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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Church Discipline – What’s needed when it’s needed

One of the greatest fallacies concerning Church discipline centers on the determination of who has the authority and responsibility for administering discipline. Too many believers are under the misconception that discipline is always a corporate act to be undertaken by the pastorate. Scripturally, nothing could be farther from the truth.

As stated previously, Church discipline is not a punitive act but an act of love toward reconciliation. The need for discipline arises when one of two situations occur. In Matthew 18 Jesus gave very specific instruction regarding who is responsible for initiating discipline. Verse 15 states in part, “if thy brother shall trespass against thee”. Please notice the qualification here that the sin must be “against thee” and He did not say only “if thy brother shall trespass” but he specifically said “against thee”. This means that the offended party is charged with the responsibility of initiating discipline. Along with this responsibility comes the authority to confront the offender. We should never believe that others have no right to talk to us about things we’ve said or done that have troubled or hurt them. Likewise we must all realize that we have absolutely no authority to judge our brethren in Christ. If you believe that another believer has wronged you then you have a responsibility to confront them with it. That doesn’t mean that if you think others are wrong you have the right to correct them and there is no gift given for being a “sin detective”. Those who go about looking for faults in others have a much greater problem than those they find fault in.

So what if you are made aware of the sin of another? How are we to deal with that if not through confrontation? If you think you’ve witnessed another believer committing “a” sin and that sin does not directly involve you then you really have no authority to do or say anything to anyone except God. 1st John 5:14-16 clearly establishes our remedy and responsibility under this circumstance. But is there a difference between “a” sin and being overtaken by sin? I think Galatians 6:1 alone addresses this situation completely. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” This situation can occur both through ignorance or insensitivity and in either case those who would seek to restore him must first be certain that they are fit for the task. I hope to discuss this further in my next article in this series, “removing the beam”.

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28 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Some good thoughts there.

But surely Church discipline is corporate in some sense.

If sin becomes public knowledge, it should affect the consciences of brethren. They are then under a responsibity to judge of the matter.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

3/29/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Matthew it could become a corporate issue but I think there is so much that should take place before it goes that far that corporate discipline should be rare. If a sin becomes public knowledge then there's much more needed than just discipline for that offender. There are a lot of things out of place in an assembly where that occurs.

3/29/2006 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Pia said...

i have a lot of catching up to do here. missed yah, papu!

responsiblitlity to conftont those that offended you... does that mean that i have to really confront them? or is it actually my choice whether or not i confront them?

3/29/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gordon Cloud said...

I am so glad that you are calling attention to this issue. If we were to practice discipline in the biblical sense, I think the church would have much more impact on our culture.

The world needs to see something that can make a difference in their life, if they don't see it in the church, then where will they see it?

The problem is, the church is so much like the world that the difference is practically indistinguishable.

Good post.

3/29/2006 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Beautifully thought out and written!

3/30/2006 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Pia I've missed you too and it's great to see your comments here again! ;-)

I think in Matthew 18:15 Jesus' words are pretty direct but I have much more to say about that and I hope it will relieve some of your concerns.

Gordon, thanks and I agree. Instead of being salt and light we tend to become bland and dim and blend right in to the society around us.

Joe that means alot to me. Thanks. ;-)

3/30/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Kc, you say that if we see someone (a brother or sister) commit a sin, but is not overtaken in that sin, we only have the right to go to God about it. But what if that person is someone we have God-given authority over? Say, a pastor to one of his flock, or a Sunday school parent to a child, or a parent to a rebellious teenager? Shouldn't then we be able to say something to them, even though the sin was not directly against us?

3/30/2006 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

oops.. I meant to say Sunday School teacher.... my mind was getting ahead of my fingers!

3/30/2006 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Kristi you've brought up a good point but first we have to identify where God gave authority to any believer over another believer. ;-)

There is still merit to your question IMO. "We" are instructed to submit but in submitting we do not relegate Christ authority to another. It looks like submission will be the next topic (grin).

3/30/2006 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger Kristi said...

Kc, I don't get it.

I thought all authorit was established by God. He doesn't exclude believers from authority, does He?

"in submitting we do not relegate Christ authority to another."

Ya' totally lost me there. Sorry.

3/30/2006 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

I'm speaking of authority within the body of Christ. Do you see where Christ gives any believer authority over another?

Mark 10

42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.

43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:

44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.

45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

We don't have rulers within the Church, only servants. ;-)

3/30/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger nathaniel adam king said...

Kc, I like how you have pointed out the necessity of addressing the issue one-on-one before 'taking it before the church'. I guess I had always thought of it as something that is publically done as a community. I ignored Jesus' command to confront your brother, then before a witness or two, AND THEN take it before the church. That makes a heck of a lot more sense. Discipline, as I have understood it, is a practice of the church to help Christians to overcome sin. But, as experience shows, the most powerful help normally comes through the constant urging of a close loved one. When confronted by a mass of people, shame and fear are normally equated in, which makes quite clear why most would react in hostility or defense.

I'm rambling.

3/30/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Adam thanks for the encouragement. It really means a great deal to me and please feel free to ramble anytime. ;-)

I think the proper concept of dicipline begins to fall in place when we no longer percieve the Church as an institution but see it as you and I, the members of the body of Christ.

3/30/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/30/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger dorsey said...

Sorry to jump in so late. I've been, um, rescuing holy relics.

