“It is a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract” Alan Shepherd link
Approximately 15 years ago, I began to hear rumblings about the need to protect churches from lawsuits. These lawsuits, in particular, focused on people who were "under discipline" from churches. At the time, the cases I heard about involved things like men leaving their families and shacking up with a trophy honey or people who conned church members into illegal Ponzi schemes. In other words, really bad stuff.
When churches took action to throw such people out of the church, they were hit by lawsuits claiming defamation of character. This would occur because the church leadership would announce to the congregation why these folks were no longer welcome in the church until they repented of their actions. These actions could be interpreted as defamation of character amongst other legal issues.
Discussions ensued on the best way to protect churches. The idea of church covenants gained ground. Your "former Pollyanna" blog queen was still in her "good churches rarely do wrong" phase. I agreed with the idea of the church being protected against litigation when they dealt with such issues. What I didn't understand, at the time, was that many churches do not limit their discipline to over the top circumstances as I have described.
These covenants would include an assertion that the member who signed it would allow the church to proceed with church discipline when warranted. However, watch that phrase "warranted." I have read over 30 covenants of many well known churches. TWW has had readers send us covenants and asked us our opinion of them. I have yet to read one that delineates the parameters of sin that would constitute church discipline.
What do we mean by parameters? The Bible is replete with examples of sin. Sin ranges from gossip to pride to murder. How does a church pick and choose which sin will be dealt with by a church discipline scenario? In other words, in our society, we have laws that clearly (well usually) outline negative behavior which breaks the law and the parameters of punishment for said (and proven beyond a shadow of doubt) behavior. For example, if I drive 15 miles over the speed limit, certain penalties will be applied to my driving record. In fact, I can lose my license if I continue recklessly disobeying the law.
However, no church covenant, which I shall begin to call a contract from this point, outlines sins and consequences. We wrote a post on this problem called Church Discipline Is Ill-Defined.
We have received a number of comments from church pastors who claim that these contracts are not primarily intended to prevent lawsuits. We adamantly disagree and hope to prove it to you.
9 Marks is known for its devotion to the practice of church discipline. I found this post, Informed Consent, written by Ken Sande, on the 9 Marks website. (Link corrected by GBTC Oct 4, 2017) According to Peacemakers
Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and president of a new ministry, Relational Wisdom 360. Trained as a mechanical engineer and lawyer
Ken Sande is well regarded by church leaders and such groups as Sovereign Grace Ministries. It appears to us that they market their organization primarily to church leaders which could appear to bias their ministry in favor of leadership. Peacemakers has this to say about their ministry
Peacemaker Ministries was founded in 1982 by a group of pastors, lawyers, and business people who wanted to encourage and assist Christians to respond to conflict biblically.
Since then we have developed educational resources, seminars, and conciliation training to help Christians learn how to serve God as peacemakers in the conflicts they encounter in everyday life.
Back to the 9 Marks post, Informed Consent, written by Attorney Sande. This post was subtitled Biblical and Legal Protection for Church Discipline. I highly recommend that you read the entire post to flesh out the points I am raising. Atty.Sande begins his post by backing up the history I presented earlier.
Therefore, when a church begins the process of exercising formal, biblical discipline, it will often receive a letter from the member's attorney threatening to sue the church for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Many church leaders who would not back down have found themselves forced into court, subjected to days of humiliating cross-examination, and shocked to see juries penalize their churches with six-figure damages awards. This trend was triggered by the Guinn case in 1984, which resulted in a $400,000 judgment against a church and its leaders, and has continued to grow for twenty-five years.
He now emphasizes the need to prevent lawsuits while at the same time continuing with church discipline. As you continue to read the quotes from Atty Sande, note that he only mentions one sin that should be disciplined. He does not provide any further examples and leaves it open ended. I believe that this is intentional. In other words, he wants to give churches maximum leeway to define what they will, and will not, punish. Therein lies the rub.
Instead, churches must act with such wisdom and integrity that they will prevent lawsuits from being filed in the first place.
He emphasizes that the church must be able to prove to the court that said disciplined person knew that they were subject to church discipline when they joined the church. He says the church must develop a comprehensive policy to demonstrate how they will impose discipline on members.
… a church needs to be able to prove to a court that the person complaining of a wrong was in fact fully aware of the church's policies and procedures and knowingly agreed to be bound by them.
Atty Sande says that the church must declare its right to punish wayward members. However, he uses the euphemism "rescue the wayward member." He stresses the need to be specific. TWW and a number of our readers have reported on instances of churches imposing discipline even after a person leaves the church. We believe that many churches are heeding the advice of Peacemakers. In this instance, he gives a particular example of bad behavior. However, he does not limit this punishment to that particular behavior.
This added language should address specific challenges that may arise, such as continuing discipline after a member attempts to leave the church or informing your members of your disciplinary actions in order to protect others from harm (e.g., when someone is defrauding senior members through misleading investment schemes).
So, how should this legal contract, often called a covenant, be formulated?
Atty Sande suggests, at an article posted at Life Together
The covenant itself can be kept fairly simple. A statement as basic as, "I have received a copy of the church's policies of redemptive discipline, and I consent to be bound by them" is sufficient. The church needs to have their disciplinary policies outlined somewhere and accessible to members, but the covenant only needs to refer to this other document to secure informed consent.
In the same article, Atty Sande discusses an ironclad defense for the church.
If you can show your people know what your church's disciplinary practices are, and that they have consented to them, that is a virtually ironclad defense against lawsuits.
You can achieve informed consent in a few ways. First, maintaining an attendance for the membership class so you can prove who has received the teaching. Second, a higher level of proof is to have new members stand before the church and actually verbalize membership vows and commitments. A third level, which gives you the best protection, is a signed membership covenant.
Furthermore, Atty Sande includes language which might be construed that a nonmember might be bound by this covenant as well. But, I will leave that until Wednesday.
Today, my goal was to prove that church covenants, which I call contracts, were not primarily developed to insure that a new member pray for the church and be in loving community. This is not a "kum ba ya" moment, folks. It is serious. Contracts were chiefly established to protect the church from lawsuits. They were developed by lawyers and you can bet that they will be enforced.
Here are some questions that our readers should consider.
- Do you truly know, and trust, the leadership in the church which you are joining?
- Do you understand that, due to the open ended nature of the contract, you conceivably could be punished for any perceived sin?
- Do you know that you are signing away some of your rights in signing this document?
- Does it bother you that the church had legal advice in developing and presenting the contract and you have not been encouraged to do the same?
- Do you know that even if the church did not consult an attorney but used a "covenant" from another church, you are still signing a legal and enforceable document?
- Do you understand that history of the development of these contracts? Does your church leadership?
We will continue this discussion on Wednesday by looking at further legal issues and how churches decided what to punish. For now, here is a post we did on Membership Covenant Red Flags.
We leave you with a great video of a young man with Down's Syndrome who realized his dream to open a restaurant and to spread his love. He ends by saying that folks with Downs Syndrome are a gift to the world. He's right! I think Tim could teach some "discipline minded" churches a thing or two about love.
Lydia's Corner: 2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21 Romans 11:13-36 Psalm 22:1-18 Proverbs 20:7
While language in membership covenants such as this does open the door for abusive churches to avoid lawsuits when they apply UN-biblical church discipline, how then should healthy, non-abusive churches protect themselves I wonder? Perhaps more specificity could help, but I would think logistically that could be difficult (thought it is possible it’s not as difficult as I think). Matthew 18 does outline the process of church discipline. Matthew 18:17-“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” This is of course after attempting to work out the issue more privately. Churches should indeed use wisdom in determining what is brought before the whole church, but even though some are unwise about it, does not mean that it is inherrently wrong.
I’ve seen church discipline in action only one time in my life. The pastor taught out of Matthew 18 first. He also said that he has had many instances brought before him by church members where they asked for it to be brought befor ethe church and the pastor refused. In this case, however, the pastor felt he had no choice. It involved a married couple in which the husband began an affair and then left his wife. The wife tried to talk to husband, get counseling, brought trusted friends in to talk to her husband with her, but he refused to leave his mistress. They finally spoke with the pastor. The husband said that yes, he was indeed leaving his wife for another woman and that he knew it was a sin but did not care (This is also important because the pastor told us all that he was not an investigator If a person was not willing to admit what they were doing, he would not bring it before the church. He also wouldn’t bring it before the church if the person repented before it was brought to the church). It was after this that the matter was brought to the church congregation. The husband was told that it would be brought before the congregation, and even given an opportunity to come and speak if he wished (he declined). As a church, we voted as to what to do. We voted that the husband would not be a part of our church family and be under that discipline until such time that he repented. As far as I am aware, this man is still living in this sin and still under church discipline.
