Is Church Discipline Going Rogue?

"The Protestant reformers named three "marks by which the true church is known": the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline to correct faults."

Church Discipline Series, Christianity Today, 2005

Holy Bible by Vinicius de Carvalho Venâncio

Christianity Today did a series on church discipline back in 2005.  Although I have subscribed to this magazine for quite a while, I must confess that I wasn't paying close attention to church discipline when it was being discussed in that series.  The quote above served as a heading for each of six articles that were published.  What follows was also part of that heading:

"Today, church discipline is feared as the mark of a false church, bringing to mind images of witch trials, scarlet letters, public humiliations, and damning excommunications. Does discipline itself need correction and redemption in order to be readmitted into the body of Christ?" We have asked several experts from different (and sometimes contrasting) professional and theological backgrounds to explain how church discipline fell into disrepair and how it can be revived, so that the true church can fully embody the pure doctrine of the gospel once again."

Here are the CT articles that were in that series in case you'd like to do further reading on the stimulating topic of church discipline.:(

Day One:       How Discipline Died  Marlin Jeschke

Day Two:       Shaping Holy Disciples  Mark Galli interviews Mark Dever 

Day Three:    Spheres of Accountability  John Ortberg 

Day Four:      Keeping the Lawyers at Bay  Ken Sande

Day Five:      Healing the Body of Christ  David Neff

Day Six:        Our Uniquely Undisciplined Moment  Thomas C. Oden

I find it extremely interesting that the following phrase was included at the top of each article:  "Today, church discipline is feared as the mark of a false church, bringing to mind images of witch trials, scarlet letters, public humiliations, and damning excommunications."



Wait a minute, you might say.  This is the 21st century, and the witch trials, scarlet letters, public humiliations, and damning excommunications died with the Puritans.  Not so fast!  Let's take a look at the discipline policy of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville, which is included in its Membership Commitments to see whether church discipline has once again gone ROGUE.  Here is that pertinent excerpt:

"The Process of Church Discipline

"Jesus outlined a process for church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17. 12 Initially, the process is informal: if a member or other Christian observes ongoing, unrepentant sin in a member, he or she should graciously confront that person. If the person refuses to repent, then the concerned brother or sister should involve one or two others, which may include a pastor / pastors. If this group confirms that, in fact, the sin or doctrinal error continues without repentance, the church will initiate formal steps.

When the church begins to formally discipline a member, one or more of the pastors will meet with the member to confirm fact and to appeal for change. The pastors may also inform certain other members of the church of the erring member and his sin, urging these other members to contact the member and appeal for repentance. During this time, the member under discipline may not participate in the Lord’s Supper.

If, after a reasonable period of appeal, 13 no repentance is forthcoming, the pastors will inform the church of the unrepentant sin and that they must remove the individual from the church membership. The pastors may inform the church by either (1) making an announcement at a church “Members’ Family Night”14 or other private meeting (2) if there are circumstances which in the discretion of the pastors require a more immediate notification, sending a letter to each member. In the announcement at the Members’ Family Night or, if applicable, in the letter, the pastors may communicate that the individual will be removed from membership as a result of unrepentant sin, describe the nature of the sins which require removal from membership and the process undertaken by the pastors in coming to this decision, and provide any other information relevant to the situation.


12 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

13 The pastors may decide to abbreviate the process of appeal for repentance if the sin is especially notorious, or if the member proves to be factious, disruptive, or leading others into sin or error. In these cases, the pastors may ask church members to avoid all contact with an individual in order to mitigate his sinful influence.

14 A “Members’ Family Night” is a meeting which takes place separate from the regular Sunday morning worship service of Cornerstone Church and which is announced as being open for the attendance of members of Cornerstone Church only.


Relating with Removed Members

Church discipline involves first confronting in love and gentleness and, if unsuccessful, withholding biblical fellowship. Church discipline has nothing to do with “shunning” a person. It is not a complete rejection of a relationship but a change in the nature of a relationship. Thus, it is appropriate for members of the church to interact with a person who has been removed from membership pursuant to church discipline, but they should not have “fellowship” as the Bible defines it. Rather, they should appeal for the former member to turn from sin and put his or her faith in Jesus’ work on the cross. If a person under discipline is not factious or disruptive or a harmful influence, he is welcomed to attend all church meetings that are open to unbelievers with the exception of small groups that meet for the purpose of fellowship.

Once the pastors make a member’s sin known to the church, they commit as well to inform the church of that member’s repentance and restoration to fellowship as appropriate to the situation and the good of the church.

Voluntary Withdrawal of Membership to Avoid the Disciplinary Process

At times, a member may seek to withdraw from the church to avoid church discipline and its consequences. Just as a good shepherd will go after a sheep that has wandered from the flock,15 so will the pastors and members of this church seek to restore a wandering member to the Lord through biblical discipline. Therefore, church discipline may be instituted or continued either before or after a member seeks to withdraw from membership in the church.

Removed Member Participation in Other Churches

If a person leaves the church when he or she is in the midst of the disciplinary process or has been removed from the membership of the church, and if the pastors learn that he or she is attending another church, they may (1) inform the pastors of the other church that the person is currently under church discipline, including the nature of the unrepentant sin leading to discipline, and (2) ask the other church to encourage the former member to repent of his or her sin and to be restored to the Lord and to any people against whom he or she has sinned. Such communications enhance the possibility that a person may finally repent of his or her sin, and, at the same time, serve to warn the other church to be on guard against the harm that the former member might cause to that church body. 16

Additionally, individuals who attend Cornerstone Church and who have been excluded from fellowship from another church will not be allowed to participate in fellowship at or be members of Cornerstone Church unless: (1) they repent of their sins and make confession and restitution with their former church; or (2) the pastors of Cornerstone Church are able to determine that the former church did not apply church discipline according to Scripture."


15 See Matthew 18:12-14; Ezekiel 34:4, 8, 16.
16 See Matthew 18:12-14; Romans 16:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14; 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:16-18; 4:9, 14-15; 3 John 9-10.


These membership commitments are online, and anyone who has internet access can take a look at them.  (I have already printed the 19 page document in case it suddenly disappears.) 

