Church Discipline

By Edwin Christiaan

We have seen this over and over again, that very gifted and well-liked preachers or pastors who fall into sexual sin or commit adultery, are being chewed up and spit out of the Church. Even when these fallen preachers admit the wrong they have done and are willing to work toward restoration, they are still being chased away by the Church, who continues to condemn them. They are being told it is going to take many years of ‘healing and restoration’ before anybody might consider for them to get back into the ministry position. This statement is actually meant to isolate them from the Christian world and silence them for good. Many of the fallen preachers become so discouraged and hopeless, that they ultimately give up being in the ministry all together. They never recover.

How is the Christian Church supposed to the deal with this matter?
First of all, the reason we have church discipline is to help keep the church pure and help those who wanders away from God or backslide, come back to live in the truth.

My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20 NLT

The main purpose of the church body is that it must serve each other with compassion, speak lovingly and truthfully to each other, live in obedience to God’s command, and love one another.

Just look at these Biblical instructions below, which tell us how the church is supposed to behave to one another:

Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically. Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night. If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, “I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 NLT

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too. 1. John 4:20-21 NLT

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

The attitudes of the above verses are what we as church is supposed to have, when we exercise discipline on a fallen brother or sister. If not, we will be led by Satan to discipline the offender in an unforgiving way, venting our personal anger. Many Christians, who exercise discipline in this way, become prideful, thinking they themselves are pure. This causes the person who is being disciplined to become bitter, and ultimately leave the church.

There are two mistakes the church often makes: The first one is that some churches are too lenient and not willing to correct mistakes, and the other is that some churches are too harsh and unwilling to forgive and have mercy on the offender.

Here is an example of the apostle Paul explaining to the Corinthian Church that it was time for them to forgive and love a fellow believer that had been disciplined or punished by the church, and who had subsequently repented from the trouble he caused them.:

I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt your entire church more than he hurt me. He was punished enough when most of you were united in your judgment against him. Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so discouraged that he won’t be able to recover. Now show him that you still love him. 2. Corinthians 2:5-8 NLT

Church discipline should always seek restoration. In other words, the purpose for discipline must always be for the restoration of a person back to fellowship, and not to destroy him or her. There is a time confront and there is a time comfort.

Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody. Galatians 6:1-3 NLT

Copyright©2009 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan