site-but have been reading it. This is a hot topic button. First I should state that I believe all Christian churches state that being homesexual is not a sin-practicing it is.

I know a practicing lesbian and a devout Catholic celibate homosexual. He is celibate because of his love of God.

I am not about to confront this lesbian because she is not a person who is in a church that accepts her lifestyle. I don't have that type of relationship with her. So I offer her support and interact with her as I would anyone other person.

However, she has a son. The conception was done through artificial means with a sperm donor. Now my church (Catholic) teaches that this is sinful. I am not up on all the doctrinal points of this. But what if she had several eggs made into embryos' and decided not to have any more children. Then we get into the abortion issue. (This is a whole topic in itself.)

All I know is that sin begets sin. I like your topic of discipline. I also like the topic of obedience. I am firm believer in obedience to God and to the authority of the church you are in. I may not always agree. But then I seek out answers to help me.

I posted on my site that I am 50 years old and most of the blogger profiles show that they are much younger than me. I see that many of them like to use the words mistake, failing. God can't forgive mistakes or failings, he can only forgive sin.

The world is teaching so much acceptance that I think it is dangerous for Christians. On the other hand, I do believe the church was so non-accepting of things that didn't matter (clothes, make-up, etc) that we are on a pendulum.

All I know is that we need to discipline ourselves and be obedient to God.

I know I have rambled, but your post was one of the first I could respond to with my thoughts.

3/26/2006 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Patti said...

Correction-to my post.

I am not about to confront this lesbian because she is a person who is in a church that accepts her lifestyle. I don't have that type of relationship with her. So I offer her support and interact with her as I would anyone other person.

3/26/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Matthew that's an excellent point. I don't mean to overlook those things but I get so focused on the doing. ;-)

Pattie welcome and thanks for your thoughts. I'm glad you pointed out the distinction between having the desire and giving in to it. I'm not really trying to address this sin in particular but any sin that we would justify instead of confessing as sin. It's important to also distiguish between professed believers and those who are not. The Church has a totally different responsibility to those who are not in Christ. You've also made another distinction that I hope to discuss concerning various denominational differences and the entire body of Christ. I hope to detail the responsibility each of us have s the Church when it comes to discipline. Thanks for participating. ;-)

3/26/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Kc,

I appreciate your posting on a subject that I think has the potential to determine the spiritual temperature of a local assembly.

When discipline is avoided it shows the believers are becoming indifferent toward sin, and it confirmrs that trend.

However, when a church is generally indifferent toward sin but then realises they should deal wtih a certain situation with discipline, it may begin a chain of discussions and events that leads the local church out of their complacency. That is if there is a desire to proceed biblically with an eye toward restoration.

Jodie

3/26/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jodie thanks for your support and especially your understanding. I really hope to bring this down to a personal level. For some reason we tend to want to view this responsibility as a corporate act yet in the main the majority of discipline is an individual effort. If it reaches the point where it becomes corporate it's usually because those involved failed to understand their responsibility. At present my understanding is that this is not only a responsibility of the local assembly but of the whole body with only a portion being assigned to the local assembly if needed. I really look forward to your critique. ;-)

3/26/2006 04:43:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Jodie said:
"When discipline is avoided it shows the believers are becoming indifferent toward sin, and it confirmrs that trend. "

Let me offer this: When discipline is avoided, it shows that believers are becoming indifferent toward one another.

The Lord disciplines who? Those He loves. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or a skipping CD, perhaps), discipline (or the lack of it) is a matter of relationship. If a member of the body has fallen into such sin as to require corporate discipline, then I suggest that person is either not in sufficient relationship to other believers, or the people with whom that person is in relationship have failed in their obligation to admonish and encourage that person. We are, indeed, our brothers' keepers.

To slightly twist DF's words, the body of Christ must not be joined to what is evil. We must be firmly joined to one another. In turn, those relationships keep us accountable so that corrective discipline becomes unnecessary.

3/26/2006 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

Dorsey, will you email me, or pm me, I want to talk to you about this. I had never assumed you would be for 'discipline'. I just wanted to consider your thoughts on it.

That and I want your body.

AND THE ICE CREAM MAN JUST DROVE BY!!! Do you know how long it has been since I have lived in town and hence had the ice cream man drive by my house?!?! I about killed myself running to the window. I will catch him next time and actually buy me some divive freezing manna.

awaiting the hope and the ice cream man,
Adam

3/26/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Karyn said...

Kc,
given current circumstances I so appreciate this particular post. I would never want sin to be overlooked or tolerated. The Matthew 18 principle is vital, as is all scripture, and we have a responsibility to handle the word of God correctly, to the best of our ability and knowledge. If I used the Bible as a means of pointing out every self focused issue I had with others I would feel I was mishandeling the Word of God. I feel damaged relationships can result when this happens. The important thing is to function as a body, and accountability is certainly a part of that. However sin is different from personality or personal differences, and I hope I'm always receptive to proper correction and wise enough to seek Christ's strength to forgive when the Bible is used as a weapon. There are some hard issues to be dealt with as we seek God, but they need to be dealt with none the less. Bless you for your bravery here!
Karyn

3/26/2006 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey it seems we have the same perspective and I really appreciate your thoughts on this.