What most people do not understand when they join a church is that the membership covenant is a legal document, despite what anyone including Mark Driscoll will tell you.  It has being drawn up by attorneys to protect the church against lawsuits first and foremost.  That is what the covenants are designed for, although the pastors may claim otherwise.  We believe such covenants put church members at a tremendous disadvantage.

Did you notice that Attorney Ken Sande wrote one of the CT articles listed above?  The title and subtitle of Ken's article are:  Keeping the Lawyers at Bay: How to correct members while staying out of court.   If you click on the title of Ken's CT piece, it certainly appears that most of the article is missing!

The heart of the issue is to protect the church against litigation.  What happens when your church decides you have sinned through questioning, for example.  Depending on how hyper-authoritarian your pastors are, you may be forced to undergo church discipline.  What if you decide this is a bunch of baloney, and you choose to leave the church.  Well, that was outlined above, but it bears repeating:

 "If a person leaves the church when he or she is in the midst of the disciplinary process or has been removed from the membership of the church, and if the pastors learn that he or she is attending another church, they may (1) inform the pastors of the other church that the person is currently under church discipline, including the nature of the unrepentant sin leading to discipline, and (2) ask the other church to encourage the former member to repent of his or her sin and to be restored to the Lord and to any people against whom he or she has sinned. Such communications enhance the possibility that a person may finally repent of his or her sin, and, at the same time, serve to warn the other church to be on guard against the harm that the former member might cause to that church body."

 In case you haven't heard of Cornerstone Church in Knoxville, this congregation is part of a "family of churches" called Sovereign Grace Ministries.   Does that come as a surprise to anyone?

Here is our best recommendation.  Don't rush to join a church.  We strongly recommend that you "date" the church for as long as it takes to feel comfortable with the leadership, culture, and members.  Perhaps you will find this post beneficial.  If you have signed a membership covenant, you might want to read this post.

With regard to church discipline, if a sin is not of the magnitude we discussed in our previous post, it is NOT a church discipline situation.  Don't let anyone convince you otherwise!  Some pastors are using their Bibles as clubs to beat their sheep when church discipline is not warranted.  Shame on them!   Dee and I are committed to focusing on these topics as much as possible in 2012: 

church discipline

membership covenants 

Many of the problems we have discussed here at TWW stem from churches gone rogue in these areas.  We believe knowledge is power, and we are just getting started in educating our readership on these important matters.   We dedicate this song to those of you who have been hurt through church discipline.  May you find strength and healing! 

 Lydia's Corner:   Jeremiah 4:19-6:15     Colossians 1:18-2:7     Psalm 77:1-20     Proverbs 24:23-25


Is Church Discipline Going Rogue? — 107 Comments

  1. Deb
    Great post. I will never forget my own little ordeal in this area. People better wise up and realize that these documents are written by very, very, very serious men who believe that they hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

  2. Church discipline isn’t scary, it’s the people who get to decide how to discipline you that can be VERY SCARY.

    If I am not mistaken, the Lutheran church does not see it as a mark of a church. That could be an interesting discussion. I know it is practiced but they also have private confession and absolution which would most definitely be missing in most of the churches you all have brought to light. I wish one of our resident Lutherans could do a guest post on the difference between Church Discipline as a mark of the church versus the Lutheran understanding. I don’t know if people would respond any differently but, it would be interesting.

    Oh, I have been talking with my ultra conservative mother about church discipline within the SBC. She was shocked when I told her some people could be disciplined for questioning and that some small groups asked you to confess a sin to them. She claims that as long as she can remember church discipline was used for blatant immorality i.e. adultery, debauchery etc. Also, it was used when these people were not repentant about such sin.

    She grew up in a VERY conservative church and she said it was used so rarely she only remembers one case. I asked her if she thought one could be disciplined for not being submissive to a husband. She thought that was ridiculous because that is something subject to ones interpretation. Adultery, drunken episodes, etc. are not subject to interpretation. Those are specific actions. That helped me in dealing with what is proper church discipline. My mother claims that the stories I told her sounded more like a group known as independent baptist that didn’t really have any wider body rather were churches totally to themselves. What is your opinion?

  3. Dee,

    I’ll never, never forget either! Some pastors have made some pretty big mistakes…

    Maybe one day they will apologize. In the meantime, we keep on keeping on putting forth God’s truth.

  4. Robin, I grew up in the SBC and remember church discipline pretty much as your mother does. I can only remember one instance and it was concerning blatant sin that even a worldly rogue would agree was immoral.

  5. Robin – As I mentioned in an earlier thread, the Lutheran bodies (synods) in the US are pretty diverse, and I don’t think that it’s possible to nail down any single “discipline process.”

    I don’t know of any discipline cases in the church where I grew up, but that doesn’t mean they’ve never occurred. One thing I am sure of: they were not some big public (or semi-public) ordeal, nor would they be now.

    I think the attitude is more along the lines of *not* seeing human beings as the judge and jury when someone sins. We ALL sin; some sins are more egregious than others in their effect on other people.

    Also, I doubt that my synod views problems like drug and alcohol addiction as sin per se; they’ve been far ahead of many other churches in a compassionate understanding of mental illness as well.

    Do I think there are sinful actions that can be part of addiction? Well, yes. But I do not believe that alcoholism and drug addiction are sins – they are diseases.

    (I would add that we seldom characterize medicines that are “benign” as addictive, but many are – however, there is no stigma attached to their use, while other meds that can be benign if used correctly are stigmatized by default – morphine is one example… but that’s a whole other topic, for another board!)

    Another thing you probably won’t see is people running around evangelizing “the unsaved.” I think Lutherans (and Anglicans and Roman Catholics) view salvation as a lifelong process rather than pinning everything on a Paul-like moment of conversion. That gives people more freedom to be human and make “normal” mistakes – and, when growing up, to go through normal developmental stages without necessarily having all behavior viewed through a “my child is sinning by…” lens.

    I really cannot imagine anyone from this stream of Christianity staying up late making their child “work through their sins” – unless they’ve either come under the influence of some dubious “teachers,” have their own emotional problems to deal with – or both.

    In general, there is not an insistence on perfectionism and perfectionistic standards and behavior. I think it’s assumed that adult members really are adults – and therefore responsible for what they do or don’t do.

    imo, a LOT of evangelical/charismatic churches treat adults like children – or try to, anyway. (It’s certainly true of highly authoritarian churches/church-like cults!)

