As Christians, we are called to live a life that is pleasing to God. Part of fulfilling this calling involves being a part of a local church community where we can grow in our faith, receive teaching, and fellowship with other believers.
However, in today’s society, it seems that the practice of church discipline is seldom seen. The neglect of this practice is concerning, as church discipline is not an option or a suggestion, but rather a biblical mandate.
In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why church discipline is often neglected, and the importance of practicing it in our churches today. We will begin by examining the biblical basis for church discipline, and the reasons why it is necessary for the health and purity of the church.
We will then look at the various reasons for the neglect of church discipline, including fear of offending others, lack of understanding, and cultural influences.
After discussing the reasons for the neglect of church discipline, we will examine the importance of practicing it in our churches today. We will look at the benefits of church discipline, including protection of the flock, restoration of the sinner, and testimony to the world.
We will also discuss practical steps that churches can take to begin practicing church discipline, including teaching on the subject, establishing clear guidelines, and practicing discipline in love.
Finally, we will explore the role of church leadership in practicing church discipline and conclude by calling on all Christians to take the practice of discipline seriously, for the sake of the health and purity of the church.
The Biblical Basis for Church Discipline
The Bible is clear that church discipline is necessary for the health and well-being of the church. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus teaches that if a brother sins against us, we are to go and speak to him privately. If he does not listen, we are to take one or two others with us and speak to him again.
If he still refuses to listen, we are to bring the matter before the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, he is to be treated as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Paul rebukes them, and instructs them to remove the man from their fellowship, saying “Do not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
These passages, among others, make it clear that church discipline is necessary for the health and purity of the church. It is not an option or a suggestion, but a biblical mandate.
Reasons for the Neglect of Church Discipline
So why is church discipline seldom practiced today? There are a number of reasons, some of which include:
Fear of Offending Others
One reason that church discipline is often neglected is the fear of offending others. We live in a culture that values tolerance and acceptance above all else. We are afraid to confront sin in others, because we don’t want to be seen as judgmental or intolerant.
However, this fear is not a biblical value. In fact, the Bible instructs us to confront sin in love, for the sake of the sinner’s soul and the health of the church (Galatians 6:1).
Lack of Understanding
Another reason that church discipline is neglected is a lack of understanding. Many Christians simply do not understand the biblical mandate for church discipline, or how to go about practicing it. This lack of understanding can lead to apathy or even resistance to the idea of church discipline.
Finally, cultural influences can also play a role in the neglect of church discipline. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity, and the idea of confronting sin in others is seen as outdated and intolerant.
This cultural pressure can make it difficult for Christians to practice church discipline without fear of being ostracized or ridiculed.
The Importance of Practicing Church Discipline
Despite these obstacles, it is important for churches to practice discipline. Here are a few reasons why:
Protection of the Flock
First and foremost, church discipline is necessary for the protection of the flock. When sin is allowed to go unchecked, it can spread like a cancer throughout the church. Discipline helps to contain the spread of sin and protect the spiritual health of the church.
Restoration of the Sinner
Church discipline is not just about punishment; it is also about restoration. When a brother or sister is caught in sin, our first concern should be for their spiritual well-being. In Galatians 6:1, Paul instructs us to restore a brother who has been caught in sin, in a spirit of gentleness.
The goal is not to shame or condemn the sinner, but to help them see their sin and turn back to God. By practicing church discipline, we can help restore the fallen brother or sister to a right relationship with God and the church.
Testimony to the World
Church discipline also serves as a testimony to the world. When the church practices discipline in a loving and biblical way, it demonstrates to the world that Christians take sin seriously and are committed to holiness.
This can have a powerful impact on those who are watching from the outside, and may even lead some to repentance and faith in Christ.
Obedience to God’s Word
Finally, practicing church discipline is simply a matter of obedience to God’s Word. As we saw earlier, the Bible is clear that discipline is necessary for the health and purity of the church. As followers of Christ, we are called to submit to His Word and His ways, even when they are difficult or unpopular.
Practical Steps for Practicing Church Discipline
So how can we begin to practice church discipline in our churches today? Here are a few practical steps:
Teach on Church Discipline
One of the first steps is to teach on church discipline from the pulpit and in small group settings. Many Christians simply do not understand the biblical mandate for discipline, or how to go about practicing it. By teaching on the subject, we can help remove some of the fear and misunderstanding surrounding the topic.
Establish Clear Guidelines
It is also important to establish clear guidelines for church discipline. These guidelines should be based on biblical principles, and should be communicated clearly to the congregation. This can help to ensure that discipline is practiced in a consistent and fair manner.
Appoint a Discipline Committee
In larger churches, it may be helpful to appoint a discipline committee. This committee would be responsible for investigating reports of sin within the church, and for making recommendations to the church leadership regarding disciplinary action.
Practice Discipline in Love
Finally, it is important to practice discipline in love. This means confronting sin in a gentle and compassionate way, with the goal of restoration rather than condemnation. As Galatians 6:1 reminds us, we are to restore a brother who has been caught in sin, in a spirit of gentleness.
The Role of Church Leadership in Practicing Church Discipline
While every member of the church has a role to play in practicing church discipline, church leadership has a special responsibility in this area. As shepherds of the flock, they are called to protect and care for the members of the church.
One of the ways church leaders can do this is by modeling a commitment to holiness and obedience to God’s Word. When church leaders take sin seriously and practice discipline in a biblical way, it sends a powerful message to the congregation about the importance of holiness.
In addition, church leaders have the responsibility of overseeing the practice of discipline in the church. This may involve appointing a discipline committee, communicating clear guidelines for discipline, and ensuring that discipline is practiced in a consistent and fair manner.
In conclusion, church discipline is a necessary and biblical practice that is often neglected in our churches today. While there are many reasons for this neglect, it is important that we begin to take the practice of discipline seriously, for the sake of the health and purity of the church.
By practicing discipline in a loving and biblical way, we can protect the flock, restore the fallen, testify to the world, and obey God’s Word.
As Christians, we are called to be a holy people, set apart for God’s purposes. Practicing church discipline is one of the ways we can fulfill this calling, by maintaining the purity and health of the church. It is not an easy task, but it is one that we are called to do.
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in their midst. When we gather as a church community, we are gathering in the name of Jesus. It is our responsibility to honor Him by practicing discipline in a way that is consistent with His Word and His character.
May we be a church that takes sin seriously, and is committed to the health and purity of the church. May we be a church that practices discipline in a loving and biblical way, for the sake of the sinner, the church, and the glory of God.