Hi Adam. ;-)

Karyn thanks for the kind words and for bringing to light a key issue. Discipline is not a police action and we're not investegators looking for violaters.

3/27/2006 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Actually, I agree with you guys that discipline begins with one on one relationships. And that it often ends there.

But if a church is never working as a body to d. either they have been very effective at the macro level or they are neglecting to hate sin --and love each other-- and are hardened concerning both. I think those two go hand and hand, but I appreciate your broadened scope, Dorsey :)

To be a little off topic, I do think knowing the greatness of the atonement and also the seriousness of all sin is an area where there is always need for growth and new insight.

I've observed when I and my fellowship have reached out to individual homosexuals in order to become stable friends, that much good came out of that. But there were also some negatives. Sometimes the taboo of something lends itself to seeing the humor in a situation and then feeling a big relief that the previous anxiety has dissipated. But this good natured acceptance can help us loose sight of God's hatred of sin. And it's very tempting to see the "campy" Same Sex Attraction viewpoint as not so evil, when actually it is very. That hasn't been my only experience with friendships with homosexual people, but it is something that I still find sobering.

God leads us into ministry and He provides fully so that we can reach out effectively. But we should look to ourselves and our own sin and not be tempted to dilute our perspective of how serious our own sin is. I think this is what goes hand in hand with loosing sight of the seriousness of something like adultery or homosexuality.

To come back to the topic, the process of taking the beam out of your own eye so that we can take the speck out of our brother's is healthy. (...and I still think that process sometimes determines the spritiual temperature of a fellowship :)

3/27/2006 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Little Miss Chatterbox said...

Thanks again for the help with my template. Linked to ya today :-).

3/27/2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger curious servant said...

Great dialogue here.

A couple of other thoughts.

There is also the idea of discipline as a practice we do.

I have a discipline of morning prayers.

There is self discipline. Any athlete knows that the onl way to improve and to maintain a competitive edge is through self discipline... controlling our actions and being honest with ourselves in how well we are doing.

But all of this are about works. The real problem does not lie so much within the act of the sin, but withn the heart that is pulling away from God and chooses its own desires over our Lord's.

And in the end, that is what sin is really about. Choosing what we desire first, putting ourselves before God.

3/27/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I stopped reading at Dorsey's first comment because I think he raised a great point.

Paul only told the Corinthians to deal with the immorality among them after he had heard that (for a long time) NOBODY in the church had mentioned it to the man or done anything about it.

At that point, he addressed the issue with the whole church!

(Now, maybe if Apollos & Peter hadn't messed up their unity, some one or two brothers close to that man could have spoken with him.)

I'M GENERALLY AFRAID TO COMMENT ON "DISCIPLINE" BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY OTHER ASSUMPTIONS... But I'm talking about the extreme case of a man sleeping with his father's wife - and we all know what Paul said about it. So I'll leave it at that.

Great point, Dorsey.

3/27/2006 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

One thing is obvious. For most of us this is where the "rubber meets the road" on several issues.

Jody I know the assembly should be in sync on these issues but to be honest I know of none that are. If your local Church is then I consider you very blessed. I do promise to address the corporate issues and I'll count on your help. ;-)

LMC you're most welcome and thanks for the link. ;-)

CS thanks so much for your thoughts and wisdom. Self discipline seems so overlooked but you're so right that the key for all of us is the heart. Our desire must be to Him.

HB I hope something might be offered here that help relieve some of your fears about approaching your brethren. One of the main reasons for doing so is in order to remove doubt and prevent assumptions. Your point about unity is critical but I think that unity starts with me and you. ;-)

3/27/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

The chairman of deacons in a church I served recommended that we withdraw fellowship from a lady who had gotten a divorce. (The former unforgivable sin). He later withdrew his recommendation when he learned that his own daughter was getting one.

In another church a staff member was "fired" when his wife divorced him. It was later learned that she had been having an affair.

He was not re-hired.

I think we need to move very carefully and with as much grace as possible when engaging in church discipline.

If we are spiritual, we must engage in gentle restoration wherever possilbe.

3/27/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Well said, Joe. Far too often, official discipline is just a spiritually rationalized excuse to kick *ss and take names, so to speak. The situations you described are abominable. Anyone who does not have restoration as the number one priority must not be even casually associated with the process.