    I don’t know what you have come across in terms of reading material about Lutheran churches and what you might expect there, but I would encourage you to drop by a church office and pick up an info. packet or whatever they’ve got on hand…

  6. I guess there’s one other thing I could point out, and that is that evangelical churches are a very different world to me, even now. So many practices and beliefs there are confined to evangelical/fundamentalist churches are not even on the radar screen in many other denoms.

    For me, accepting Christ seemed to equal having to accept all the doctrines and beliefs promoted by the evangelicals I knew. (even though I had this other frame of reference – my Lutheran background – to draw on as well.) It took many years and some painful experiences before I came to realize that a lot of evangelical practice is actually cultural, not religious, though it is cloaked in religion.

    Hope that makes sense!

  7. Whitman’s ‘chocolates’ are not Whitman’s ‘chocolates’ anymore?

    HowDee YaAll,

    Since the sale of the Whitman’s Chocolate Confectioner in 1993, the quality and selection of the once favored  delicacy, is seen as declining in ‘choice factor’ among young chocolate afficianados. Many now see the Chocolate Confectioner as not worth your time. hmmmm… Has the new owner improved the ‘product’ since it’s purchase?  Many say no. Many are now saying that the new owner is more inclined to push it’s own brand. How come we are not surprised?


    You may be asking what does this have to do with the price of tea in China, as my dear sweet Mum was inclined to say?

    Well? Spit it out, Sopy… (not the chocolate!)

    Ahem! …Maybe we should…

    (…very serious men who believe that ‘they’ hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven?)


    Letz look at dis here list: (these are the secret handshake, TGC folks):

    The Gospel Coalition Name Index

    Danny Akin, Reddit Andrews, Thabiti Anyabwile, Voddie Baucham, Richard Bauckham, G. K. Beale, Joel Beeke, Alistair Begg, Gerald Bray, Jerry Bridges, Steve Brown, D. A. Carson, Matt Chandler, Dale Ralph Davis, Andy Davis, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, David Dockery, Dan Doriani, Mark Driscoll, Iain Duguid, Ligon Duncan, William Edgar, Sinclair Ferguson, Ajith Fernando, John Fesko, John Frame, Richard Gaffin, Graeme Goldworthy, Liam Goligher, Os Guinness, Collin Hansen, Joshua Harris, David Helm, David Horner, Kent Hughes, Gary Inrig, David Jackman, Peter Jensen, Tim Keller, Bill Kynes, Steven Lawson, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Dick Lucas, James MacDonald, C. J. Mahaney, Joshua Moody, Phil Newton, Stuart Olyott, John Piper, Richard Pratt, Robert Rayburn, Mike Reeves, Phil Ryken, Juan Sanchez, John Stott, Derek Thomas, Geoffrey Thomas, Stephen Um, Kevin Vanhoozer, David Wells, Sandy Wilson, John Yates, Al Mohler.

    Now Y’all, might be say’in one bad ‘chocolate’ doesn’t spoil the whole box, now does it? Or two, or three?

    hmmm… Don’t be so sure.

    fast forward…

    C.J. Mahaney can seemingly misappropriate another pastor’s ministry, blackmail him into silence, threaten in a ‘taped’ phone call to injure the reputation of that pastor’s son, and it’s ok, thirteen years later when the dirt comes out!

    Preach it, C.J. Mahaney, it’ok!

    The TGC guyz are still buddying up, slapp’in backs and do’in their secret handshakes, not withstanding!

     …nuff’in fazes deze here folk. no no

    All for Jesus! Ah! huh? All fer one and one fer all!

    (You gotz ta be kidd’in me, rightz?)

    …Is it no wonder that Al Mohler is say’in them young folks are leav’in da church, and notz comm’in back!

    Do you blame them. Oh! e Oh! oh oh… Mercy me!

    Lord, time ta clean house?!?   Open da windows…Letz go!

      …♩♩♩Wave goodbye from out of the window
    Good, no trouble starting the car
    Time for just one more cup of coffee?
    You know Lord, the housework won’t wait…
    Make some lunch, and take out the garbage…
    Rrr! Let’s… Go!


    hahahahahahaha ;~)

    Sopy ♥,† 
    Comic relief: Robert Palmer – “Housework”

  8. Sopy,

    Three of those in The Gospel Coalition “Name Index” are from our area!

    I always enjoy your comic relief. I hadn’t heard “Housework” before. I appreciate your levity in a very serious discussion. 🙂

  9. I’m a Quaker and one of the best examples of good church discipline occurred when I was living in Oregon. A woman in my Bible study and her family were living in one of many small houses owned by a wealthy descendant of the Hoover (president) family. The house was poorly maintained, and her young son fell through the porch and broke his arm. The Friends church we attended gave him three choices — cut the rent on the house in half, repair it and charge the same rent, or be disfellowshipped (read out of meeting in Quaker speak). Since the family had a long Quaker tradition, they didn’t want the disgrace of being read out, so they fixed the house. Here church discipline was used a means of achieving social justice, not pastoral authority.

    Another good example, when I was in college my parents called me about an episode in the Episcopal church our family belonged to. The new pastor stopped communion and ordered two men lined up to sit back in their seats, saying the following: “You two men fell out over a business deal 10 years ago and haven’t spoken since. You don’t qualify for communion. Both of you, be in office tomorrow at 9 and we’ll solve this problem.” For this first time I and I imagine everyone at the church realized that the prayer of humble access in the liturgy really mean something when it said, “You who do earnestly repent and are in love and charity with your neighbors take this sacrament to your comfort.” Matthew 5:23-4 was the basis of the pastor’s statement.

  10. Pingback: Articles of Interest 02-25-12 | Onward, Forward, Toward...

  11. Deb:

    It appears the way the “system” is set up anyone who would dare to attempt to have the Pastor or Elders disciplined will find themselves being disciplined.

    It is a very flawed “system”. Why folks put up with this bull is beyond me.

  12. mot
    I know why because I used to think that way. I thought I was “following the Bible” by “trusting” pastors to do the right thing, always. This was reinforced by the fact that I had wonderful pastors and great churches. Things started to change when I found myself in a rather odd situation at a church. It took me a few years to fully understand what was going on and my theology changed, albeit under much distress.