My blood runs a little cold when the subject of authority comes up, especially in this context, because I think it's a concept that has been so thoroughly misused and misunderstood in the church, that it's primary use in church culture is as a club—a tool of oppression and control. It would be a good topic to discuss sometime, kc.

"Peer pressure" is another term that had developed negative connotations, but I think that's essentially what we mean when we discuss the relational nature of church discipline (I mean the individual, pre-corporate action mentioned earlier.).

I'm out to dinner on a Friday evening with several other couples, dear friends all, most of whom order a beer or cocktail prior to the meal. None of us considers alcohol sinful, but none of us considers it proper to get drunk, either. There is one gal, though, who has had a particularly difficult week at work. She orders a mixed drink, drinks it rather aggressively, and then orders another, making some comment about "needing it" after "the week I've had." Well, I don't think she's sinned (yet), and is certainly not "overtaken by a fault," but without making a big deal of it, the next time we make eye contact, I smile and say "Easy." The moment passes, it's all over. Most of the people at the table didn't even notice, and the ones who did just sort of smiled smiles that said, "We're all friends, here."

It was a complete non-incident, but she slowed down on the second drink and did not order a third. Is this a form of what we're talking about?

If she and I weren't close, she might have told me to mind my own business. But it was our relationship that carried the weight to modify behavior, not authority. And I think it's this same weight of genuine relationship that can overcome the will farther up the line in a situation where more intentional action is called for.

3/30/2006 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Kc said...

Dorsey I think the situation you described more closely relates to love and even prevented the need for any discipline. If your sister had ignored you or even if you had made no mention but she continued drinking eventually becoming a burden to you then I think this would be a matter of discipline.

I'm not sure I would approve of peer pressure as a means of discipline unless the situation escalated to the point where corporate action was dictated. I think it's highly important that we preserve our brother's freedom to serve as God would lead and peer pressure has a great potential to retard our personal relationship with God in Christ. We're not all the same members, we're different and what works well for you by virtue of your gifts might be my undoing by virtue of the lack of your gifts.

I think the key ingredients for successful discipline are trust, communication, consideration, understanding and patience. It's not always something resolved in the moment and might take many discussions (okay even arguments) to resolve and we have to be willing to make that commitment to each other. ;-)

3/30/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger dorsey said...

I largely agree. I didn't intend to present my anecdote as a model to be followed, but only as an illustration of the interpersonal dynamic that, I think, makes discipline effective.

Your point about the variations in gifts is also well taken.

3/30/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Thanks Dorsey. You're thoughts have really added a lot of valuable insight in this discussion, as always. ;-)

3/30/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jayne said...

Kc, I have pondered several thoughts over the past few days and must admit, I'm still confused, albeit, it's not hard to confuse me. In all seriousness, I have read and re-read these last few posts and comments several times. But I cannot piece it all together.

I guess I just don’t feel that I have the right to discipline someone. I keep relating back to the women caught in adultery. Sin, yes. No question. The laws from Moses required that the woman be stoned to death. I’d say that is “discipline”. But that is not what happened. They all realized that although they may not have committed that type of sin, they were all sinners, and thus the woman lived and was forgiven through the mercy and grace of Jesus. Is that not the example we should follow? If we discipline are we not acting like the Pharisees?

3/30/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I don't know what to say about the overall topic today... but I liked Dorsey's story about saying "Easy". It sounded comfortable, natural, healthy, and helpful.

3/30/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jayne I really appreciate your considerations on this and I think the example you offered is perfect for understanding the difference between punishment in the OT and discipline in the NT. Under the OT law this woman was to be stoned to death and death is the punishment for sin under the law but Jesus was gracious to her. He forgave her and disciplined her saying, "Go and sin no more". He didn't punish her but neither did He overlook her sin, He forgave her and admonished her not to continue in sin. Does that seem more in line with your understanding?

HB I'm glad that love seems easy and natural to you. For many this would be a difficult task and sometimes love will require us to do things that are difficult and go against our nature.

3/30/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jayne said...

Yes, that is how I understand it. (I'm still learning!) thanks!

3/30/2006 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Me too sis and you guys keep me on my toes. Thanks! ;-)

3/30/2006 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

I agree with the lines your sketching here Kc.

3/30/2006 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

Jodie thanks for following this and for the encouragement. ;-)

3/31/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Herobill said...

I hate to be confusing twice in one week, Casey, but I didn't say anything about my own experience at all... :)

I just said it sounded like the exchange (which Dorsey described between himself and that person) seemed to have been "comfortable, natural, healthy and helpful." :)

Sorry to confuse! I do appreciate your comment about love requiring things that are difficult... though I myself actually said nothing at all about love, either! :)

But sometimes I think, "There is only one who can Love." :)

3/31/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Kc said...

LOL HB here's how I arrived at my reply:

you wrote:
"I don't know what to say about the overall topic today..."

I read:
I don't know what to say about the overall topic of personal responsibility in Church discipline.

you wrote:
"but I liked Dorsey's story about saying "Easy". It sounded comfortable, natural, healthy, and helpful."

I read:
but I liked the idea of loving my brethren by looking out for them (see previous comments). It sounds comfortable, healthy and helpful to me.

I replied that I was glad that loving others this way seems natural and easy (comfortable) to you (because) it's not that easy for alot of people but even for those of us who find this natural and easy there are still things about loving others that are hard for us (in other words we will hit our own hard spots).

I hope this explanation illustrates that I'm not intentionally trying to put words in your mouth! LOL

3/31/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Herobill said...

Of course! ;)

4/02/2006 11:49:00 AM  

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