That said, I also think it's important to consider Joe's and Herobill's comments as they regard the threshold of action. Application of discipline requires an ENORMOUS amount of maturity and wisdom and, as mentioned earlier, an extreme commitment to restoration as well as discretion, without which the prayer chain (aka grapevine) will surely overheat with rumor and innuendo. But I think your sin had better unrepentant and clearly demonstrable before it's brought up for corporate action.

3/27/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Adam, why are you surprised that I'm supportive of church discipline? Is it because you assume that I'm so often it's target? [/devilhorns]

3/27/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

Hey, KC.

"Afraid" was probably too strong a word for what I meant. I just dislike the constant hedging and disclaimers like, "in love, of course" or, "in a spirit of gentleness, of course", and so on.

I just don't think words can cover it, knowhutimean? (Maybe I should have said, "hesitant to comment on this topic".)

On a different note, let's say that YOU committed a grievious sin. Do YOU have any close christian brothers whom YOU would feel comfortable with, if they came over to discuss it with you? (I think I have a few.)

My heart about the topic is really best put in this sentence: It's a difficult thing to do - to walk into a tent backwards, holding a blanket. (see: Noah's sons)

By the way... I didn't mean to make any point about unity - I guess I was rambling about the details of that story, and I guess I just meant "if they hadn't been on the verge of a very distracting (potential) four way church-split."

"Unity" may mean different things to people. I wasn't trying to make a spiritual point. But maybe you're seeing something I hadn't thought of... I don't know.

Thanks for blogging.

3/27/2006 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

Joe and Dorsey, you made some beautiful points. Maybe words CAN get closer than I thought...

At least, you two don't seem at all like you're talking from your heads, but from real life experience. Bought not cheaply either, I'd imagine.

Thanks, guys.

Here's for a very HIGH "threshold of action"; just maybe not quite so high as that one instance in Corinth... ;)

3/27/2006 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Hi KC,
Great topic. I am with you in all that you said in your post.

I think the one thing I really got from reading the comments was that we all should be closer with those in our churches on an interpersoanl level so that we can help one-another out - even so that we can know what is going on with eachother before things get so far out of hand. Our fellowship in our churches must not be superficial.

3/28/2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I think Rose's summary is spot-on. Well said.

3/28/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Hi Kc!

Sorry I have been absent for this discussion! I've been dealing with some really sticky issues as you know.

Hope all is well,
Kristi

3/28/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Joe those are the type of things I think we can avoid if we practice discipline in accordance with the scripture.

Dorsey I think if we follow scriptural guidelines that discipline is something everyone can participate in.

HeroBill sorry I butchered your previous comment. I think when you say a high threshold you're speaking in reference to the corporate level, in which case I totally agree but we need a very low level at the onset. We've got to be more willing to talk to each other about the things that are troubling us.

Rose, I agree with Dorsey in that you nailed it. The key is real fellowship and true love.

Kristi no excuses. It's time for your two cents! ;-)

(I hope all is going well.)

3/28/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Like a wise man told me once....want a popular blog? hehehe

LOVE LOVE LOVE is the only thing that can produce true discipline.

I agree with dorsey that the church has come way short in relationships is why this is even an issue today. Thats why I am a doresist and hold to all the numorous points of dorseism.(how many points are there?)



I believe we, the church, would do well to understand that God hates sin because of the harm it does to us, not because it will somehow harm Him. I think we should remember this before we proceed with any thoughts of corporate discipline.

I am not saying that corporate discipline is not biblical and needed at times though. Paul said in 1 Cor.6:18 that all other sins besides sexual sins are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his body and that will end up destroying himself(i think usually this is mental destruction more than physical). Thats why Paul also said in 1 Cor. verse 6 in chapter 5 that condoning the sin of sexual immorality is dangerous and can lead to compromising the truth of the destructiveness of this sin so it needed to be dealt with not only for the sake of the person caught in it but also for the sake of other believers, the church.

3/28/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

There are around 37 points of dorseism (so far), but they're on a rotation, so that you only have to adhere to three at a time.

3/29/2006 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

hahaha Kris you're on to me! To be honest I would prefer this kind of popularity to go elsewhere. I appreciate your thoughts brother.

I can understand your conversion to Dorsiesm. I probably come close to all 37 points but I'm concerned that the next 37 will lead to another new denomination and there will be factions that refuse to adhere to the proper rotation causing further division. Will Dorsiest be tolerant of non-Dorsiest? Can I be considered a Dorsiest and not adhere to points 3 and 10? Can Dorsiest even fellowship with non-Dorsiest. That is yet to be seen. And what about those who will add thier own points or interpret one or more points in a legalistic manner? (hehe)

3/29/2006 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Fear not. Points 3 and 10 are optional.

Dorseists are all about the love, baby. Plus, we now have the holy chip!

3/30/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Well that settles it for me! Where can I pick up my fat lady suit?? (or do we rotate to a tux this week?)(hehe)

3/30/2006 12:21:00 PM  

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