  13. Barbara

    I am so glad to have a Quaker visit. Welcome! Quakers have done much in the area of caring for the poor and other social justice issues. Thank you for the two examples you highlighted.
    I have one question on the second illustration. Did the pastor first speak to the men in private before the communion announcement to the whole church?

  14. Dee:

    Please know that I did not mean to sound condescending in regards to why people put up with this. I should have worded my comment better.

  15. mot
    I did not think you sounded condescending. I think your question is well justified and should be asked frequently. We have been involved with trying to figure this stuff out for a few years and we ask your question almost every day.

  16. Dee:

    Thanks for taking my first comment the way that I meant it. I am greatly concerned about those Leaders of churches who want to Lord over others and hurt those folks they pick out to hurt and all the while they exempt themselves.

  17. I really don’t know if the pastor talked to the two men. I know that under the procedure in Matthew he should have. However, I think it was an excellent message for the church since it made the liturgy real. I know that’s how my parents took it.

  18. Mot –

    They not only exempt themselves, they appear to often exempt those who bring in the money as well.

  19. People have a tendency to believe the best in others – I used to think that the executives in my company must know what they were doing when they made seemingly insane decisions – but incompetence is rife.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to some of these pastors, it is probably not incompetence. While one should: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” (Napoleon) I think that incompetence does not adequately describe their actions.

  20. mot,

    I didn’t think you comment was condescending either. It was SPOT ON!

    The more I investigate these celebrity pastors/leaders, the more I realize they are drunk on their own power and authority. Some have bullied their way to the top of their pyramid. It’s nauseating to watch from my vantage point!

    Being perched on a pinnacle can be a ___________ place to be. Since Driscoll has popularized filling in a blank, I’d insert risky, unwise, egotistical, unChrist-like, and DANGEROUS!!!

  21. I see Steve Brown was on that long list in blue of the men that are part of GC. That is encouraging because Steve Brown is LITERALLY the polar opposite of Mahaney, Piper, Driscoll, and Mohler. Go listen to him at or go to How did he get with these guys?

  22. Robin, TGC is really a mixed bunch. I would add that Keller, Tchividjan, and Carson are also much more personable fellas. TGC tends to be all about the Tulip connection, though I think they’ll let a 3.5 point Calvinist in the club. What you won’t find in there are Lutherans and Methodists. But TGC isn’t an abrasive theologian’s fellowship. Mannerism’s are much harder to police than doctrine: “You must be at least ____this____ nice in order to enter the club.” An abrasive theologian, though, is usually a strong indicator of fundamentalist theology. If liberal theologians do one thing well, they are nice. And they treat dissenters with much more respect. Usually, it seems. But I think TGC tries to aim for the middle of the road, er, um, the complementarian road, that is.

  23. Dee wrote:

    “…People better wise up and realize that these documents are written by very, very, very serious men who believe that they hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven…”

    Very sobering Dee, it brings Matthew 23:13 alive and sharper than any Katana sword ever made.

  24. RE: Robin on Fri, Feb 24 2012 at 11:48 pm:

    Your Mom’s testimony adds more support to my thesis that most of this current crapola amongst the calvinista crowd is not much older than 40 yrs., despite their claim that it’s always been the New Testament model. They could at least be honest about it and acknowledge that it’s a resurgence of what went on in 17th cent. New England. But if they did that, they wouldn’t have any credence at all, would they?

  25. Muff – I think they’ve been heavily indoctrinated with discipleship movement-ness. Put that together with the harsher kind of English (and American) Puritanism, and you’ve got a way to atomic-bomb people into the dust.

    (That Church is “pastored” by a man who has elements of both ideas plus Calvinista and Third Wave ideas – yikes!!!)

  26. Eagle,

    Driscoll isn’t completely above discipline, but nearly. From what I’ve heard, he actually did get a slap on the wrist a while back. The elders have called him on things, but put yourselves in their shoes: Driscoll has celebrity power to wield against them should it get ugly, and would be quickly hired by another church if he chose to leave. So they can only “discipline” him as far as he is willing to go along with it. He’s been asked to stop saying certain things (like cuss words, I believe), and he submitted to it. However, like I said, they don’t drop the law on him, he can only get a slap on the wrist.

    It’s good to hear you distinguish between the message of Christ and some of us fools who are shouting it. As much as I know I personally get in the way of Christ being seen, it’s good to hear that his message is still being heard nonetheless. I wish I could sell you a Christianity without a church. She’s a whore, but she’s also my mother 😛

  27. Miguel – I think you might want to read Wenatchee the Hatchet’s blog. He’s a sometime contributor to this blog himself, and a former member of Mars Hill.

    Or you could just click on some of the category links here for much more information on how MD has “dealt with” criticism.

    Warning: it isn’t pretty.

  28. Numo, I see Wenatchee around from time to time, but didn’t know he was former MH. I’m not completely new to the Driscoll circus show, though. When I went through a reformed phase I used to podcast him. He was good to keep me awake when driving long distances late night because the spontaneous shouting (“HOW! DARE! YOU! Who do you think you are!!!!!”) would shock me back awake 😛 I know his accountability isn’t much, but it’s a feather or two more than nothing. I think it was his church elders that asked him to ditch the “cussing preacher” reputation. I believe he was also being mentored by Piper for a while, perhaps to try to deal with his ego, which he freely admitted was not his greatest strength.

  29. Miguel
    You mean Piper has already mentored Driscoll?!! Guess he ain’t a great teacher nor is Driscoll willing to learn! What a mess.

  30. Muff,

    I agree. If they said “hey we agree with Puritan discipline minus burning witches, no one would pay them any mind! I also think there is something to think about that in the past 40-60 years people began eating up celebrity pastors. There wasn’t such a thing prior.

  31. Deb,
    Kudos to your research staff for digging up this frightening document from the vault of Cotton Mather.
    I totally agree with your “consumer advocate” philosophy. The days when one could choose a church from the yellow pages are gone. My own motto is “Attend the church of your choice. Caveat Emptor.”
    The best advice I have for church-shoppers is to thoroughly peruse a church website, beginning with the “About Us”, “Our Leadership”, “Our Friends”, and LINKS pages.
    The juicy stuff is often on the pages without the fancy graphics.
    The Cornerstone member covenant link, for instance, is on a very drab page, “Media”, under the vague heading “Resources”.

