Friday, December 19, 2008

Church Discipline Under Fire

Here's a woman in Florida who is having an ongoing sexual fling with someone to whom she isn't married. That, the Bible clearly explains, is a quite serious sin.

Furthermore, because the woman claims to be a Christian and is a member of an evangelical church, she is subject to church discipline. And no, Katie Couric and company, the church discipline the Bible requires doesn't involve stocks, dunking or branding ala The Scarlet Letter.

It simply means that the church is informed of the backslider's rebellion, the person is prohibited from taking part in church fellowship, and members are discouraged from continuing friendly relations with the offender until such time as there is genuine repentance demonstrated and subsequent restoration by the church leadership.

This is the Bible's teaching: clear, unequivocal and wise. It is a course of action which upholds the church's standards and protects the church's reputation. It also underscores the seriousness of the backslider's waywardness from the Lord, helping them to get right with God. And when there is repentance, the church is taught by Scripture to shower grace upon the prodigal and welcome them back.

And, one other important note -- following this course isn't optional. If a pastor and the church elders are following the Bible, they must be faithful to this teaching as to all others in God's Word. Even though the world scorns it (as the slant in this article certainly indicates) and even if the nanny state tries to force church leaders to abandon the practice, church discipline as taught in Scripture should be carefully, respectfully observed -- both the public censure and the mercy-filled restoration when backsliders repent.

But this article is a case in point of how the world pressures church leaders to forsake their biblical responsibilities. It's been happening for quite awhile now with issues like abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and even the existence of hell. Pastors are roundly criticized for preaching what the Bible teaches on these matters rather than toeing the lines drawn by a secular culture that disrespects (no, make that hates) the Bible's meddling in its affairs.

And even without having to resort to "hate crime" legislation or lawsuits, the secular culture has been successfully winning this contest. Preachers are cravenly caving in, preferring being comfortable, popular, likable, and lazy to being faithful in teaching the "whole counsel of God."

I suggest church leaders reading this article take it as a wake up call of what will be the next attack on the the church's responsibilities to stand for righteousness. They should put the topic of church discipline on the agenda for their next elders or governing board meeting and carefully go over their policies. They should make sure they've got things right according to the text; they should rededicate themselves to praying for purity in their church; and they should consecrate themselves anew to standing on the Lord's side no matter what comes.

Oh yes, one more observation about the gal in Florida...doesn't the hypocrisy and irony just drip from the story? After all, here we have a woman claiming she's being irreparably damaged because the church is shunning her because of her open fornication and yet here she is telling even the sordid details of her actions to a public newspaper?

It emphasizes again the purpose behind the whole affair; namely, a disgruntled woman and a disgruntled secular culture trying to force their sexual standards (or lack thereof) upon the church.