Now, without some amount of legal protection, this church could potentially face a lawsuit since these matters were made to the general public. The unfortunate reality is that these same protections are available to unhealthy and spiritually abusive churches. The question becomes, how do we take the loophole away from abusive churches while still protecting the healthy ones?
Just the fact that TWW is showing people what these covenant contracts are really for is going to make a few abusive churches squirm, I bet.
I went into a fit of the giggles at the “kum ba ya” comment.
The church covenant or discipline policy should lay out the specific sins that are to be considered grounds for discipline and what discipline will be applied to each. Second, it should not be in the hands of the pastor or his selected cronies to decide what gets brought to the church. An openly nominated and elected body should have that responsibility. It could be “elders” or “deacons” or a “discipline committee”, the the nominating and election process should be fully open and free and by the members, not the “leadership”. (BTW, I endorse open nominations and elections for all “leadership” positions, including a personnel committee and, when needed, a “pastor search committee”!!!)
The member joining should be asked to sign the discipline policy including a statement that they have read and understood the policy. The policy should not be changed absent a vote by 2/3 of the members attending a well-noticed meeting. The policy should detail steps for different levels of offense. For example, a child abuser should receive a shorter process before dismissal and a destructive gossip should have multiple opportunities to repent prior to dismissal. And gossip should be defined as spreading FALSE rumors about members, not merely complaining about some issue.
And, dismissal should be the ultimate punishment, not shunning (Jesus taught to love and witness to the tax collector, and recruited one as a disciple!). Discipline should stop with dismissal, so that a person no longer a member cannot continue to be “under discipline”.
All of this makes church discipline a difficult choice and a lot of work. That is why most churches do not practice it and those who do generally do it poorly!
“Today, my goal was to prove that church covenants, which I call contracts, were not primarily developed to insure that a new member pray for the church and be in loving community. This is not a “kum ba ya” moment, folks. It is serious. Contracts were chiefly established to protect the church from lawsuits. They were developed by lawyers and you can bet that they will be enforced.”
I used to wonder why the church discipline stuff became so important a few years back from these quarters. it hit the scene and it was all anyone was talking about in certain circles. Then I wondered why the word “covenant” became so popular in these circles and was bandied about in every convo.
The movement leaders were defining doctrine for us so we would sign a paper. Once you sign the paper, they own you and can even follow you to another church and claim you did not leave well. They become nipping dogs on your ankles. After all, you signed the paper agreeing with their tactics.
What is even funnier is I think they stole this idea from Rick Warren. I know long ago they had Saddleback members signing something similar.
@ An Attorney: Awesome thoughts.
@ JoeJoe: Please refer to An Attorney’s comment below yours. It isquite helpful.
The video of Tim, the restaurant owner, gives us a wonderful lesson.
Tim says, “I am a mean, mean hugging machine. We are a gift to the world.”
I wholeheartedly agree. Tim is a wise young man, a gift from God. He is teaching us all a lesson we should never forget.
Wish more pastors, elders, deacons & laity loved & served in & out of their churches like Tim loves on & serves people working & dining in his restaurant.
Tim is not deeply broken at all! He is free to love & serve others.
Some of these matters can be handled quietly by elders and church leadership. Do you really need to announce to a church of 5,000 that Fred needs to be kicked out because he is shacking up with his honey?
Smart churches will often ask a person to leave quietly and have his/her name removed from the membership roles. It would be hoped that those with the need to know would continue to followup with the person in the years to come, hoping to bring them back to the fold. I was in a church which followed this pattern for the issue that I mentioned. Eventually the man left his shack up, underwent counseling and eventually reunited with his wife. They both got up in church and told their remarkable story.
If said man had been shunned or made the subject of a church wide vote, I doubt if that would have happened.
“White man wants everything in writing, and that’s only so he can use it against you in court.”
— line of dialog from the Sixties movie “Billy Jack”(?)
Anon 1 wrote:
It’s all about POWER and CONTROL. Their boot, your face.
And “Covenant”? It’s one of those cool/spiritual-sounding synonyms for “Contract”. Again, their boot, your face, in writing so they can use it against you in court.
How do these churches differ from condo Homeowners’ Associations? I’ve seen petty dagger-and-poison politics, Third World kleptocracies, and Game of Thrones power struggles in Homeowner’s Associations. It’s all about POWER and CONTROL and “If I Can’t Get MY Way, Then NOBODY CAN!”
Just a thought concerning Matthew 18.
If you take out the verse numbers and ‘paragraph headings’ that were arbitrarirly added over 1,000 years after they were written, and read the whole chapter, a picture emerges that is not even about ‘church discipline’ but rather how to handle a situation as an individual believer who has been hurt or wronged by another individual believer.
It doesn’t tell the ‘church’ to discipline. It does not even address what the ‘church’ is to do. It says if the other person won’t even lisyen to what the church (not the institution or its leaders) says, then you, the individual believer, treat them like an unbeliever and a tax collector.
My two bits…
I went back and read out post Peacemaker or Kingmaker? Beware of "Covenants".
In that post we listed three interesting endorsements of Sande's The Peacemaker (see below).
“The Peacemaker is an indispensable tool for pastors. . . . There is no need for another book on the topic to be written now that this volume exists.” C.J. Mahaney, pastor, Covenant Life Church
“Here is wisdom both biblical and practical. You can tell it was written by a man who has lived out these principles as a lawyer in practice, and as a leader in his church. We are in debt.” Mark Dever, pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
“This generation of believers is called to authentic Christian peacemaking and reconciliation. Ken Sande shows the way in The Peacemaker. All pastors and Christian leaders should read this book.” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Those are red flags as far as I'm concerned.
I don’t think I would want to become a member of a church that would ask or expect me to sign one of those things.
Before becoming a visitor of this blog, I don’t think I would have realized just how abusive and controlling some churches can be. I used to think churches were places you could trust.
My Little Pony Ties
I interrupt this delightful comment thread to sent you to a Gospel Coalition article directed at the Time Magazine cover story on Americans choosing to be “child-free.”
Read the comments if you dare…
I’ve read a couple blog posts that respond to that article since the comments are well oozing vitriol. Here’s one of them:
Yeah, it was pretty clear that that thread was gonna go down the toilet as soon as someone said that couples who chose not to have children were the people “given up to depravity” in Romans 1:24 and that Christian couples should “unfetter their loins” and have children “for the salvation of their souls.” And then someone said childlessness was a form of homosexuality. You just can’t make this stuff up sometimes.
Also, per that thread about having kids: did anybody even know about the so-called “Cultural Mandate” or “Dominion Mandate” before, like, 1970? Or is this just some silly name they slapped on Genesis 1 because they’re all hiding Rushdoony and Van Til under their beds? (Kind of like Susan Foh’s reimagining of “your desire shall be for your husband” as usurpation of the husband’s authority – didn’t exist before the 70s and now everyone tries to pass it off as “the traditional view.”)
Back to the topic at hand. I was wondering if younger people or new believers are more susceptible to getting into contract churches because are less likely to think it is not “normal”.
Arg. I’m not good at this whole commenting thing yet. My “Back the the topic at hand” wasn’t supposed to be some passive aggressive jab at Hester but way to say that the topic of my comment had changed.
“Preppy: Blindsided In Da Pew ?”
Preppy La Pew?
“Get them (doze gullible folks) to sign the membership covenantal agreement, and they will fall for anything…” -501c religious non-profit rule # 2.
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Give a religious sucker a break?
Pastor So & So, mind if my lawyer lõõks this here legally binding document over?
(…da honeymoon is really over now!?!)
GaaaFul, Waffle, Awful!
T.H.A.N.X: keep da change?!?
Hold your breath, count to five,
Cover it up in bubblewrap!
Room shake, earthquake-
Find a way to stay awake…
It’s going to blow, it’s going to break…” **
(This faux religious 501c non-profit church membership thingy is more than I can take!) Whew!
I can’t do dis wacky church dance, how bout U?
(proverbial shot of Tequila, goes here, perhaps?)
I see the church world turning round, and round, turning my whole world – terribly upside down.
Why Oh! Why?
“Suddenly there was from Heaven a sound ‘like a mighty rushing wind’ and the whole of the place in which they were sitting was filled with it.”
…that’s more like it!