    Also be sure to check out a church’s blogs and its FB page.

    According to the Tennessee Secretary of State, Cornerstone Church Knoxville originally did business as Maranatha Campus Ministries International, known as an authoritarian cult to most Christian leaders and university administrators across the nation. Kittrell established Cornerstone as Maranatha on the University of Tennessee campus in 1983.

    One will also learn from the back pages of the Cornerstone site that those dispensing discipline are all full time pastor/elders who were recruited trained by the Cornerstone/Maranatha campus ministry and then graduated from the 9 month course of Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors’ College. The average age of these sages is thirty-eight.

    I find the “Confidentiality” portion of the covenant especially worrisome, because it basically says that members can expect no privacy within the church.

    That fits neatly with the expectation that members will submit to financial counseling by the church.


  32. HowDee YaAll,

    Has  Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Pastor, become the christian shock-jock ‘Howard Sterns’ of the American pulpit- Irreverent, Rude,and Vulgar?

    ( I’ve heard of the “…go out to the highways and byways and bid them all come”, but isn’t this is a bit ridiculous?)

    When is American Christianity going to say, enough?


    Has the American ‘pulpit’ followed Mark Driscoll off a Cliff?

    hummm… ‘could be’ !


    hahahahahahaha ;~)

    Sopy ♥,†  
    Comic relief: We Will Survive: Igudesman & Joo + Kremer & Kremerata

  33. Sopy,

    I will Survive could easily be our theme song here at TWW. Loved your comic relief. How do you come up with all this stuff?!

  34. Kent Johnson,

    We have the best research staff – bar none! I read the confidentiality section and am extremely alarmed!

    Caveat emptor is right.

    Do the church members actually read this 19 page document prior to joining the church? Or were they already members and expected to sign the “new and improved” membership agreement (like what happened at Mars Hill when members were expected to re-commit)?

  35. Interesting that SGM does not hold its pastors to the same standard (Discipline process/Matt 18) they apply to members.

  36. dee and deb

    I’d like to recommend a possible
    “Church Discipline Statement” for “The Fellowship of the Wounded.”

    If any “Disciple of Christ” asuumes a “Title” and “Position NOT found in the Bible…
    If that “Titled Tyrant” *Exercises Authority” like the gentiles, or “lords it over” God’s kids…
    If that “Titled Tyrant” inflicts harm, abuse, or a general feeling of NOT being loved by God,
    upon another child of God – they will be turned over to, the hands of, our living God.

    They will be subject to – Correction – Chastening – and – Scourging.

    Heb 10:31
    It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    Pro 3:12
    For whom the LORD loveth *He correcteth;*
    even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

    Jer 10:24
    *O LORD, correct me,* but with judgment;
    not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.

    Heb 12:6
    For whom the Lord loveth he *chasteneth,*
    and *scourgeth* every son whom he receiveth.

    2Sam 7:14
    I will be his father, and he shall be my son.
    If he commit iniquity,
    *I will chasten him* with the rod of men,
    and with the stripes of the children of men:

    “Church Discipline” by “Titled Tyrants.” Bah – Humbug…

    It’s become – “Senior Pastor and Elders, the “Titled Tyrants,” Discipline.” 🙁

    Seems Jesus is able to “Discipline,” correct, chasten, scourge, those he loves… 🙂
    With Grace, and Mercy, and Lovingkindness… The “Goodness of God.”

    Rom 2:4
    …the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.

  37. Dee, I picked up something about their relationship a while back. Piper isn’t exactly the bastion of humility himself, but at least he hasn’t written a book on the topic (a presumptuous endeavor, if there ever was one!). I think he hasn’t. Anyways, the theory is that “iron sharpens iron.” In this case, we can all be thankful that it’s not worse. Of course, their sins are much more public, prominent, and visible than mine, Driscoll’s ego never bothered me much, I found it entertaining, before I saw people getting run over by it anyways.

  38. Deb,

    Cornerstone Church Knoxville (TN charter and formerly DBA as Maranatha Ministries International) grew from a campus cult. It currently operates a thriving campus ministry, Volunteers for Christ (VFC), which recruited and inculcated all of Bill Kitrell’s young associate pastors.

    I imagine that by the time a young person makes the transition from the campus ministry (which conducts its own services on campus) to grownup church at Cornerstone, he is caught up in a deep web of friendships–not to mention implicit trust in the Cornerstone Pastor/Elders– that no mere piece of paper could make him abandon.

    God commands Cornerstone SGM (Formerly DBA Maranatha Campus Ministries cult) members to confess their sins to owner-operator Pastor/ Elders, who warn “Don’t expect privacy here.”

    >>Commitments about Counseling and Confidentiality

    “…there may be times when CCK pastors deem it necessary or appropriate to share confidential information with one another, other church members, or others outside the church. These would be people currently involved in the church member’s problem or who may serve in the solution to the problem. The pastors may do this for the purpose of additional counsel, for the purpose of protecting others from the damaging effect of someone’s sin, or to assist one another in providing spiritual care to the people of the church.

    All Christians struggle with sin and the effect it has in our lives and our relationships. Whenever a Christian is unable to overcome sinful attitudes or behaviors through private efforts, God commands that he should seek assistance from other members, and especially from the pastors, who have the responsibility of providing pastoral counseling and oversight. Therefore, this church encourages and enjoins its members to make a confession and to seek counsel from each other and especially from its pastoral counselors…”<< (CCK Member Commitments)


  39. Miguel
    I like the old verse of iron sharpening iron but something iron can rust and that brown stuff is icky.

  40. Kent
    Did you know that we planned to cover that exact thing this week? This really, really worries me and we have seen it lived out in countless lives who have been deeply wounded by SGM. Stay tuned.

