Church Discipline    Ó2003 TMRobinson


When a church operates without God’s wisdom, teaching rather to not judge, the tendency for parishioners is to judge worse than their pagan counterparts.  Yes, though it is counterintuitive, when not disciplined to follow biblical jurisprudence, believers will tend toward worse judgments than the average non-Christian.  The Apostle Paul experienced this bizarre phenomena first hand: a church was permissive and allowed a man to have sexual relations with his father’s wife, something that was unheard of among pagan law; yet church members had malice toward each other, taking fellow believers to civil court on petty matters that pagans might charitably overlook (1 Corinthians 5:1 – 6:7).  Paul threatened to show up on the church’s doorstep with a rod to beat some sense into them if they did not fix the problem and judge rightly (1 Corinthians 4:21).  Paul then said, “I speak to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?  No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren” (1 Corinthians 6:5).  Whereas Paul was distraught in trying to get those on milk to handle the meat of the Word, today he would be fraught with thousands of congregations that are completely lactose intolerant when it comes to righteous judgment!


Paul proposed that it might be better to suffer wrong at the hands of a brother in Christ than to take the matter outside the church: “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded” (1 Corinthians 6:7).  Not taking a brother in Christ to heathen judges over a dispute is a general goal, not a law.  Such is in keeping with Paul’s admonition, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).[i]  It is simply an admonition for the Body of Christ to judge property or contract disputes among fellow believers rather than take such disputes to civil magistrates.  Sadly, these passages have caused some believers to wrongly think that Paul taught to forgive criminals.  Such believers fail to consider the context that Paul addressed: the shame of Christians presenting themselves to the world’s pagan judges to settle disputes between fellow believers.  Paul stressed that such judgment should be conducted by a church court among fellow Christians, not in the world’s judicial system.  This proposal did not deal with forgiveness, but rather an attempt to avoid public humiliation of Christianity – not that Paul wanted churches to pretend to the world that members never go astray, but it would be shameful if the church does not police matters that they have authority to police.  There is no shame for a church’s swift judgment of a matter to become public knowledge.  However, there is the shame of hypocrisy when a church preaches righteousness without practicing it when it comes to their own affairs.


Though allegations of breach of contract or trespassing between believers can be settled within a church court, does this mean that Christians should keep in house and hide from the authorities such issues as pedophilia, rape, embezzlement, or murder?  The answer is, “No.” Under the heading, Vengeance, Forgiveness, and Judging Others, it was established that there are times when forgiveness cannot be extended to an offender and that some things must by-pass usual church discipline procedures so that they can be discreetly reported to detectives for them to conduct a proper investigation.  Address criminal matters through proper channels to establish if a crime has indeed occurred, prior to assessing church disciplinary measures.  Only civil government has the power to enforce criminal sentences.  For example, civil government is the only entity authorized to execute capital punishment.  In addition, only the government of Israel can rightly enforce all the laws in the bible, such as those dealing with the Sabbath.  However, these facts do not alleviate the church’s responsibility to rightly judge its parishioners and take appropriate corrective action when it is within their domain.  The goal of such judgment is five-fold: maintaining the liberty found in Christ, striving towards sound doctrine on the basics of biblical faith, restoring a wandering or wounded sheep to a God-honoring lifestyle, reconciliation, and emphasizing integrity in the church.  Whenever church discipline goes awry, it distorts or misrepresents at least one of these goals.  Criminal justice is noticeably absent from the list because such is the domain of civil government, but there should be a church judge for matters churches should handle.  However, if the concept of a church judge surprises you, keep in mind that it has only been in the past two hundred years that statements of faith have eliminated articles about church discipline. 


The Dordrecht Confession of A.D. 1632 included two articles dealing with church punitive measures:  Article XVI, Of the Ecclesiastical Ban or Excommunication from the Church, and Article XVII, Of the Shunning of Those Who are Expelled.  These two articles detail the methodology of discipline, the necessity of discipline according to the forms of offenses, and the treatment of those who have been put outside the church's fellowship.  However, the Dordrecht Confession was not alone in highlighting church discipline in their statements of faith.  The Waterland Confession of 1580, the short confession by John Smyth in 1610, A Declaration of faith of the English People of 1611 (during the translation of the King James Version), and the Orthodox Creed of 1679 all testify to the predominance of discipline among church members.  The Philadelphia Confession, printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1742, included a separate summary upon the subject of church discipline.  In the A.D. 1596 document, A True Confession, Article XXV dealt with the question of church discipline in regards to members who were also sovereigns.  It placed the kings and queens on the same level of church justice as the poor pauper.  Though such a stance was not popular in European countries at that time, the fact that church members made such bold statements in their articles of faith shows the importance that Christians in ages past gave to the subject of church government and judgment.