Give me steam!!!
** Peter Gabriel, “Steam”, lyrics written by Peter Gabriel; lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group. (parody adaptation, US Title 17 infringement unintended.)
Janey, Hester, Elizabeth: I couldn’t sleep and was delighted by the link to the sin of being child-free. For entertainment:
Blogger Kathleen Nielson writes:
“…we can’t help but see in America’s future the decline of Europe’s population and economy.” “….Americans’ growing childlessness threatens the stability of our whole economic system.” “…..it could result in the downfall of a civilization if widely applied.” “…only this perspective lets us see the worth of a woman.” “Children are God’s merciful means of growing his redeemed people, generation after generation, in all the nations of the world.” “…the childfree life does not take into account the Lord God who is coming again….In the new heaven and earth, there will be no marriage—and no having babies…,Until then, we’re in labor!”
And this from selected commenters:
Mandy: “… the family is reflective of God in Triunity, I recommend watching Focus on the Family’s Truth Project DVD series”
Ron Van Brenk:
“…this autonomy…is genetically hostile to God….these genophobes are hostile to true intimacy.”
Karen Butler: “God determines when the Earth is filled.” “….there is no Law against “child-free.” Probably because no biblical writer could conceive of such a connubial state, so perhaps this curious marital condition falls under the category of those to whom God has given up to depravity in Romans 1.” “You Christians who contemplate the connubial bliss of “child-free” — unfetter your loins, open your hearts, and bear children for the saving of your souls.” “…we all live pretty near the poverty line in a tiny house with one bathroom in a city notorious for evil, that has more dogs in it than little children. My eight children have survived all this trauma….how could I have neglected to mention that postpartum psychotic break of fifteen years ago — from which I am fully recovered?”
Johnny Appleton: “Calling it quits at two kids so you can enjoy life’s conveniences and great television is no different than the narcissists on TIME’s cover….And calling it quits after one for “health reasons”? Two words: Show Hope.” “…this is what separates us from the fallen world: a love of children, both biological and adoptive. The taboo needs to be broken, and pastors need to be encouraging families to break out of their secular malaise and raise up godly seed…”
Logan Oravetz: “The choice to not have Children for the sake of the gospel. I believe is best served in remaining single (1Cor7).”
Luke: “….society may change for the better over time as secularists die out (literally), while believers continue to reproduce and fill the earth.”
Alien & Stranger: “In the Bible, for a woman to be childless was considered to be a curse. It’s amazing how this has been turned on its head by self-centred, hedonistic liberalism….”
Anonymous: “When was last time your pastor asked for a show of hands of the married couples on the Pill (etc) or who are sterilized? The church has given the broader culture the absolute green light to go child-free (a form of homosexuality and SSM). This is the ultimate dividing line.”
And then, cherry on top, someone linked to my favorite awful Christian vid of all time, “Demographic Winter”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZeyYIsGdAA
Elizabeth Sullivan wrote:
I strongly warned my children against legalistic churches and para-church ministries. I got involved in an authoritarian university group when I was a student, and I know the dangers of controlling leaders + youthful idealism + wanting to live 100% for Jesus. I left the day the campus leader said that you could judge someone’s Christian growth by the number of Bible verses they’d memorized. I bailed out of leadership and never looked back.
If we stop acting Pollyanna-ish and start helping people know the difference between healthy Christianity and its unhealthy varieties, we won’t see such a mass exodus in the next generation. I’m thankful for the writings of Ron Enroth (Churches that Abuse) and Steve Arterburn (Toxic Faith). And blogs like this one are so important.
Patrice, Heather, Elizabeth — Guess what? Kathleen Nielson is part of the team that Crossway is using to focus on books for women.
Patrice posted (above) excerpts from the same comments that bothered me. I had to stop reading at Anonymous’s comment. Once you start the Quiverful argument, it’s all over. No one — not the church or the government — has the right to tell people whether and how many children to have.
Elizabeth — Thanks for the link to the Dianna Anderson article. Very interesting. I know a similar couple but they chose to have children. The wife get post-partum psychosis and it’s frightening. I’m still worried she’ll be headline news one day.
Some people use religion to bully and judge those who don’t make the same life decisions they do.
I am grateful for The Wartburg Watch. Having grown up in a patriarchal church with many of these undercurrents, I am happy to have a joyous faith apart from control freaks and legalists.
Off topic..but letting the ego out for a run today…it’s official .. say hello to Mensa’s newest member … been waiting a lifetime for this!!
(Just a warning, if you thought I was arrogant before…just wait LOL) 🙂 Only Kidding..really!
– Karl (A.K.A. Fendrel)
Congratulations, Karl/Fendrel. We’re proud of you!
Good grief. I wonder how long it will be before some church or advisory group decides that failure to produce as many children as possible is actually a sin that warrants church discipline. They might even do public denunciation of the offending person and excommunication for having only one or two children. Or worse yet, fail to “release” the offender from membership until a certain number of more children had been produced. Can you say “fertility cult?”
Oh goodness, surely they won’t go to the extremes that some of the fertility cults went in order to insure massive fertility. And then there would be the rebound against the seriously fertile, regardless of whether they might just be OK people not trying to bother anybody or enforce their choices on other people. Having a lot of kids can be a reasonable decision for some people after all. Slinging bad attitude is not a good decision for anybody.
And while we are quoting scripture don’t forget David and Michal, or Tamar and Judah. Or Onan who refused to do his brotherly duty of reproduction. They could even reason that widows should try to get pregnant by other family members like in OT times. People who abuse scripture could cite all kinds of scripture for all kinds of really bad ideas.
Nobody wins at this game. Especially in a time of the possibility of malignant church discipline.
Health reasons is not a good reason to stop having kids? Hmm. I think Johnny Appleton’s ideas are better summed up with these two words:
That’s quite an accomplishment, Karl! Good on you. 😀
This be can be devastatingly damaging to someone who cannot have children. And to suggest that salvation is linked to having or not having children is a slap in he face to Christ!
That child free stuff really disturbed me.
Don’t we have enough to work on without adding to the scripture?
And I 100% believe you can sin and be out of the will of God with a decision to have a child, even while married.
Funny how TGC allows comments on this one but not on their statement supporting Mahaney. I just hope TGC is practicing what they preach on this one. It could be like Al Mohler’s teaching in the past that people should marry young when his own children did not. Instead his daughter got a coveted job with our Senator in DC after college before she married. So his teaching did not apply to his own daughter. So, perhaps we should watch closely.
To An Attorney’s comment, those seem like pretty good suggestions. It may still take a little fleshing out I suppose at each individual church, but those are some good ideas.
As for the idea of church discipline and Matthew 18, it was mentioned to look at the context of that section of Matthew, and not simply the verse demarcations. I agree. Just prior to the section on what is typically seen as having to do with church discipline, Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus is concerned with the one who who is lost, the one who has gone astray, the one who needs help, the one who needs correction.
Jesus segways then into verse 15. In the NKJV, we see this segway with use of the word “moreover.” We can see then, through Jesus’ concern with restoring the sheep who has gone astray in the parable, and his phrase “you have gained a brother,” and the multiple levels of opportunity for repentance we see in verses 15-17, that the idea is for the person is repent and for them to be not merely forgiven but reconciled as well. Grace, multiple opportunities, and giving the benefit of the doubt are inherent in this process with a fellow believer sins against you. This is further supported a few verses later when Jesus answers to Peter’s question as to how many times do we forgive that we are to forgive “seventy times seven,” which is essentially saying, “we should always be willing to forgive.”
Going back the verses in question though (15 through 17). In verse 15, we see that Jesus is discussing what to do if a fellow believer sins against you. You try to work it out between just the two of you. If this does not resolve the problem, we see in verse 16 to bring in a couple of other people. The purpose for this we read is so tha “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” This is a direct reference to Deuteronomy 19:15.
The idea in verse 16 is two-fold. First, since we can see that working the matter out amongst just the individuals involved did not work, bringing in a small group of others could. They can give a third-party and objective perspective. Again, the idea is to help this person see that they are sinning and to bring them into repentance and reconciliation. The other purpose of brining in the third party, as seen from referencing Deuteronomy, is to help establish facts as much as possible. It is ideally to help protect against false accusations and to avoid a “he said, he said” situation.