  41. I have to wonder if “iron sharpens iron” is an accurate translation (in the “meaning” sense) for that verse.

    My guess is that it might mean something quite different than what’s usually thought of, but that is just a guess. (It’s never made much sense to me, unless the context is about quarreling or worse…)

  42. So, I met with one of the people from MH who I was friends with and got most of my questions answered.
    1) Yes, the Community Group leader considered us under church discipline but it was not announced that way, they were just told we were no longer coming
    2) We were not formally shunned as Andrew was
    3) Although she is a member, she confirmed everything I thought and felt about what was wrong at community group (in her own words)
    4) She apologized for not contacting me sooner and that what happened to me even happened.

    So, that was nice

  43. Sophia,

    Thanks for the update! I’m going to spend some time over at your website this week. 😛

  44. Sophia, it sounds like the competence of that community group leader should be in question. I’ve known a few community group leaders at MH who have had people come and then go and never become members and none of them ever considered those people “under church discipline”. I ought to know because I’ve been roommates with enough of them over the years to have noticed that what you described from your CG leader was a bit unusual.

    When MH members have said that what you describe doesn’t sound normal I tend to agree because in the roughly ten years I was connected to MH and the years I visited CGs that sort of behavior seems weird. There have been some CG leaders who hold on to a group through bureaucratic inertia and simply having a ministry to serve in that should let the CG just die already. I know a former CG leader who kept on keeping on for years with a CG group that was just not working at a social level and he came to the tough conclusion that he needed to just let the group die so everyone could go to groups closer to them. It was tough for him but I think he made the right call. Plus he ended up meeting his wife after he threw in the towel and went to another group.

    At the risk of going out on a limb, Sophia, sounds like maybe the CG leader you dealt with could have been in some denial about the social health of the gruop and his role within it. No CG leader at MH should ever operate under the illusion that he’s an authority over people who aren’t members, or even people who are.
    If the group is really awkward and keeps mechanically going to sermon conversation early that’s a group that’s probably going to wither. Groups where people really get along and are friends it becomes a feat of herding cats to get people to talk about the sermon. I’ve been in groups where the CG leader said, “Eh, we heard the sermon like three days ago, how’s everybody doing?”

  45. WTH,

    Yeah…he actually tried to discipline my friend for a City message about potlucks :/ Afterwards, neither he or his wife hardly talk to her. They are leaving that group and starting to host one (as an easy out?) She heard by accident that we had been “removed” from the City, and she questioned what that meant and asked if we were under discipline. He said that we were but that she could talk to me. She said that there was a serious problem with control in that group, she believed everything I said because she knows his character. I really felt like I needed to go to those I was really offended by a la Matt 18 and try to get clarity and closure. I am so glad that I did. I got questions that I have been stuck on for months answered. She said that I was shunned by the leader and his wife but not by anyone else (at least officially). His wife (my former friend) has been forbidden to speak with me….ah, complimentarian relationships gone awry!

  46. Be careful of what church you join? Many of these churches think you are under their authority the second you “come in the doors proclaiming Jesus as the Christ [paraphrase]” i.e., Mark Dever’s church, and that is in B&W on their blog.

    Don’t just not join, DON’T GO ANYWHERE NEAR THOSE CHURCHES!!!! Our ministry knows of actual cases where these churches have attempted to bring non-members under their discipline.

  47. Um, actually, people are being held hostage at these churches under threat of being disgraced publicly. I ought to know, I was held hostage for 4 months. When a well known pastor in NANC circles contacted Peace Keepers International to intervene, they said they couldn’t because I was under church discipline. LOL! Would love to tell my story to any bloggers interested: 937-478-1201

  48. Sophia
    We have to update your story with this information. I really want to talk with you about this “church discipline” thing. Now this is a story that needs to be emphasized. Are you writing about it on your blog? Can we say something here?

  49. WTH
    Are you saying that MH does not breed an atmosphere in which CG leaders can do such things? I think that this an outgrowth of top down leadership and the top is rather problematic. More and more of these types of stories are emerging. Something is wrong.

  50. Paul
    We would be very interested in telling your story. Could you contact us via our email? Just write it up. We could post it under a pseudonym if you desire.

  51. Dee
    I have a blog that has focused on New Calvinism for a couple of years. I also published a book on New Calvinism. I am heartsick at what this movement has been doing to people’s lives for several years. We are talking a whole bunch of stuff getting bulldozed into the landfills daily. “Andrew” is a Girl Scout story compared to what I know.

    Recently, I have been joined by a pastor who has separated from a well-known NC missionary society and is being “stalked” by them. I also know a former pastor and parishioner who fled to other states to escape New Calvinist persecution. I have dedicated my life to exposing this horrific movement that is the biggest fraud perpetrated on the church in a 100 years.

    They are not Calvinists, that’s a lie, they are Progressive Adventists and I can prove it. Ya, I will email you some stuff, I will also meet with any blogger reading this and dump 5 years of research on your lap. Name a place and a time. My email is and you have my phone #.

  52. Paul, I would like to talk to you about this. I was part of a group known as Campus Outreach. Would you put them in the New Calvnist camp? What made you start doing all of this research?

  53. paul,
    5 years of research would overwhelm the heck out of me.
    I keep trying to get a grasp and overview of what neo-calvinism is. I wish there was a “neo-calvinism for dummies” or something.
    I see the fruit of neo-calvinism. It’s not good.
    I want to understand the root. (yes, I know you said Progressive Adventist. But that doesn’t mean much to me.)
    When I read neo-calvin stuff and the stuff opposed to it, a lot of it seems like intellectual, high sounding, mumbo jumbo. Elusive and not to the point.
    Sorry. But that’s what I get when I try to wade through the stuff. I also get bored very quickly Because it is so elusive and hard to pinpoint.
    Anyway, in an attempt to force myself into understanding it, I’ve put your blog on my links page under neo-calvinism. You are the first. I created the category just today and hope to add others who can bring clarity to me.
    Can you recommend others that I could read? Cindy K. is already on my links page under another category.

  54. Robin,
    I don’t know, email me some info:
    I’ll tell you what, I will make you a video. I am working on a huge project because of some new info we have received and I am not going to meet the deadline anyway. I will take some of the info and make you a video–“New Calvinism for Dummies.” it will be fun as i have gotten some pretty rough emails today and I need something fun. Should have it ready by 7 or 8. email me as I do not want to post the link here without permission.

