Church Discipline: The Missing Mark of the Church
Few subjects create more anxiety, confusion, and even anger than the subject of church discipline. For most people, they have either never seen it done, or they’ve seen it done poorly. Mix in some rugged American individualism and the heart’s natural dislike of being called to repentance, and you get a very thorough dislike and mistrust of church discipline on the part of most church members.
However, church discipline, carried out biblically—for the right reasons and in the right manner—is so important to the health of the church that during the Reformation it was identified as a mark of a true church. In other words, a church that will not do church discipline, or carry it out according to Scripture, is not a true church! That’s quite a bold claim! How could the reformers make such a claim?
It begins with an understanding of the relationship between the gospel and church discipline. You see, a church that will not discipline her members is a church that is denying both the importance of righteousness among the people of God and the power of the gospel to bring that righteousness about. And if a church gets the gospel wrong, then little else matters, does it?
Over the next few weeks I want to briefly, but clearly, explain what biblical church discipline is, why we do it, and how we do it. I’m going to explain both the heart matter—the heart of the Session, the heart of the sinner, and most importantly, the heart of Christ—and the functional aspects of discipline. I want you to understand our hearts, but also the process—both the informal process and the formal.
Though it grieves us, All Saints has already engaged in the discipline of a member. And we will certainly need to do so again in the future. Whether you are the one being called to repentance or a member observing the Session’s work, we want to make sure you understand what is happening and why.
Biblical discipline is an act of love. In the coming weeks, I hope you will come to understand this even better.
Your fellow servant of Christ,