Over the years dozens of people in churches have opposed the concept of discipline—grimacing, scowling, or bristling at the bare mention of the word. But we need to beware that we don’t assume everyone who winces at the mention of discipline is opposed to Scripture and bent on corrupting the church. Not everyone who opposes discipline does so with such brazen disregard for Scripture.
In fact, as we reflect on the church contexts where we’ve served, many wonderful, godly Christians have opposed discipline (at least initially) for understandable, albeit uninformed, unbiblical, and misguided reasons. They’re opponents, but not wolves. They’re simply sheep who have sadly endured decades of bad shepherding.
To that end, pastors must introduce discipline to a church slowly and wisely, enabling its members over time to exercise this authority faithfully. Merely teaching about discipline is not enough. They must also teach the doctrines that provide the gospel framework to support church discipline: conversion, holiness, repentance, membership, discipleship, and love.
Again, not everyone who opposes discipline does so with nefarious motives. Many are simply confused sheep with well-meaning but misguided theological principles.
Below we want briefly consider some of the “good-faith” objections to discipline people bring up and how to try and help church members understand the theological principles under-girding discipline.
- “Pastor, we can’t judge someone’s heart, so how could we possibly say someone is not a Christian?”
- “Jesus never turned anyone away.”
- “Nobody’s perfect. People make mistakes.”
- “But they won’t hear the gospel if they’re not in church.”
- “I’ve never heard of this before!”
- “If we practice discipline, it will hurt the church’s reputation.”
- “We never did this in better days, when our church was bigger.”
Pastors, especially new ones, need to understand their congregation’s history—particularly the history that still lives in the memory of older members. To these folks discipline represented the opposite of every ministry intuition cultivated during the “best” days of the church.
In retrospect, I see that many members were motivated by a desire to see the church once again produce that kind of fruit (or at least what looked like fruit). For many, discipline represented a practice that placed the church in direct opposition to the “fruitful ministry” it had known in the past.
In response, pastors should patiently teach their people to trust that God’s ways are better than ours, even if they seem counter-intuitive. Second, pastors should teach their people to celebrate the fruit of faith in Christ and holy lives, not a church brimming with ministry programs.
This summary from an article 9marks.org Read 7 Well-Meaning Objections to Church Discipline — And How Pastors Ought to Respond to Them
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