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Church Discipline

Church Discipline has in the past been most often thought of as when someone is ‘really bad’ or strongly defiant of ways the church has prescribed as righteous (which has not always been the same as what the Bible recommends) and then in those situations the ‘offender’ gets refused the sacraments and then ‘kicked out’ for refusing to confess and come back into compliance. The borderline between social coercion and biblical restoration have blended in this past process.

What we have lost, I believe, is how practical Jesus’ instructions and directives such as those in Matthew 18 are. There, Jesus makes discipline a part of everyday interaction with others. I firmly believe that if we learn how to practice that, the need for the more serious cases of Church Discipline will fade. So we need to learn to trust each other with our struggles, and to be people who can be trusted with knowledge of the struggles of others, and then through caring feedback help strengthen each other on a day to day basis. But, again, in the church our usual practice is that we don’t ‘meddle’ in other people’s stuff.

A building block of Discipline is accountability, and accountability works best in the context of a caring relationship. Not understanding that foundation is where Discipline — a better, related word is “discipling” — begins to break down in the church, since we are not good at interpersonal accountability. In fact, for whatever reasons, in the Christian Church we tend to avoid revealing and being open about how we know about and are working on personal character flaws, weaknesses and the like. Somehow we repeatedly fall into a deceitful pattern of pretending all is well, and putting on a show of that, when inside we are lonely, struggling and worse.

 

What happens then is that what starts as a small problem becomes a bigger issue that we then put discipline on, often more to ‘get rid of the problem so we don’t have to deal with it’ which is not the intent of discipline. I have seen that too often also. It is easier to ostracize someone who is struggling than it is to graciously walk alongside. 

I’ll leave it there for this week.

Relati(accountability)onship=Discipling

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