We have seen the beginning of the establishment of an escalating pattern in verses 15 and 16. In the matter of one believer sinning against another, you try to work it out amongst yourselves. If that fails, you get a small group of other people involved. If the person is still unrepentant, making no effort even to hide their sin, we see a further escalation in verse 17 where it says, “And if he refuses to hear them (the two or three witnesses), tell it to the church.” Here we see the Biblical support for bringing up what once was a private issue to the church. The matter had already been kept to a small group of people. The verses show a progression, with the last step being to “tell it to the church,” referring to the local church body. The idea is still to help the person who sinned to see what they did was wrong and for them to repent and for relationships to be restored. If the person is still unrepentant, then we see the consequence. They are to be treated as a “heathen and a tax collector.” They are no longer considered a part of the local church body. The fellowship is broken, not because of this discipline, but because of the willful, unrepentant sin of the believer. Should the person at some point repent of that sin, the acknowledgment of being a part of that local body can and should be restored.
Now, while verses 15-17 lay out this process in just three steps, from the verses following, it would make sense that multiple opportunities are given, time is taken to work things out, and taking the issue before the church is a last resort. One thing that I have heard some people say is that taking the issue to the pastor or elders is not seen in this section, and that doing so is adding something in that the Bible has not said we should do. Verse 17 though seems to pretty clearly state that issues could potentially be brought before the church. Who is to decide if an issue is to be brought before the church? The pastor and elders are charged with caring for the local church body, including those who have been accused of wrong doing. Without this bit of oversight, anybody could bring forth any issue in front of the whole church. The pastors/elders ideally would have the grace and wisdom to see when this is the proper thing to do and when it is not.
As I mentioned in my earlier comment, my former pastor said that he had numerous times had issues brought to him where people practically demanded for the issue to be brought before the church, and the pastor refused to do so for various reasons, thus protecting the accused. In the real life example I gave, the husband had an affair and left his wife, making no secret of it, even saying that he knew it was wrong but that he was fine with it, because that was what he wanted to do. The issue was handled privately, then with a small group, and when the husband did meet with our pastor, he still said he knew it was sin but did not care. That is when the pastor and those involved decided to bring it to the church, per Matthew 18:17, where the church decided (not merely the pastor) that this husband was willfully unrepentant of this continual lifestyle of sin, even though he ackwoledged that it was indeed sin; and as such this person could, until such time of repentance, no longer be considered a part of our local church body.
Now, without the type of protection that An Attorney spoke of in his comment, if this person were to suddenly bear a grudge and decide to become beligerant, they could potentially try to file a lawsuit since the pastor brought this matter up to the church, which as I read, is permissable per Jesus in Matthew 18:17, assuming following verses 15 and 16 failed. The matter was brought up to the church because all other measures to restore a straying brother failed. One purpose for the local church body is to help hold individuals (including pastors and elders) accountable. With some issues, if they go far enough, Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:17 that the church as a whole should strive to bring the straying brother back. The one who sinned shouldn’t be shunned, but it should be clear that the whole church acknowledges that the person is in sin and needs to return. It is all about restoring relationships. (*Please note that all of this assumes a healthy, non-abusive church. Unhealthy churches do abuse this system and hurt people, and that is wrong; but this does not mean that the system itself is bad.*)
All these are just lotsa wordy ways of saying “OUTBREED THE HEATHEN”.
And it’s straight out of Darwin. “Survival of the Fittest” actually refers to relative reproductive success over time.
Jeannette Altes wrote:
It’s a logical next step from Salvation by Marriage Alone.
I kept wanting to ask Karen Butler how old her kids were. They all “survived”? Is the eldest, like, eight? (Though if you read between the lines it sounded like the eldest was a teen.) Sometimes the kids end up with a very different perspective than the parents think they will…20/20 hindsight and all that. Her distinction between “childless” and “childfree” was also pretty untenable and annoying.
@ Jeannette Altes:
Amen! And to suggest adoption as THE solution is almost as outrageous.
JoeJoe, What “church” was Jesus talking about in Matthew 18? The synagogues?
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
And are all these quiverfull children the “elect ” ?
So…basically the proper “Christian” attitude towards childless couples is either to feel sorry for them because they haven’t been bestowed the highest honor of parenthood, or judgmental towards them because of their assumed sinful choices.
As a married, childless person, the hardest part in this is trying to maintain some privacy. I shouldn’t feel a need to spill the beans about our infertility just so people “don’t get the wrong idea.” The reason WHY we don’t have children is between me, my husband, and God…and anyone else at our discretion. Ugh.
@ Janey & Patrice:
Here’s my thoughts on that whole thread. Two lines of argument were used per people who are childless by choice (as opposed to infertility, etc.). They aren’t usually stated this baldly but these are the two basic arguments that discussion always boils down to.
1. Children are a blessing and you can’t possibly have too much blessing from God!
2. Children are a blessing and who are you to refuse God’s blessing?
Which of God’s other blessings are we allowed to pursue without thought of stewardship or the consequences (i.e., the way Christians are often told to pursue the blessing of children)? Food? Wealth? Sex?
Heedless pursuit of food is called gluttony. Heedless pursuit of wealth is called avarice. Heedless pursuit of sex is called lechery/lasciviousness. So is heedless pursuit of children called…Quiverfull?
And per the “have faith” comeback? How about this discussion:
Pastor Bob: “You know, Fred, you really shouldn’t be eating pizza and donuts every day. They’re fine once in a while, but you’ll give yourself heart disease and diabetes if you have them too often. God wants you to take care of your body.”
Fred: “Pastor Bob, you don’t have enough faith! Food is a blessing from God, and pizza and donuts are food, aren’t they? You can never have too much of God’s blessing! God won’t let me get heart disease and diabetes while I’m pursuing His blessing!”
Pastor Bob: … :-O
The logic is that choosing not to have children (esp. so you can serve in some way) is refusal of God’s gift for “selfish” purposes and this is inappropriate. However, sex is also a gift from God, and Paul chose to refuse this gift so he could better serve God. In fact the Bible regards it as a very good thing (maybe even a superior thing) to pass up this gift to focus on God. So logically, according to their own rules, Paul was selfish and should not have refused God’s gift of sex, and not only was he selfish but he encouraged others to be selfish as well right in the canon of Scripture. A vow of poverty would also fall into this category (passing up on God’s gift of money/possessions).
In other words, if you feel called to pass up on certain blessings from God, that’s okay. Nothing in the Bible condemns it at all, and in fact it’s held up as a pretty noble thing in most cases. Children aren’t some sort of super-uber-blessing that no one’s allowed to say “no” to.
Well, accordint to Strong’s (which is what I have available to me right now online from blueletterbible.org), the word used for church in Matthew 18:17 is ekklesia. The word is used for church 115 time in the New testament, and from a very quick perusing, seems to generally indicate the Christian church. Here are the definitions I found on blueletterbible.org:
) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
b) the assembly of the Israelites
c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
d) in a Christian sense
1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
2) a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven
So it appears that Jesus is referring to a local body of believers. Since Jesus had not died and risen yet and there was not yet any Christian church, I would think this could have two meanings. First, Jesus was likely referring to how it should be handled even then amongst the Jews that go to synagogue. Remember too that Matthew was written after Jesus was raised, so it would not be out of the question that Matthew understood Jesus to be speaking also of his church (Christians) in the future.
@ KarltonGeorge: I always knew you were smart.
About the adoption thing. The “gospel” people are not all on the same page of the songbook on adoption. There is a push for infertile couples (and others maybe) to adopt. However, Russell Moore who had personal experience with infertility, adoption and biological parenthood, in his book “Adopted” is clear that adoption is not for everybody. By inference, then, it would leave some couples married without children.
I think statistics show that infertility is a huge stress in a marriage which includes an increased risk of divorce. People should be very careful in trying to interfere in marriages under such stress.
Personal: my daughter and her husband adopted two children by way of international adoption, and then the marriage dissolved. She and the children live with me. I would not trade those children for anything in this world. My daughter would not have wanted to live her life without children, even though she is a teacher and works with young people professionally. I had children by choice, even though I had a satisfying career also. We can cope with “issues” at this house. But, Dr. Moore is right that it is not for everybody. We do not advise or dissuade people from adopting. Nor do we criticize people for having or not having children. Nor for being married or not. Aside: we are now (at least at this house) a multi-generational, all female, bi-racial family, and I would never dare set foot in Mr. Stetzer’s church. Obviously because he cannot deal with “issues.”
Listen, Mr. S: people become “issue-people” because the issues are personal. You are not listening to people with your heart.
Is that the “Outbreed the Muslims” one?
Congratulations! I’ve enjoyed our interactions here at TWW and I expect, since we still have fundamental differences of opinion/faith/fact, there will be more.