During the 1800's, statements concerning the discipline of church membership slowly disappeared from confessions of faith (Criminal justice systems were also undergoing changes during this period).  The New Hampshire Confession of Faith of 1833 is perhaps one of the most influential in America.  It did not contain any reference to church discipline.  Many confessions of faith since then have patterned themselves after the New Hampshire Confession of Faith.  The Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith used it as its foundational material, and they added some articles of their own ‑ none concerning church discipline.  In fact, almost all of the groups that built their statements of faith upon New Hampshire’s fail to include church discipline.


Churches cannot give something to the world that they do not first possess.  If statements of faith are the written record testifying of those things held important or essential to a congregation, then it should be apparent to the honest observer that today’s churches do not hold discipline and righteous judgment in high regard as compared to their forbearers.  As long as parishioners are content to only sing hallelujah choruses about heaven and ignore the meat of their religion, concepts of avoiding destructive behavior and the repercussions of violating absolute standards of right and wrong will continue to be trodden under the feet of men.


Regarding the restoration of a wandering or wounded sheep to a God-honoring lifestyle, personal matters as sensitive as a case of incest or the status of an abandoned wife were brought before early churches (1 Corinthians 7:10-15, 5:1-6).  When Paul was consulted on such matters, he gave straightforward judgment.  Instead of classifying people or second-guessing their motives, Paul pronounced whether or not their actions were within the perimeter of Scripture.  There were no whispering tales as to the innocence or guilt of church members when the church had a functioning government because matters were brought into the open for the church to know the whole matter.  This is not to say that all things need to be brought before the church.  In the area of reconciliation, for example, two parishioners angry at each other should try to work out their disagreement as privately as possible.  Response to sin should not escalate more than necessary, but rather be gauged to adequately fulfill the five-fold purpose of discipline.


On occasion, a matter brought for judgment does not concern itself with morality, but rather differences of opinion or an occasion of choosing between equally valid options.  For example, if an inheritance cannot be equally divided, siblings may squabble over who should get the larger portion.  Another example is if two or more prime candidates exist for a position and they all are equally qualified.  For such occasions where an impasse has been reached, there exists an ancient and biblically certified method to break the deadlock and decide which portion goes to which sibling or which candidate should be selected.  However, you will be hard pressed to find churches that teach this method of judgment, let alone practice it among their membership.  What is this long forgotten tool to manage differences of opinions?  Is it civil lawsuits?  No.  The answer is “drawing straws” or “casting lots.”  Can you imagine the number of lawyers that would have to adjust their lifestyle if professing Christians used this simple, time-honored technique for diffusing strife?  Such will never happen so long as churches shun biblical jurisprudence.

*      “If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.  I speak to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?  No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.’  (1 Corinthians 6:4-6)

*       “The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.”  (Proverbs 18:18) 

*      “According to the lot shall the possession thereof be divided between many and few.” (Numbers 26:56) 


Increased gossip and a conspiracy of silence about biblical jurisprudence is the result of an ailing church government.  This is true even when strong pastoral leadership is present or if the church prides itself as having old-fashioned standards of conduct.  In fact, churches seeking to maintain orthopraxis through a rigid standard of conduct or hold firm to orthodoxy are often more at risk of being abusive than apathetic churches.  We may think of religious abuse as being the hallmark of cults such as Jim Jones’ People’s Temple or David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, but orthodox mainstream and fundamentalist churches generate the bulk of complaints alleging abuse at the hands of spiritual leaders. 