  55. Eagle,

    “Gospel Sanctification” (ie, “the same gospel that saved us also sanctifies us” and “we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday”) is the New Calvinist doctrine. So, I visited their website and checked out their doctrinal/training statements. The answer is: yes, they are proponents of Gospel Sanctification.

  56. Robin,
    yes, they are strong proponents of Gospel Sanctification with connections to Sonship Theology which is the same thing. The historical order is: 1. The Centrality of the Objective gospel (1970) 2. New Covenant Theology (1982) 3. Sonship Theology (1983)4. Gospel Transformation)(1999) 5. Gospel Sanctification (2004) New Calvinism (2008).

  57. Paul, are you suggesting that people such as John Piper are antinomian? surely not. He is in the opposite ditch.

  58. I’m new here. Have been reading the blog from time to time during the last few days, after I heard about the MH issue on iMonk. This is the first time I’m posting and I’m mostly doing it in response to what Paul Dohse wrote:

    “They are not Calvinists, that’s a lie, they are Progressive Adventists and I can prove it.”

    You left me speechless for a moment because, if anything, I know a bit about Adventism. I was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church for most of my life until I left a few years ago, and for a short period of time I considered myself a “progressive adventist” before I decided to move into more “standard” Christianity and asked to be removed from church membership.

    Would you mind explaining what you mean? May it be that you’re not thinking about the same when you talk about “progressive adventism” than what I might think about? Just curiosity.

  59. Holy majeroly, that document has 20 pages to it! Whatever happened to “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2)?? As a former lawyer, I would not sign one of these membership “covenants.” Not for love, not for money, not for anything.

    Would it be too much to ask these guys who are pushing forward to put a coversheet on this stating in bold type: “THIS IS A LEGAL CONTRACT. By signing this document, you may be giving up certain legal rights…etc., etc.” Something, anything to let people know that these churches mean business. Oh, probably not. I doubt these churches want people to know what kind of quasi-legal entanglements they can get sucked into.

    Jesus didn’t say, “Come follow me…oh, and by the way, sign this 20 page contract.” That says volumes.

  60. Southwestern
    Jesus did not have to run things through legal every time he spoke. Can you imagine the Pharisees suing Jesus for slander “He called me a snake and the Nazareth Gazette carried on the front page!”

  61. Robin,
    Are you ready for this? He’s in both ditches. Piper believes you have to be an antinomian to keep your salvation. So it’s both. I’m going to pass out if I don’t go to bed. email me at pmd@inbox and I will load you up with files for your reading pleasure, but Piper’s connection with The Australian Forum is indisputable.

  62. paul
    I am quite interested in what you are discussing. What is the Australian Forum? I know what antinomian is but how does it apply to Piper in this context?

  63. Dee – my guess is that the “antinomianism” charge is directly related to Piper’s book “Christian Hedonism,” but hey – I could be wrong.

    (I think the use of “hedonism” in the title is a trick to get peoples’ attention, *not* an endorsement of hedonism per se.)

  64. Deb – yep, I did read those pieces last year. Could not believe the whole “scream of the damned” bit, which sounds like it came from a *really* terrible horror movie!

  65. Deb,
    Sorry for not getting back with you sooner. The coalition I am involved in has realized that New Calvinists also believe in a “progressive imputation.” So, we have been researching that. I actually work full time on an upstart coalition against the movement. There is nothing, absolutely nothing about this movement that is Orthodox. AND, the movement is trashing lives right and left. It came out of Progressive Adventism and the think tank was the “Australian Forum.” Ok, I promised Mara that I would make her some video’s–a “New Calvinism for Dummies.” I have made her 5 of them and plan to do several more. She is posting them on her blog and I can send you the link, but I can’t seem to find your email. Even though the video’s are informal as they are made for an individual, my wife thinks there decent, if you can stand my voice. They start a little slow but pick-up some life as they go. Hopefully this can enable me to kill two birds with one stone for lack of a better term. Again, sorry for the delay on this. Mara’s video’s have some key new developments on the Newbies. Thanks for what you do Dee.

  66. And sense the discussion here is church disciple, I submit an excerpt from page 131 of “The Truth About New Calvinism”:

    “And this arrogance translates into a predominant characteristic of New Calvinism: heavy-handed leadership style. As far as New Calvinists are concerned, evangelicals have been leading people into hell for the past 100 years (their estimation of when semper reformanda was lost) and any interference with the “unadjusted gospel” will be dealt with—no holds barred. The weapon of choice is church discipline. In fact, the sharp increase in church discipline recognized by our culture in general and written about in the Wall Street Journal can be directly attributed to the New Calvinist movement. It is no coincidence that the Journal indicated that the vast majority of such cases had to do with doctrinal disagreements. And a huge collection of churches didn’t decide to start disciplining members out of nowhere—the New Calvinist movement is behind it.”

  67. ….and a letter from a parishioner in a well known Newbie church:

    “But more questions arose, especially concerning church discipline. More and more it seemed they selected the people for discipline, while others were left alone. I am a prime example. I realize they don’t have the resources to follow everyone around, but I was even living with my [boyfriend/girlfriend] at one point and [elder’s name withheld] just eventually quit talking to me- though my membership remains and I was never brought up on any “charges”. I’d been in counseling for much of the entire time I attended. There are more strange happenings, but I won’t get into all of it.”

  68. Keeping with the church discipline subject, page 134:

    “Therefore, the pattern is the same: new pastors assume leadership in a church that doesn’t know what New Calvinism is, and the church takes it for granted that their theology is orthodox. Then once in, they replace present leadership with those of like mind, and begin to make vast and rapid changes because they see that church as a bastion of falsehood that has sent many to hell. Then, dissenters are mercilessly mowed down and muzzled, usually via church discipline. In most cases, the dissenters don’t have a full understanding of what they are dealing with, they just know something isn’t right.”


    ” But as previously mentioned in this book (chapter 11), New Calvinists advocate what some refer to as the total depravity of the saints and the whole sinners saved by grace attitude of the first gospel wave. This often leads to New Calvinist elders ignoring sin for purposes of discipline (after all, sinners will be sinners) and only disciplining for things that are perceived to threaten the church’s ability to function as an organization. Hence, sin is ignored while others are disciplined for questioning doctrine and not tithing. Nonattendance could fall under this category as well.”