Hester — Lots of good insights. You’ve got a good sense of humor, too. Keep it up.
Love the one about the Apostle Paul who should have remarried to enjoy God’s blessing of sex to its maximum (and probably children too).
In my current church, I have seen disfellowship practiced once, and it was done through an announcement in the bulletin, not announced from the pulpit. They did also do a public warning (I don’t know if it was about the same people), but I only remember that happening once. And this was many, many years ago.
In the church I attended in college, I remember at least three disfellowships announced publicly; and after I left, I heard of several more for “divisiveness”.
To me, the biggest issue with all of this child stuff is the lack of compassion on the children themselves. Some people just aren’t that great with children. Why would you want to bring a child into that? Why would you want to take a couple and limit their resources and risking bitterness against their children by encouraging them into something they don’t feel led to do?
If I knew a couple that had any hesitancy AT ALL about having children, I would be advising them against it.
And yes, I have a personal issue with this, because I was unsure myself about having children with they way my wife was behaving, but the pastor I went to encouraged me to do it in faith. I did, and I am SO GLAD I did because my son is wonderful, but it’s not right that we brought him into the world only to be raised by a single father who cannot meet all of his needs.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
In Steve Farrar’s Point Man, he flat out said that any couple who could have children and didn’t was selfish.
In the LaHaye’s The Act of Marriage, they said that not having kids excluded a potential child from salvation.
My response to the above: How in the heck do you know that any “potential child” will become a Christian?
Thanks for these caveats, that church covenants are designed to protect the organization more than the people in its care. I’ve never seen one or been asked to sign one, but if that ever happens, I’ll know what to do: Take it to a lawyer first, and find out what I’d be signing away. And if the pastor/elder/whoever won’t let me, RUN!
Janey: Gee, thanks. I spent the better part of an hour going down that rabbit hole. 😉 Even tried leaving a few comments of my own — we’ll see whether they survive moderation.
KarltonGeorge: And there was much rejoicing. (Yaay! Yaaaaay!)
I strongly warned my children against legalistic churches and para-church ministries. I got involved in an authoritarian university group when I was a student, and I know the dangers of controlling leaders + youthful idealism + wanting to live 100% for Jesus. I left the day the campus leader said that you could judge someone’s Christian growth by the number of Bible verses they’d memorized. I bailed out of leadership and never looked back.
If we stop acting Pollyanna-ish and start helping people know the difference between healthy Christianity and its unhealthy varieties, we won’t see such a mass exodus in the next generation. I’m thankful for the writings of Ron Enroth (Churches that Abuse) and Steve Arterburn (Toxic Faith). And blogs like this one are so important.
You can tell a person’s spirituality by the number of Bible verses they’d memorized?? The reply I want to give would probably be censored here! 🙂
I was part of a group in college that determined people’s spirituality by the number of people they’d converted, whether or not they were in leadership, and/or whether or not they were in full-time ministry.
One church that we attended (Acts 29) decided to make all members sign a “covenant.” It included all kinds of things – that we would attend services, attend small groups, submit to church discipline, etc. I questioned some of the items included and was rebuked. I responded by pointing out that the document was man-made, not inspired, and so should be open to critique. The elders agreed that it wasn’t inspired, but it was “the best we can do under the circumstances.”
My biggest problem with it (and with other covenants like it) is the vagueness and ambiguity. I completely agree with Dee in the post above when she says that the specific sins that will be disciplined, and how they will be disciplined, need to be included in documents like these.
I don’t think they ever will be included, however, because these documents are intentionally being used to go beyond the authority given in Scripture to church leaders. As I’ve said in other comments here on TWW, church discipline is only invoked in the NT in cases of severe unrepentant sin and in cases of blatantly spreading heresy related to (a) Christology and (b) soteriology.
Paul’s letter to Philemon is a great example of a church leader handling a difficult situation with love, care, and gentleness. Paul refrains from ordering Philemon to take any specific course of action regarding Onesimus, even though he admits that he could (probably by invoking the law of the runaway slave in Deut. 23:15-16). Rather, Paul wants Philemon to WANT to want to do the right thing, and he *trusts the Holy Spirit* to work in Philemon, even while making it clear what he (Paul) would prefer (for Philemon to free Onesimus and to send him back to Paul).
My personal experience with the authoritarian, heavy-handed, control-obsessed Acts 29 church we went to was that almost all of the problems arose from fear. It did not seem like they were able to fully rest in the fact that Jesus is the true head of his church (and responsible for building it) and it did not seem like they trusted the Holy Spirit to be at work in lives of the individual members of the congregation. They felt like they had to micromanage everyone’s lives and thoughts as though they could singlehandedly eradicate sin and protect against heresy.
Jeff S wrote:
Single parents do much better than the media gives them credit. I strongly recommend you read the book by Dr. DePaulo on the myths of singleness, Singled Out.
One of the worst myths that both the church and secular society love to tout is that single parents are condemned to have significantly worse children than two-parent families.
The truth is that substance abuse for children 12-17 in a married-parent household is 4.7%. In a single mother household, it’s 5.3% That’s one extra kid per 200 minor children. That hardly constitutes a statistically significant disaster.
yeah, that child-FREE / childLESS article. it’s amazing, Kathleen Nielsen and Karen Butler look normal… but their minds are as swirly as a psychedelic fabric pattern from 1969.
The Gospel Coalition did this on purpose??
Yes, if you really want to look like your website serves bizarre fertility worshiping cultists, this was a great article. It makes them all look completely out of touch.
Did you see the comment from James, basically saying if you don’t want children you shouldn’t have sex? http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/08/08/the-problem-with-the-childfree-life/?comments#comment-88905
What a bully Karen Butler is! She’s obviously young and idealistic. I was very much like her at that age. (I apologize to the cyberworld for that era in my life.) Thank God someone showed me the difference between worshiping Church-ianity and worshiping Jesus.
It’s good to see what the Gospel Coalition really thinks about women. It will be amusing to see their attempt to publish books for women.
My point, exactly.
This is why I wrote this post.
@ Janey: She’s also off basis in Scripture. Did you see the recent comment by Nell? Dead on.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
You are so on the money!
My purpose was to show that a covenant that allows church discipline is very hard work, takes much time and energy, and needs a number of features to prevent abuse of the provision. Few churches have the time and ability to devote to creating an effective discipline process that includes due process safeguards.
And, instead of suing the church, sue the pastor if he has control of the process and uses it against you. The church is protected by some of these covenants, but many do not protect the protagonist in the pulpit.
Re: “Authority given to leaders in scripture”
The only authority given to leaders in the Bible is a moral authority, earned by the evidence of their lives, their maturity (hence “elder”) and their Christian witness. It is not a positional or structural authority. Paul had authority because of his sufferings for the Gospel, but that authority was as one among equals pointing out the errors of ways and the path to a life “in Christ”.
An Attorney wrote:
“The Gospel Coalition did this on purpose??
“Yes, if you really want to look like your website serves bizarre fertility worshiping cultists, this was a great article. It makes them all look completely out of touch.”
Christopher Guest, there’s material gaLORE here for your next film! it will write itself. The easiest and funniest thing you will have ever done.
I agree, but it still hurts my heart when he asks for his mommy and she isn’t there.
My point wasn’t so much about how well single parents can do, but more about the wisdom of thinking that every marriage is a good one to bring children into.
Thanks JoeJoe. I asked the question because in the context of Matt 18 it can be confusing as Pentecost had not happened. The teaching really begins in verse 1 of that chapter which has a larger theme. Where was Jesus? Who was He talking to? I really think Matt 18 is totally abused and misused and not the cure all process everyone thinks it is. In fact, our Christian caste system in most churches make it impossible to confront a brother one on one when the “brother” is a pastor or leader in the institution.
Anon 1 wrote:
You are so right on this one!
Let me ask you a question. Do you really think that a church with 5 satellites is a local church? In the days of Jesus, the local body was small. They lived together in small towns and saw each other on a regular basis. They knew the families and had relationships with them.
When someone was involved in an over the top sin, everybody in town knew about it. The members of the small local body would be encouraged to reach out to the individual. It was kept within a closed system.
Today, if one announced a sin to the whole body, one would be talking about thousands of people, most of whom do not know the offender from Adam. There is NO relationship. Heck, most people have no idea who is and isn’t a member of the church.
Frankly, I think it is wrong to announce a person’s sin and their punishment to a group of thousands, none of whom know the offender. Such an announcement is tantamount to publishing it in People Magazine.