A pastor denouncing someone from the pulpit and asking for a vote to expel that person is, by itself, not biblical church discipline.  For example, when a congregation is not well versed in biblical justice and church discipline, church leadership motivated by self-interests can easily manipulate the congregation to oust a righteous person from the church.  Corrupt pastors in fear of exposure for impropriety have been known to retaliate against potential witnesses, branding them from the pulpit as troublemakers -- even calling the police to lodge false reports against witnesses or opposition that they want to excommunicate (This is usually not a secret call to police to start a low-profile investigation, but a call to police followed by a church wide broadcast of the event to prejudice the church against whomever the pastor is targeting).  If the Pharisees could find others to bear false witness against Jesus, then it should come as no surprise that wicked pastors have on occasion found someone to help further false accusations.  However, one way to help ensure that a church is not being manipulated to expel a member by a pastor who has something to hide is to require that the accused have the opportunity to explain himself before the congregation.  For these reasons, a private meeting with the pastor or an open letter does not qualify as an opportunity to be cross-examined by the congregation.  The bible gives good reasons why cross-examination and testimony in the presence of the congregation should be standard practice prior to a decision on excommunication:  “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him,” and “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him” (Proverbs 18:13, 17).  Far too often, churches have expelled someone for bizarre behavior or upon some accusation when dialog on one side of the matter was all the church possessed.  In fact, principles espoused by Jesus (Matthew 18:15-17) and Paul (Second Corinthians 13:1; First Timothy 5:19) require that one or two impartial men, in addition to the accuser meet with the accused prior to the matter ever going before the church.  A private meeting with the pastor does not suffice, and it would be wise to guard your words if ever placed in such a precarious situation.  In fact, in a healthy church, it is possible that the pastor never take an active judicial role when discipline is handled by those who are least esteemed in the church (1 Corinthians 6:4).  This approach relies upon a mature Christian who is somewhat aloof from social circles or is not otherwise politically connected, and who has the least to gain from the process he is chosen to oversee and render judgment upon.  If the church is small or is immature, there is nothing prohibiting the church from using a mature brother from another church to render judgment. 


Not all spiritual abuse cases involve corrupt leaders, but rather misguided, often egocentric leadership and their misled flock.  Two books, Churches That Abuse and Recovering From Churches That Abuse, point out differences between healthy churches and churches prone to abuse members.  For example, “A healthy pastor welcomes even tough questions.  In an unhealthy church, disagreement with the pastor is considered disloyalty and is tantamount to disobeying God.  People who repeatedly question the system are labeled rebellious, unteachable, or disharmonious to the body of Christ … [and are] publicly ridiculed, shunned, shamed, humiliated, or disfellowshiped.” [ii]  Other barometers of church health include the following questions:   

*      Do members appreciate truth wherever it is found, even if it is outside their group?

*      Does the group encourage independent thinking and the development of discernment skills?

*      Does the group’s leadership invite dialogue, advice, and evaluation from outside its immediate circle?

*      Do members of the group seek to strengthen their family commitments?[iii]    


Unfortunately, many conservative, fundamental churches ostracize anyone bearing a view on a non-essential doctrine that differs from their own, and such tunnel vision stunts spiritual growth and understanding.  For example, there will be those finding things in this book that are contrary to what they were taught who will then automatically boycott the entire book, not to mention the author.  Others will not even consider this book because the author is not from their denomination or association.  Others may be convinced that a specific view in this book is correct, but they will not adopt the view because it differs from what they have taught people in the past.  However, striving towards sound doctrine upon the basics of faith includes the understanding that there are only a few fundamentals that cannot be wavered upon, such as the bodily resurrection of Christ, His deity, and His virgin birth.  It does not mean that variant views on peripheral matters must be exterminated to prevent a church split.  For example, mature believers understand that a differing view on eschatology,  prophecies of future events, is an opportunity for debate and discussion to see something in a different light or for all parties involved to discover a third option.  It is not, however, grounds for church discipline under the guise of doctrinal purity.  It is not a cause to break fellowship with one another.  Unfortunately, under the pretext of unity or loyalty, far too many churches are willing to expel a member, not for unrepentant immorality, but for firmly opposing a business decision that the rest of the church has chosen to pursue or for posing questions from a differing eschatological perspective.  Such churches fail to recognize that sincere criticism, even when it is misplaced, can help keep an organization focused and more mindful of potential pitfalls connected to their choices. 


Sadly, some people are so weak in their faith that they cut off family members, as though they were filthy rags to be discarded, merely because parents or siblings have yet to trust Christ.  Others may ignore their family obligations, after being convinced that they have a higher calling to fulfill in the church.  What is worse is that church leadership has been known to encourage such breaking of family ties.  This isolationism is often an attempt to keep someone from examining his beliefs, but it may be proclaimed as a means to stay pure in the faith.  However, if the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to attempt to remain married to their unbelieving, pagan spouse (1 Corinthians 7:12-14), how can churches seek to weaken any family commitments in the name of godly living?  Also, how can ministers ask parishioners to put “church work” above family obligations in the name of honoring Christ?  It is little wonder that leaders who prod their flock against strengthening family ties are sometimes seen as cultists.


