Mark #7 of a Healthy Church: Biblical Church Discipline
We need to live lives that back up our professions of faith. We need to love each other. We need to hold each other accountable because all of us will have times when our flesh wants to go in a way different that what God has revealed in Scripture. And part of the way we love each other is by being honest and establishing relationships with each other and speaking in love to each other. We need to love each other and we need to love those outside the church whom our witness affects; and we need to love God, who is holy, and who calls us not to bear His name in vain, but to be holy as He is holy. That's a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility.
~Mark DeverNine Marks of a Healthy Church (pp. 192 - 193)
In response to last week's post regarding church membership, my friend Aimee offered this comment
Another important point about church membership is discipline. How can you expect your church family to help you grow, and protect you as a part of it, if you will not publicly place yourself under the authority of the leaders? And since discipline is a mark of a healthy church, membership is all the more important.I remember many years ago a friend's husband was caught in an inappropriate relationship. They were part of a church that practiced church discipline, and she told me what steps the church was taking to discipline him and protect their marriage. Quite honestly, I was taken aback that the church leadership assumed such a role. I believed the elders were meddling where they didn't belong. My friend knew something I didn't - that marriage isn't about the individuals, but about representing Christ and the church. My friends reconciled. I didn't give any thought to church discipline after that. Then I started reading Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. The Lord opened our eyes to the importance of belonging to a church that practices discipline.
Mark Dever gives five reasons to practice church discipline:
1. The good of the person disciplined
2. The Good of the other Christians, as they see the danger of sin
3. The health of the church as a whole
4. The corporate witness of the church
5. The glory of God, as we reflect His holiness
Looking through the material we would cover in our new members class, I was happy to see that we would cover the topic of church discipline. I came into that session with no idea what to expect. The pastor shared an incident that occurred several years earlier. (I believe I have the story, or at least its substance, correct.) An elderly widower was keeping company with a woman who had been estranged from her husband for many years. The pastor confronted him about dating a married woman. After some time, the gentleman repented and broke off the relationship. The couple later reconciled when they were free to do so, and married in the church.
What struck me most about the story was our pastor's boldness to go to the gentleman - someone he loved and respected - and confront him about sin that many would be tempted to overlook, considering the parties' ages and circumstances. We left church that day a little in awe of our pastor and his resolve to lovingly practice church discipline. We knew we had found a church that considers itself a family and takes seriously the responsibilities that go along with such a privilege.
When we begin to view the church as a family, we then begin to see the purpose and blessing of church discipline. Just as fathers and mothers who dearly love their children must take the time to correct and encourage them, pastors and elders who love the Lord and the Lord's people must take the time to correct and encourage them.
"Church Discipline", Tabletalk , August 2013 (p. 24)
This summer, I'm blogging through Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Find out why here.