    “All this leads to many New Calvinist churches taking on cult-like tendencies. Exclusiveness (new Reformation), an attitude that some higher knowledge is a part of the movement that many are not “ready” for (the scandalous gospel), and a subjective view of Scripture (a gospel narrative, not instruction) is a mixture that will have bad results, and is the perfect formula for a cult-like church.”

  69. If you want a snippet of John Piper’s connection to the Australian Forum, go to the following link. Graeme Goldsworthy was one of the “core four” of the Australian Forum and his lectures at Southern propagated the Forum motif. Ask yourself: Why is the “Goldsworthy Trilogy” a standard of Newbie interpretation? He developed all of that stuff during his Forum days. Eventually, I think this will all come out and Al Mohler will have to get a real job. Here is the link, enjoy:

  70. I have an interesting thought. Mars Hill apparently lays down the discipline hard on people who voluntarily came forward with their sin. So……since Mark Driscoll recently admitted in his new book that he had struggled with misogyny (apparently in the past), I think we should draw up a church discipline contract for him, remove him from leadership, and have meetings with him for months to make him prove he is really, really, REALLY sorry.

  71. Hey Paul, I have a quick question about your observation regarding the tendencies of New Calvinism that can become cult-like. You listed one of them as:

    “subjective view of Scripture (a gospel narrative, not instruction)”

    I think the things you have quoted are really interesting, but this part puzzled me. From what I’ve seen, it seems like some New Calvinist pastors—at least, certainly Mark Driscoll—have the opposite problem. They see every verse in the New Testament as a direct command to believers and try to guilt people into following it. I feel like many of Driscoll’s interpretive tactics leave out the broader literary and cultural context of a verse, thus misinterpreting it’s meaning….and to me, putting things in context seems like exactly what you would do if you saw the Gospel as narrative vs. instructive.

    Just wondering if you could give greater clarification. Thanks!

  72. Paul @ 8:58 –

    What you describe in this post is very similar to what was happening to pastors in SGM. There were several cases of this scenario playing out ESPECIALLY with ” adopted” churches. Since SGM also used a total depravity approach in their teaching, these men had no way to defend or speak for themselves . . . it was proclaimed that they couldn’t see their sin and any discussion that didn’t lead to total agreement with the (a)postle would be deemed as prideful (lack of humility). There were many dismissals of elders for these reasons in SGM.

  73. Paul–

    I sent you an email. I am also interested in the articles you have for reading.


  74. Trina –

    If you go to Mara’s (Bitter to Sweet) you can find two of the short clips that Paul has already put up for her. I believe there will be two more. They are interesting. I was surprised to see Jon Zen’s name come up. I have read one of his books and found it helpful. It was regarding women, and not necessarily tied to what Paul is discussing here.

  75. Hi Paul,

    thanks for your offer, but I hope you’ll understand if I may not want to start distributing my email address to anyone on the Internet, especially when I’ve been on this blog for such a short time 🙂 Please, take no offence.

    In any case, I’ve been checking your own blog and got an idea of what you mean. I have to say that it’s interesting, although there are some points that confuse me… Especially what you say about Brinsmead and others (Piper, etc…) being “progressive adventists”.

    From my experience in the SDA church, the term “progressive adventists” refers to members who disagree with some traditional Adventist beliefs or intepretations, such as certain aspects of the Sabbath, the “investigative judgement” and remnant doctrines, the use of Ellen G. White writings… In one case or another, despite holding to “unorthodox” Adventist beliefs and being considered as liberals by other more traditional members (“Historical adventists”), they generally remain in the denomination as Adventists, maybe because it’s a cultural issue or because they consider that they can change it from within. In a way they believe in a variation of what constitutes the “pillars” of SDA theology. And SDA theology, in many aspects and from all I know, is very far away from Calvinism.

    True that “Progressive Adventism” was strongly influenced by that 1888 meeting and the cases of Desmond Ford (an australian SDA pastor who was dismissed from ministry due to disagreements with the “Investigative Judgement”, for those who don’t know) and others, as you mention in that chart, but I’m not sure Brinsmead could be strictly defined as “progressive adventist” after he left the SDA church. However, I visited the “Present Truth Magazine” website and, at first, I thought I got into a SDA publication… It gives me the impression that when Brinsmead left, whatever he thought about himself at the time, he carried some SDA influences with him.

    Please, don’t take this as a criticism. Just a point I thought it was interesting to discuss. Whenever I get some time I’ll check those videos you made.

  76. Sophia
    I had planned to write you tomorrow to feedback on the things you sent me. I read Kaelee’s story. I still have trouble with the Mars Hill preaches the truth and if someone goes elsewhere they leave the truth type stuff. That, unfortunately, points to cultish type thinking. But maybe I misread what she was saying. I have a feeling that there is some PR cleanup going on.

  77. Dee,

    To be clear, Kaelee chose to contact the one person she was hurt by, her friend, to try to gain clarity as to what the heck happened there. Kaelee would probably agree with you about the cultish type thinking. Kaelee is NOT cleaning up for MH, this is just part of her personal journey. Story comes out tonight on the news!

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  79. Ted S.

    Let’s keep preaching about Mars Hill – the “hipster” church that appears to be a bully.

    Glad the word is getting out!

  80. Martin, Trina, others:

    Sorry, didn’t get your emails. Once again, it’s
    Martin: You are fairly close. I consider the Progressive Adventist movement as coming out of Robert Brinsmead’s Awakening Movement. I plan to continue in making several more videos for Mara. I’m thinking there will be a total of 15.

  81. Just FYI, Paul has made five “New Calvinism for Dummies” videos so far. Anyone wanting to look at the first four (five is going up Monday or Tuesday) can come to my blog. I have four posted on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And already, I feel much less of a dummy when it comes to New Calvinism.

  82. Trina – sheesh!

    That reads like an SGM response to accusations of abuse (and critique in general).

    It would be very nice if they would say “We screwed up,” but I doubt that’s ever going to happen.

  83. TedS
    Tune in tomorrow. We are traveling back to Seattle and will deal with the current situation and use one of the videos you guys sent us about “I love Mark Driscoll’s theology,” featuring John Piper. Here is my question – has Mark Driscoll gone missing? Why isn’t the man acting like one?

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