This may strike a nerve with some ministers, but because so much rises and falls upon the philosophy of leadership in any organization, especially when it comes to  discipline within the group, it is important to understand how some preachers see themselves versus how Scripture sees them.  Many pastors financially supported only by their congregation view bi-vocational preachers with contempt.  For example, the late evangelist Oliver B. Greene, founder of the Gospel Hour radio program, believed that men who pastor a church while holding a job  to support themselves financially are not in God’s will.  Where he found this teaching in the bible is a mystery, especially in view that the Apostle Paul often sustained his ability to minister solely by his own labor as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3, 20:34).  Though Paul’s position may have entitled him a church salary, Paul sometimes worked day and night to minister freely to others (1 Corinthians 9:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).   Greene also stated that he would never let his family get in the way of his ministry.  Though such a claim sounds pious to the less discerning, it is far from Paul’s admonition that a married man should take care of his wife before attempting to minister to others (1 Corinthians 7:33; 1 Timothy 5:8).  Many good things can be said of evangelist Greene’s ministry, but he nonetheless contributed to the warped view that unwavering faithfulness to a ministry or church position equates to a commitment to Christ Jesus. 


Allegiance to something other than Christ is usually endorsed under the guise of a special “calling.”  In times past, God directly selected men to serve as His spokesmen.  For example, God literally called men like Moses, Elijah, Peter, and Paul.  God directly gave them specific directions and authenticated their ministries through supernatural means, most notably by public miracles.  For the body of Christ, the Apostle Paul was among the last of those God directly called and authenticated into the ministry.  However, though Paul was recruited by the risen Lord, and though he performed extraordinary miracles before his fellow Jews, his string of miracles ran out after Paul’s ministry was thoroughly validated.  Direct authentication of Paul’s ministry was for the benefit of the Jews, because they require a sign (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Toward the end of his ministry to the Gentiles, as the result of God shifting focus from Israel to the Body of Christ, Paul could not heal his fellow travelers or himself (2 Timothy 4:20; 2 Corinthians 12:9).  From that point onward, the power of Christ was manifested under grace by glorying in infirmities, not in miraculous healing.  In view of such transition regarding selection and authentication of church leadership, the Apostle Paul gave qualifications that must be fulfilled prior to someone taking a church leadership position.  Being supernaturally called or audibly directed by God was not among the qualifications.  Instead, the Apostle stated a man must first desire the office.  This is a great departure from how previous spiritual leaders were called by God: the Lord often picked his prophets and apostles when becoming a spiritual leader for Jesus was perhaps the most distant thing from their mind!


It is an embarrassment, but many preachers magnify their importance by boasting that God called and directs them in much the same way as he did for Israel and the early church’s apostles and prophets (If such were true, then how can a preacher candidate for a church, not be voted into office, and still claim that God supernaturally led him to be the church’s pastor?  What about a church that votes in pastor who turns out to be a pervert – was he also called of God?).  In an effort to be more closely identified with the prophets of old, some preachers weave elaborate tales of how they resisted God, only to end up roped by God into becoming a preacher.  Such stories may be accompanied by an obligatory quotation from First Chronicles 16:22 or Psalm 105:15, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”  This type of preacher fails to understand the quotation on two points: first, it deals with those under the corporate relationship enjoyed by the nation of Israel; second, in the body of Christ, God anoints every believer.  Sadly, such pastoral admonition may only be a ploy to make the pastor larger than life and above criticism and may be a product of self-delusion.  To insulate themselves further from criticism, this type of preacher might also quote, First Timothy 5:19, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses,” as if pastors receive special protection from being called to account for their behavior.  However, in the section, “Is God’s Testimony Valid,” it was established that the requirement for two or three witnesses is a universal rule, regardless of the accused, whenever questionable behavior is an issue: it is not a special rule especially instituted for preachers.  Paul’s standard for two or three witnesses is nothing but a reminder of biblical judgment procedures.