The idea behind the shunning and kicking them out of the church was to cause those who knew and loved the person to apply some pressure. Today’s megachurches neither know or care for the individual beyond a small group of people. The problems and solutions should be relegated to that small group of caring, loving individuals.
Jeff S wrote:
Yes, that’s heartbreaking. It’s hard for us to watch them in such pain. Mine are older now and understand, but those early years were tough.
This is sort of a common belief in churches, or denominations, aberrant groups, or among some individual Christians, who have made marriage and nuclear family into an idol.
Not only are some Christian groups saying that having children is mandatory (and to not have them is sinful), but some teach the same thing about marriage: that being single is a sin, and being married (and some add being married young) is a biblical command (when in fact the Bible teaches it is a personal choice).
These types of Christians are actually trying to reestablish Old Testament lifestyles and norms, where the nation/ faith was often increased by having biological heirs. Women back then had to depend on a male family member (or spouse), or else go into prostitution to support themselves.
Jesus sought to do away with all that. Your status as a Christian is not dependent on being married or having children or having male relatives.
The kingdom is supposed to increase by Christians sharing the Good News with unbelievers they are probably not related to.
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
– Jesus Christ
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” -Jesus Christ
See? you don’t literally have to be married and literally biologically procreate to be a mother, son, father.
The key point is knowing Jesus.
You’re in His family if you know Him. To teach otherwise is to make marriage/family into an idol and to exclude people who are unable to marry and have kids (such as infertile people, etc).
Anon 1 wrote:
I completely agree with you. While I do think it is permissible for a church to use the structure laid out in Matthew 18, and that it is in general a good thing, it is not a magic cure. There are still people involved. Things still have to be discussed and hashed out. It still has to be done in a gracious, merciful, loving way. Sometimes it takes time too, a lot of time. Dismissal from the local church body should, in my oppinion, be reserved for willfull acknowledgement of grievious unrepentant sin. Different churches may have some differences in what they see as grievious, but I will leave that to those individual churches. I would think things like minor theological differences (being post-millenial vs. pre-millenial for example), not attending service every Sunday, and bringing up genuine concerns are NOT issues to be brought up for church discipline.
I also agree that in too many churches these same standards are not held to the pastor. This is an abuse of position and is wrong. I don’t see pastors and elders being excluded from Matthew 18. Same rules apply, shouldn’t be for minor issues, should be discussed in private and with a small group first (when possible), may take some time, and requires grace and love.
People who are making personal choice issues into Biblical commands that they say all must follow also often ignore Bible verses which totally contradict their views, such as Christians who say being single is sinful (yes, there are such Christians who have taught this), or that not having kids is a sin, they always ignore, or try to explain away, verses such as:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
“You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” -Jesus Christ
1 Corinthians 7
Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.
Okay, smart guy, but be careful that you don’t do stuff like this:
School For the Gifted (The Far Side) 😆
I can see to an extent what you are saying. First, in the specific case of a church with multiple campuses, should a situation arise where church discipline is involved, I would think that only the campus where the person attends regularly should be involved. That is the local community the person is involved. A seperate campus, while affiliated with the original church, is at the same time its own local church body.
The early church did start out small, but it also grew quickly. Matthew 18 doesn’t seem to differentiate between a small local church and a larger local church. Also, the idea of having a smaller group of people intervene seems to fall in line with verse 16. Verse 17 seems to fall in line with a larger group, as it is addressed to the “church” i.e., the assembly of Christians, with no mention of the size of that group. Now, I don’t think it is wrong the way you suggest handling it, but I think it is also a bit of a leap to call it wrong for the greater church body to hear about it should the need arise, when that is what it appears Matthew 18:17 is saying. Look at it this way as well, it is (assuming again that we are talking about a healthy, non-abusive church) another check against unfair or false accusations. A small group of people are still capable of railroading an individual. Bringing it before the church body, and not leaving the decission up to the small group of people is a way to make sure that there is agreement. If there is a group of people that see things differently, but perhaps aren’t AS close to the individuals involved, they have the opportunity to say what they see. If the whole church is in agreement that the person is in sin and in need of repentance and restoration, then you have the weight of knowing that you are in disagreement not with a few individuals, but the church on the whole (can’t stress enough, mere disagreements alone should not be subject to church discipline).
Also, where then should we draw the line as to when a church is too big to bring an issue before the whole church? Is 50 too many? What about 100? What if there is a church of 300 people (which could be considered a small church by some accounts, and a medium sized church by others) and a majority of the families know most of the other families pretty well. Some they know better than others, sure, but they would be friends with with most of the other families. What if an issue requiring church discipline occured? Certainly, this church is MUCH larger than most of the smaller churches in ancient times, but it is still a local church nonetheless.
@ Jeannette Altes:
You also have people who fall in-between the cracks on these topics, such as myself. I’m not totally childless, nor totally childfree in outlook.
I was never crazy about the idea of having children for myself, one reason is that I’ve never been comfortable around other people’s kids or babies, even when I was a kid myself. So I was basically okay with the idea of never having children.
Secondly, I was always a big time believer in marriage first, and only then do you have a kid – with your spouse.
I find myself in my early 40s, still not married.
Had I married, I was somewhat open to the idea of having a kid (with a spouse), but, even though I looked, tried dating sites, and took Christian advice to pray and trust God for a husband, I never got a husband.
It’s very insulting to read these insufferable blog pages at other blogs saying (or implying) I am selfish, a failure, a freak, narcissitic, I am sinning, all because I’m still single and/or childless.
Also, according to these extreme ‘pro-have kids’ people, I’m single-handedly responsible and the cause for the ruin of American society, too. 🙄
There is also a large number of single Christian women in their 30s and my age who had hoped to marry, but it is not happening.
In proper Christian teaching, you save 5ex for marriage. You have to get a hubby first before you can pro-create.
Are these pro-having kids/ fertility cult type people at these blogs advising that I start having 5ex outside of marriage now, so that I can have a baby while unmarried?
IMO, before having a kid, I have to get a husband first, and I have no idea how to get one.
I already tried “eHarmony” dating site and asking friends to set me up on dates. There are no unmarried men my age at churches.
Lots of other Christian ladies are in my situation, they cannot even get a husband, never mind not having a kid. You have to solve the lack- of- eligible- Christian- single men problem first, and then worry if the ladies are not having kids, at the very least (if you insist on worrying about this).
“but I think it is also a bit of a leap to call it wrong for the greater church body to hear about it should the need arise,….
Also, where then should we draw the line as to when a church is too big to bring an issue before the whole church? Is 50 too many? What about 100? What if there is a church of 300 people …What if an issue requiring church discipline occured? Certainly, this church is MUCH larger than most of the smaller churches in ancient times, but it is still a local church nonetheless.
joejoe, what you are describing sounds to me like a great opportunity to ruin a career and a reputation. Basically greatly hinder, if not make impossible, the prospect of doing business and having good relationships in his or her home community. A crime being committed is one thing. But “church discipline” and this “if a brother offends…” thing can extend to all sorts of relatively benign things.
That’s like on a thread from a few days ago, Deb and Dee posted a comment by a gender complementarian that a young women should learn to submit, while single, to her future husband.
Do these guys who write this stuff own time machines and are capable of feats the rest of us mortals are not?
“not having kids excluded a potential child from salvation”
Also, as I’ve said before, the New Testament says God’s family is grown through conversion, not by pro-creation. Pro-creation was Old Testament.
New Testament says go tell your atheist or pagan neighbor about Jesus.
Jesus wants you to try and get the atheist guy down the street to accept Him as Savior, and then, the atheist guy will become a son or daughter of God and your brother/sister in Christ.
It’s also true that sometimes kids raised in Christian families end up becoming atheists. I’ve known a few. I’ve also known a few that became Wiccan or NeoPagan, despite having been raised by Christians.
Having two parents is also not a guarantee of great kids/parenting. I don’t think some Christians understand this.
I had two parents. One was away a lot due to job related requirements at times, but even when at home, he was not a “hands on” parent.
My father left most of the parenting up to Mom.
When my father did bother to address my siblings and me, it was almost always to make a critical, cutting remark.
So technically, while I had the Christian coveted ‘Beaver Cleaver’ family in structure, my Mom did most parenting, and she was also loving.
My dad preferred to watch TV when home and if I went to him as a child, he would blow me off, tell me he wanted to watch TV not read me a story or spend time with me.
I had a dad physically there, but emotionally, he was largely absent.
