Cite an example of a situation where the discipline of the church member was wrongly perceived. What can be done to forestall such occurrences? Disciples would easily accept discipline in the church when they know what the church stands for. If the church is a building, discipline might involve better property management. If the church is just an institution, discipline may be about organizational restructuring. Discipline might require better event planning if the church is about a weekly show. The New Testament church is fundamentally a people, a congregation marked by their commitment to Christ and one another. It is the process by which members of a church guard one another against the deceitfulness of sin and upholds Christ’s likeness. Discipline has helped many erring believers return to the faith. However, some erring believers who refused to be disciplined have gone from bad to worse. Many of such people have wreaked havoc among believers parading themselves as leaders of one denomination or the other. In the church, discipline is expected to yield positive results that will bring growth to the church.
What is discipline?
Discipline as a concept has many meanings. Whichever situation the concept is applied to, it is commonly applied to regulating human and animal behavior in the society or environment it belongs. Thus, discipline can be defined as the practice of training people to obey rules, regulations, or codes of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. No individual, family, church, or nation can grow or progress without discipline. There is need for discipline in the church so that every member can know and stay within their limit. The church is expected to be the yardstick for the larger society on discipline. Unfortunately, the church is becoming a place where indiscipline is thriving. This month, the topic focuses on church discipline. Members are encouraged to pay attention to the discussion and contribute where necessary.
Church discipline is a way of training members to obey rules, using punishment to correct disobedience. It is never a palatable experience to be disciplined for wrongdoing. However, it is essential to entrench discipline into church life so that members can be cautioned and stay within the ambit of their limitations. The purpose of church discipline is to help erring members adjust to proper behavior and not to send them out of the church. However, discipline in the church should be done out of love in order to achieve its purpose. Disctoies instruction and correction, the training which improves, molds, strengthens, and prefects character. Discipline is an attitude that is expected to generate good behavior. Discipline is not man’s idea but God’s (Hebrews 12: 6). The reaction to discipline in the church could be a function of the personality of an erring member and spirituality of individuals. There are many wrong motivations for church discipline, which have led to abuses in the process. The only right motivation for discipline should be love just as the Bible records in Hebrews 12: 6, |The Lord disciplines the one He loves.”
In Mathew 18: 15-17, Jesus sets forth some processes of church disciplines as follows:
A private meeting (communicate alone with offenders about their sin, v. 15)
The process of church discipline begins with a personal relationship. Here, an individual believer is to go to a sinning brother privately and confront him in the spirit of humility and gentleness. This confrontation involves exposing his sin to him and calling him to repentance. If the sinning brother repents in response to the personal conflict, that brother is forgiven and restored.
A conference with a witness (going with some witnesses, v. 16)
If the erring person refuses to listen to the one who has rebuked him privately, the next step in the discipline process is to take one or two more believers along to comfort him again. The purpose of taking other believers is to serve as witnesses to the first confrontation.
A public proclamation to the church (informing the church about the issue, V, 17a
If the erring person refuses to listen and responds to the confrontation of the witnesses after some time, those witnesses are then to inform the church. It is appropriately done when the matter is tabled before elders and communicated to the church later when appropriate steps have been taken.
Exclusion from the church (treat him as unbeliever or pagan, v. 17b)
The fourth and final step in the process of church discipline is to treat such an individual as an unbeliever. If an erring member of the church refuses to listen even to the church, such a person will be regarded as an unbeliever.
Discipleship can be one part of church discipline.
It is a biblical teaching that helps erring members to be convicted of sin, see the need for repentance, and pattern their lives after Christ. The connection between discipleship and discipline is essential as someone cannot be a disciple without discipline. Any believer who errs should be corrected in love and one of the ways of achieving repentance and restoration is through discipleship.
The church is not the only group of saints on earth.
The church is also a body of saved sinners who are now believers in Christ Jesus. Some believers in the church can errt it is the responsibility of those who are still in faith to help erring members to be restored to Christ. Nobody should be careless, thinking that they are infallible. That would amount to spiritual pride. Rather, every disciple of Christ should ask for grace to stand firm for Christ. There is a need for discipline in the church so that the church does not become a congregation of mixed multitude. (Revelation 2: 5). Instilling discipline into members help them to be fit for God’s use and make the church a model to the world.
The goal of the church discipline
Church discipline aims to restore erring individuals. It is a means of making members who misbehave to be sober and reflective. It also serves as a deterrent for members such that everyone can be careful to conduct themselves within the rules and regulations of the church. The discipline of erring church members could be private or public, depending on the gravity of the offense. Restoration of erring members is to be done in love toward the individual in obedience to God, and out of godly fear for the sake of others in the church. The goal of church discipline is not to send members out of the church. It is not to embarrass people or exercise authority and power in some unbiblical manner. The purpose is to restore the offender to holiness and bring him into a cordial relationship with Christ and the church. Against the backdrop of liberalism, individualism, and the like, the church must maintain its stance on discipline if it will continue to be a model to a society where indiscipline has become the norm.
Why is discipline necessary for the church?
- The practice of discipline is explicitly mandated in the Scripture (Mathew 18: 15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13). Leaving an erring member without going through disciplinary measures is dangerous for themselves and the body of Christ.
- It is for godliness. Discipline tends to erring members towards godliness. Any disciple who eschews discipline cannot strive to be holy. A true disciple of Christ will understand that discipline helps in being godly.
- A church that claims to love its members without disciplining them when the need arises contradicts the scripture.
- It helps one to attain godly character through the application of God’s Word. Godly people are disciplined people.
- Discipline is tied to the call for persevering in the faith. Part of the work within church membership is to encourage one another to endure in the faith through discipline.
- Discipline leads to church growth and building a healthy church. The church will never attain spiritual growth and maturity unless she walks the path of self-discipline.
- Discipline makes discipline fit for the kingdom of God.