In opposition to what Scripture teaches, Watchman Nee stated, “Hence, you [should] recognize not only the head, Christ, but also those whom God has set in the body to represent the head.  If you are at odds with them you will also be at odds with God.”[iv]  The book, Church Discipline That Heals, Putting Costly Love Into Action, offers the following comment on Nee’s claim, “The danger lies in the last sentence: ‘If you are at odds with them you will also be at odds with God.’”[v] Jerram Barrs, Professor of Christianity and Contemporary Culture and founder of The Francis Schaeffer Institute, surmises, “Nee teaches that whenever Christians disagree with their leaders, they ipso facto disagree with God.”[vi]  Watchmen Nee is not alone in this erroneous view.  Abusive leaders sometimes appeal to their office or position to validate control over parishioners on everything from what job to hold to whether or not to buy a house.  It is as if they believe that occupying a church position bestows them a gift of divination.  It is true that Jewish priests were often given divine guidance by God on such ordinary matters as whether to go to war or not, but those priest acted in a unique relationship within Israel that is not found anywhere else.  Even the qualifications of the priest are unique to Israel.  For example, aside from being a Levite, bodily disfigurement or handicaps were disqualifications from the position.  The high priest had greater restrictions above that of the ordinary priest.  For example, high priests could not marry a woman that had previously been married.  Such restrictions served the laws of symbolism and spoke to particular aspects of Christ.  In contrast, since symbolic liturgical laws are done away with for the Body of Christ, leadership in today’s church is based on a different set of guidelines.  This list of qualifications for church leadership has nothing to do with attaining some special level of holiness, since our righteousness is in Christ, nor is it for symbolic reasons, but rather each qualification is a trait of a mature Christian that every believer should strive to achieve. 


All active Christians are drawn to fill a ministry for which they have a burden, but unlike Paul, they are not commanded by God to go to a specific place or take a specific position in a church or do something at a specific time.  This is part of the great liberty we have in the Body of Christ.  The Macedonian call illustrates that even though the Apostle Paul was actually called to a position and occasionally directed by God, he also exercised this liberty shared by all believers.  For example, the Apostle did not feel compelled to wait for marching orders from God, even when the Spirit set up road blocks – Paul simply changed direction.  When Paul did receive a destination from God, however, the particulars on how to get there were still left to him and his group to decide (Acts 16:6-13; cf. Romans 15:20-29).  Even after being told by the Holy Spirit to avoid certain territories, Paul decided to visit them during a subsequent missionary journey.  Likewise, though the Apostle Paul said he strongly believed Apollos should go with a specific group and minister in Corinth, Apollos thought otherwise and decided not to go unless it was convenient for him (1 Corinthians 16:12).  Apollos did not let that particular ministerial need inconvenience him, nor did he feel obligated to appease Paul’s desire.  Though the Apostle Paul recognized the liberty in Christ that Apollos exercised, it is horrific to know that many pastors would treat such an act against their desire as tantamount to rebellion against God and rant against the opposing view by misrepresenting themselves as divinely called by God!  There is nothing wrong with Christians asking God for wisdom to help them in their decision making process.  However, since we may be drawn to a situation that we are unprepared for, and since God is not directing believers and authenticating callings with miracles today as He did with His inexperienced apostles, qualifications for today’s religious leaders require the man be a mature Christian. 


Because the Body of Christ is not under laws governing symbolism, such as those regarding qualifications of Jewish priests, God did not create one level of expectations for a church leader and a lesser level of expectation for church members.  If any man presents himself for the position of a bishop, pastor, or minister, the sole qualification required of his conduct is that he must be a mature Christian.  This means he must be faithful in his word and commitments (blameless), and not a womanizer, but rather have a heart geared toward faithfulness and sexual fidelity to one woman (This is the New Testament reason Christians do not endorse polygamy).  He should be diligent when it comes to judging rightly, sensibly minded, not a hypocrite, but an advocate for orderly behavior.  He should be able to give hospitality while not expecting anything in return.  He should be both teachable and able to share wisdom with others on an impromptu basis.  He should also be in control of his faculties, not an alcoholic nor a drug addict.  He should be known for an attitude of reconciliation rather than a pattern of striking out in uncontrolled anger.  He should be a conscientious worker – the type that gives an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, not willing to do anything unethical for money.  He should be patient, not a brawler, not covetous, managing household affairs well, and not allowing those under him, including his children, to act inappropriately (If they do an inappropriate act, then he should take proper corrective action upon them).  He should also be well seasoned in a broad range of doctrinal issues and theological principles.  Finally, despite whatever public testimony the man had in the past, his public behavior should be of sufficient length and consistency that his public image would rank him as being a trustworthy member of the community. 