You can have both parents around, but that is no guarantee that both are there emotionally for the child.
I left a few comments on their page. One of them, the one at the bottom, was published. The other ones were sitting in moderation the last I looked.
I started reading the comments at the bottom and worked my way up.
I did not feel like reading them all the way to the top. Maybe I will some day, but I’m not in the mood today.
As I understand it, church discipline should not ever be applied to relatively benign things. Matthew 18:17 does say to bring the issue to the church (assuming what is described in verses 15 and 16 fail). These are the words of Jesus. The idea was not to ruin a person’s career, but to bring them into repentance. How do you explain Jesus’ instructions for dealing with an unrepentant sinning fellow believer in your church? Going back to Dee’s idea of only involving a smaller group of people, which I will agree seems like a reasonable idea, would still probably involve more than just a few people. Let’s assume that a church has a team of 5 pastors, as well as 10 elders/deacons. Let’s assume also that there are 5 couples that are very close to the individual who is potentially being put under church discipline, and another 5 individuals. From what I understood Dee to be saying, these would be the people that Matthew 18 would be saying need to be pressuring the individual to repent (not sure if pressuring is the right word, but it’s what comes to mind). So that is 5 + 10 + (5×2) + 5 = 30 people. That is no very small group of people. What if this person is very extraverted, charismatic, and personable and there are actually 15 couples and 10 individuals. This jumps the number up to 45. Would this be too large of a number of people involved? What if there are 300 total people in the church. This is 15% of the total church membership, again, not a really small group.
To try to make extra clear, I am not talking about “little secret sins.” I am speaking of issues in which the individual is not ashamed of what they are doing. They are essentially making their sin public knowledge themselves. In the case I spoke of earlier, the husband was not ashamed to say that he was having an affair. He left his wife. Sure, if you didn’t know this couple you may be learning of it for the first time when the discipline is discussed, but it is still readily knowable information. So it isn’t the church that is tarnishing the person’s reputation, it is the individual themselves. They are responsible for their own actions.
Somebody needs to get him that T shirt. 😆
Christian television host Pat Robertson, as I mentioned on an old thread here, point blank phrased it that way in a segment on his 700 Club show about the decline of the American birth rate.
Robertson said he was worried about the Muslims having more children than Americans/ Christians, and he said that Christians should ‘out breed their opponents.’
His show had just interviewed author Jonathan V. Last who wrote a book about declining American birth rates when Robertson made these comments.
Oddly, though, on another episode of the show, Robertson doesn’t think people should adopt children because adopted kids “have issues.”
Robertson actually said that?? They are the ones that need the most help! Who better to show them the love of Christ than a loving Christian parent? I don’t suppose you know when he said it do you?
Don’t have much to say about the covenant issue which isn’t reiterated here, but I want to emphasize that here in the USA, being a member of a church is VOLUNTARY. You can walk out and leave and the church HAS TO accept your departure. From the moment you say, nope, not a member, the church can’t do anything to you. Lots of former Mormons have used the send a resignation letter and walk away method to get out from underneath oppressive religious structures AND save their family relationships. (Resigning is a heck of a lot better than being excommunicated in many families!)
That said, the Gospel Coalition nonsense about the “child-free life”–those people, oops MEN, can just get the **** out of my life! Seriously, I think I made the best choice by not having children. I got introduced to the joys of paranoid schizophrenia in my family as a small child and when it became clear to me as a young woman I had chronic depression, I didn’t want to inflict my ability to barely cope myself on any possible children. I think that’s responsible behavior!
Frankly, I think these guys really do believe women are only saved in childbirth. And they also think women must to be imprisoned by having children whether we want to or not, because that is our lot in life. And, finally, shackled to the home, because we had the misfortune to be born with two X chromosomes. No Thanks!
Yep, he did. It’s on You Tube if you’d like to watch.
Pat Robertson’s Advice: Don’t Adopt Children
I’ve not yet been able to find an online clip of Robertson uttering the “Christians/Americans need to out breed their opponents” comment, but he did that too.
He used the term “outbreed.” I’m not putting words into his mouth, that was his choice of term.
Another weird thing about that is that Robertson’s long time, regular co-host, Terry Meuswen (however her name is spelled) is a huge advocate of adoption and has adopted a few kids herself.
Many of Robertson’s other nuggets can be found on You Tube.
@ elastigirl: you should write to him with links!
Southwestern Discomfort wrote:
Sadly it’s not just men. There are women, sometimes Non Christian women, who feel this way.
The Gospel Coaltion page that was linked to on here that is critical of Child free was written by a Christian woman.
When Time magazine, CNN, or other sites, run stories on being Child Free, you will see women (both Christian and Non Christian) who leave nasty comments about CF in their comments, not just males.
You don’t generally see CF men get picked on, it’s usually only CF women. CF men are usually don’t get scrutinized for opting out of parenthood.
People don’t seem to stereotype, or bad mouth, men who don’t want to be fathers, but if you are a woman who doesn’t want to have kids for whatever reason, people act like that is freaky or wrong.
@ elastigirl: Preach it, sister!
Railroaded, shunned and booted (and for no real reason)
I saw this and thought it kind of fit in with the church contract topic:
Why Some Preachers Have Oversized Egos. What to do About It.
@ JoeJoe: This sounds more like a private club than a church structure to me.
One thing that the evangelical/charismatic authoritarians do is treat adults like children who need to be minded by a VERY stern nanny.
I am SO glad to be out of the tyrannous Nanny State, believe me!
@ numo: A very unpleasant kind of private club at that…
“She’s obviously young and idealistic. I was very much like her at that age.”
I’m not sure how young she is because she mentioned having a “psychotic break” or something similar fifteen years earlier, maybe after the birth of her first child (?). This of course depends on one’s definition of “young” too. Personally I got an early 40s vibe off her but it’s all guesswork to some extent.
…and then share videos on their FBs decrying the political “nanny state.” LOL
Pat Robertson – the gift that keeps on giving.
True, the article was written by a woman, but the Gospel Coalition site is run by men and these men decide what’s important and need to be emphasized. Hence, an article excoriating the childfree.
As for the hits on childfree women, yep, as a woman I totally understand what you’re saying. I just dare them to say that nonsense to my face, because, to be blunt, it’s my life, not theirs.
I consider myself to be agnostic on the religious front these days, but you know, I reflect occasionally on female role models like Lydia of Thyatira, who was the head of her household–but it’s not mentioned whether she was married and had kids. Instead, what we know about her is that she was a seller of purple cloth and a Godfearer. She was praised for being a believer and her life (that of being a merchant) was not put down in the Acts of the Apostles. She wasn’t described as being out of God’s will because she was a merchant and, for all we know, may not have been married or had children (neither are mentioned). The Gospel Coalition people are taking Lydia of Thyatira away from us.
To be clear, I don’t believe church discipline is to involve railroading and complete shunning, and members should never be dismissed for no real reason. Doing any of these things is wrong, and I don’t believe a biblical case can be made for them. There are potentially times when a person would need to be asked to leave a church and not return until they repent. Let’s say for example that you have a person who is spreading lies about another individual. The victim confronts the liar, and the liar repents. The issue ends there. Let’s say the liar doesn’t repent, but doesn’t openly admit to it either. Perhaps the victim should get a couple people involved that can straighten stories out and get to the bottom of what is going on and discover that the liar really is lying. The liar finally fesses up, repents, and the issue is resolved (may take some time for trust to be reestablished, but the relationship moves in that direction). Now let’s suppose that the liar again admits to telling these stories, but doesn’t repent. She blows it off, and continues to tell these lies. These lies are being told to other members of the congregation. They are starting to damage the reputation of the victim. Nothing has worked so far, so the issue is brought before a group of people that will decide if the issue should be brought before the church. The liar, again, does not repent. There is no, “oh, I was mistaken, my bad” or “I appologize.” The person is unrepentant. Something like this, telling lies about an individual, can easily spread throughout the church, and should be rectified. If the liar doesn’t do it, then the pastor should seek to help protect the victim of the lies, not knowing who all has been affected by them. The issue is brought before the church (with the liar given the chance to speak if they so wish). If the liar repents, then again, the issue is resolved (again, it will take time for trust to really be built back up). If the person is still unrepentant, they are dismissed. I think the key here is continual, willful, unrepentant, grievious sin. When it comes to issues of genuine sin, most Christians, when confronted, will repent. Very rarely should an issue even get to the point of bringing it to the church.
