Having studied discipline from the standpoint of parenting and self-discipline, we take the same points and apply them to church discipline. These points are clearly established when we examine them in the common areas of parenting and self-discipline.
First, we must set an authority. Just like with parenting and self-discipline, we must establish an authority that will always be heeded. Children must obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1). Their parents must be heeding God’s Word so they can train them properly (Proverbs 22:6). Children that will not obey their parents are on the cusp of juvenile delinquency. What are members of a congregation who refuse discipline?
In self-discipline, we must set the authority of God’s Word in our lives. We must commit to always holding it up it as the way to conduct ourselves.
Likewise, in the area of church discipline, we must fearlessly establish Scripture as our authority (Colossians 3:17). We, therefore, cannot use public opinion, relationships, friendships, budgets, peace at all costs nor the fear of lawsuits as our authority. If this were absolutely true in parenting and self-discipline, then it must also be true in this instance, also.
Church discipline is frowned on as being unloving and proof that we are without grace. Yet, we condemn those who have wild, unruly kids and wild, indulgent lives as being undisciplined. We must feel the same way about a church without discipline.
Second, we must set boundaries. Just like in the two previous areas, we must establish where the boundaries are that we cannot cross. Lives and children without self-control are ones we do not wish to be around. We keep our children from them whenever we can because of their evil influences. Yet, once again, we seem to think it is acceptable for a church to not have any discipline.
A child in a store keeps grabbing items off of the shelves and throwing them on the floor. The Mother says stop and he continues as if he didn’t hear her. She persists and he says, “You can’t tell me what to do!” She says nothing and lets him continue. Would that make her a successful authority figure? Almost no one would say yes.
Does her failure here mean that she can never punish him again? Or punish her daughter who does the same as her brother? No. She can reaffirm her authority and establish boundaries again.
However, a church doesn’t discipline someone for sin and forever brethren claim that they can never discipline anyone else because they didn’t do the right thing in that one instance. If it were that way in parenting, the world would be doomed!
Just because a church failed to discipline in the past does not mean they can’t in the future. They can repent and do the right thing when another situation arises. A petulant child should not be the model for supposedly mature Christians.
Third, we must establish consequences. Almost all parenting experts agree that children must know that there are consequences for their actions. Likewise, in a congregation, we must do the same. The New Testament speaks often of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 5:1-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14). Its purpose is to protect the church and souls from spiritual death.
Who deserves church discipline? Someone who refuses to repent (1 Corinthians 5:6). Those who will deceive and divide the church (Romans 16:17). Those who live openly immoral lives and bring reproach on the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Finally, false teachers are to be withdrawn from (1 Timothy 1:19-20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18).
Discipline edifies, maintains peace and protects from dangers. We should welcome rather than hate it.
What is the difference between homes without discipline and churches without discipline?