With the exception of the desire to become a bishop, all the above qualities are goals that every man in the church should strive to achieve.  With an obvious change regarding the relationships with the opposite sex, these same goals are just as valid for Christian women.  Indeed, because a wife can negatively affect the ability of a man to minister to others, she is likewise to be faithful in all things (A man’s first duty is to see to the wellbeing of his wife, not the church.  Therefore, although a man may be a mature believer, his wife’s misconduct can prevent him from holding an office and his maturity should prevent him from seeking an office while his wife is in need of attention.).  Not only does the second book of Timothy revisit some of these earmarks of Christian maturity in chapter two, it contrasts them against those who are lacking such traits in chapter three.  Again, the qualifications of a bishop are only the earmarks of any fully mature believer.  Thus, whenever discipline is exercised at any level within a church, its five-fold goal should encourage members to attain these earmarks of a mature Christian – the same qualities expected in a spiritual leader.  


If all this concept of church leadership has been brand new to you, or if it flies in the face of all that you have been taught by preachers, ask yourself this question, “What is a church and what is required of it?”  In its elemental form, a church is comprised of two believers covenanted together in Christ to encourage one another in the faith and to hold each other accountable – a characteristic of true Christian fellowship and friendship (2 Timothy 3:16, 4:2).  They fellowship not so that they can have someone with which to share doughnuts over coffee, but rather to patiently exhort each other in doctrine and righteousness and to reprove or rebuke the other when the need arises, so that they may be equipped to tackle every facet of everyday life with godly responses, thus being good witnesses for Christ.  Even with children added to the mix, this nucleus has all that is required of an assembly of believers (Left-wing ideology portrays such a nucleus as being inadequate to help children learn socialization skills because liberals believe that only a village can raise a child.  God, however, sees the family unit as possessing all the necessary components for training children in the way they should behave).  Such a nucleus comprised of two or three believers is how many missionaries have spent years fellowshipping by themselves while hoping to reach a pagan community with Christ.  When the assembly grows in numbers, a moderator fulfilling requirements for church leadership will eventually arise, if such was not already present.  As the assembly continues to grow, deacons may be added.  However, the character of a large church group should be the same as it was when there were only two believers giving account and exhortation of personal conduct to each other.  If it is not, then the group has lost its purpose.  Sadly, a huge portion of Christianity has lost the simplicity of how little it takes to be a church and replaced it with something they believe must have a building or programs or a phone book listing.        


In summary, church government deteriorates and collapses when emotions and spiritual laziness reign.  Under the guise of a zeal for the Lord, pride will label people as being church renegades and ostracize them from full-fledged fellowship without following biblical principles of righteous judgment and due process.  The other side of this coin, however, is passive and permissive attitudes towards destructive behavior.  Both approaches fall short of righteous judgment.  Churches need to educate the Body of Christ on biblical discipline to foster integrity in the church, maintain the liberty found in Christ, strive towards sound doctrine on the basics of faith, restore a wandering or wounded sheep to a God-honoring lifestyle, and facilitate reconciliation among our members.  The threshold for such a nurturing environment is two believers covenanted together in Christ.  The power behind such an environment is not a commitment to an organization, but rather a commitment to Christ.


[i] A potential loss to the victim may be so severe, so as to put a family’s livelihood at risk, that taking an unrepentant brother to civil court, after church discipline fails to resolve the matter, may be the last resort. 

[ii] Enroth, Ronald.  Recovering From Churches That Abuse.  Zondervan Publishing House.  1994 pg. 30.

[iii] Neff, LaVonne.  A Guide to Cults and New Religions.  Intervarsity Press.  Downers Grove, IL.  1983. Pg 196

[iv] Nee, Watchman.  The Body of Christ: A Reality (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1978) p. 48, quoted in Jarram Barrs, Shepherds and Sheep: A Biblical View of Leading and Following (Downers Grove, IL, InterVArsity Press, 1983), p. 50. 

[v] White, John & Blue, Ken.  Church Discipline That Heals, Putting Costly Love Into Action.  (InterVarsity Press, 1985), p. 40.

[vi] Barrs, Jerram.  Shepherds and Sheep: A Biblical View of Leading and Following (Downers Grove, IL, InterVArsity Press, 1983), p. 50, quoted in White, John & Blue, Ken.  Church Discipline That Heals, Putting Costly Love Into Action.  (InterVarsity Press, 1985), p. 40.