@ Southwestern Discomfort:
I’m sort of the same. I’m in between being a Christian and being agnostic. I became a Christian at a young age, but due to several things in the last couple of years, I began having doubts about the faith.
I was unsure about having children.
If I did have one, I wanted it to be after marriage, but I never got married. I had wanted to be married. So the articles by Christians bashing childless/ childfree/ and never married adults bothers me.
One would think that having a psychotic break would make you more sensitive to this topic, not less. But some of the most obnoxious Christians I know go on the attack to cover their own weaknesses.
Serving Kids in Japan (formerly “Serving in Japan”) wrote:
Way to go! I hope you make it through moderation. I liked Anon 1’s comment about how TGC has fairly loose moderation for women’s topics, but not when it comes to C.J. Mahaney.
Daisy — After a while there’s only so much of nastiness and nuttiness you can take. I had to stop after a while too.
I can’t deny that there are churches who abuse this concept. It is sad but true. Jesus still laid out a process for how to deal with an unrepentant fellow believer who has sinned against you though. The idea is not to police people’s behaviors (ESPECIALLY behaviors that are neutral in the Bible). If a fellow believer has sinned against you though (and we are not assuming a small one time event, but a continuation of them wronging you), would you not want them to repent of the sin that they are committing? Matthew 18 seems to lay out the genearl guideline for how to do that. Matthew 18:17 seems to say that the final step (and I think absolute final step after exhausting all other options to rectify the issue) is to bring it before the church. Now, Dee’s idea for involving only those close to the individual and asking them to quietly leave the church seems reasonable in some instances, and I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Perhaps that is one thing that could be done before or in lieu of bringing the issue to the whole church. The argument could still be made though that in a last resort, the issue should be brought before the whole church, as that is what verse 17 does say, “tell it to the church.”
If a person is truly unrepentant, they are showing they really do not wish to be a part of a local church body. Sure, they may want the social benefits, but that is not what church is realy about. The gathering of believers is for worshiping God together in joint fellowship and being equipped to do God’s works. A truly UN-repentant person has shown that they are not allowing themselves to be held accountable by their fellow believers and have already broken the fellowship with the other believers themselves. With the final step seen in verse 17, the church is basically affirming that this is what the unrepentant believes and feels through his actions. The fellowship is indeed broken, and cannot be restored until the person repents. As such, they cannot be considered a functioning member of that local church body.
1) This is Pat Robertson; open mouth, insert both feet. And he’s been gradually losing it for some time.
2) There are also Extreme Muslims who also believe in “Outbreed the Infidel.” Funhouse mirror reflection time — again.
Interestingly, the phrase so often taken out of context – “where two or three are gathered there I am in their midst” applies to the context of members of the body finding it necessary in confronting each other when they are offended. I often have wondered if this statement might have been predicated on knowledge that there would be a real possibility of the unwillingness of the majority of the body to deal with issues in said manner, leaving a few in the minority who were committed in following Jesus here.
I’m with others – I don’t like the phrase ‘church discipline’…too much bagage, but I do think the concept Jesus is unveiling can’t simply be only referring to over-the-top sins (like flagrant adultery or incest), but seems to include those grains of sand that get in one’s shoes that, if left undealt with, could potentially destroy one’s journey with the body.
Confronting one another whom you know well ought to be a natural part of caring for them when love cannot overlook any longer, and when praying about it (sometimes for months or years) doesn’t seem to yield fruit.
In regards to the phrase, “church discipline”, this phrase has a negative connotation at times, especially to those who have suffered under those who abused it. What is important to note though is that punishment and discipline are not actually the same thing. A church does no punish a member. Discipline is the act of teaching right behavior and correcting wrong behavior to bring an individual back into right behavior. A person who is unrepentant and sinning willfully and continually needs to be disciplined, i.e. they need their wrong thinking and behavior corrected so they are thinking rightly and doing what is right. (Not man-made “rules” but real right). A lot of discipline is proactive. It is teaching right and wrong before a person even sins. Anytime a pastor or the Binle teaches you something with regards to what is right or wrong, such as loving your enemy, resisting temptation, seeking after God, you are being disciplined. This section of Matthew 18 speaks to reactive, corrective discipline. How should you handle it when another believer has wronged you? How do you help them see their sin? How do you go about restoring the relationship. Matthew 18 is a general guide.
I would love to see some links/resources for further information on this! I would like a trail to follow how & when this “traditional view” started being pushed on evangelicals. I can start by google searching Foh, but any articles you could link would be appreciated. I’m setting up a file for my daughters…
How does “tell it to the church” mean “tell it to the whole church?” Hierarchical churches can delegate people to represent the church in these matters. For example, there is no vote in Catholic churches regarding whether someone should be denied the sacraments. “Tell it to the church” could well be done by telling it to the appropriate authority or committee or whatever the church set up to handle this sort of thing. The idea of “whole” as in public announcement would only come into play in congregational style government churches. The problem here is interesting. The churches that we seem to be talking about are heavily into the concept of elder authority. So what is wrong with this picture? The elders with authority can and do act on their own pretty much any time they want to, except when there is a chance to humiliate someone in public for something. It sounds like the elders are saying that they can tell people what to think and do and that if someone does not conform the elders can “hurt you bad” in this way. I know you keep talking about grave and public sin, but we have seen abuse of that idea with some tragic results in people’s lives. This looks like a power play to me, not an attempt at reconciliation.
For those of you with any interest, here is my version of my favorite hymn:
(and to our resident organist, yes, that is me hobbling through on the Hammond)
Wendy Alsup has taken Foh’s view apart here. Ironically Alsup is complementarian.
What does Child Free have in common with church covenants? Both have nothing to do with Jesus or historic Christianity.
Your comment on the TGC blog was great. Focus on Jesus! How can anyone answer that?
After I got over the shock, I began to feel sorry for Karen Butler. Pregnancy/birthing/nursing 8 times wears the body out. Then raising them while poor, in a tiny house and believing she is besieged by depraved heathens with an excess of dogs. No wonder she had a psychotic break, really. Sheesh!
Maybe her harsh legalism is a religious corset she wears to keep her upright and facing forward. But it is inexcusable to pass one’s own pain onto others. And then to be so arrogant about it….
I would not, for anything, be Karen Butler’s neighbor. Nor would I attend her church.
Besides, I like my dog.
Thank you, Hester! I googled “Foh” but came up with too many hits to easily wade through.
This Alsup article is terrific, exactly what I hoped to find. I appreciate your linking it!
I’ll respond to a few things you mention.
You said, “Matthew 18:17 does say to bring the issue to the church (assuming what is described in verses 15 and 16 fail). These are the words of Jesus.”
–“the church”…how I hate how Christian culture makes so much of “the church”…”the local church”. Cute and catchy name on a big sign, silk plants, men talking in mics, nameplates on doors & all. This isn’t what Jesus was talking about. He was talking a small religious pocket of the community with which a person is associated, all of whom know each other quite well.
“The idea was not to ruin a person’s career, but to bring them into repentance.”
–Sure, repentance is the idea. And how does exposing private information to oodles of people barely associated with said person accomplish any part of this repentance? It will be inconsequential to said person’s repentance. But it will shame them unnecessarily & will ruin their reputation, amongst people who have no reason to know any of it. When said person is the topic of conversation with whoever in the community, information or shades of it are passed on like strains of a virus.
“…only involving a smaller group of people,…Let’s assume that a church has a team of 5 pastors, as well as 10 elders/deacons.”
–why all 5 pastors and all 10 elders/deacons should get involved is beyond me. As if any group of people actually needs all these dorks in suits in the first place. sorry.
“To try to make extra clear, I am not talking about “little secret sins.” I am speaking of issues in which the individual is not ashamed of what they are doing. They are essentially making their sin public knowledge themselves.”
–I would say that church members in a discipline-happy church should hope for such a transparent example to keep the discipline machine fed, before it starts feeding on them and whatever contrary thing they might have done. I think your example would be a rare exception and not the rule for discipline candidates.
JoeJoe, I remember well when I was in jr. high. A ministry intern at our church was engaged to be married. Shortly before their wedding, a big church meeting was scheduled. Hundreds of people were there. The ministry intern and her fiancé, just weeks before the wedding, had had $EX!! They were brought before everyone, a sort of trial in a way. Confession. It was very grave.
it was humiliating. cast a very dark shadow over their love and the celebration of their love. whenever I think of them, they are permanently branded in my mind. Stigmatized. This was 35 years ago. I still remember. I was one of hundreds of people. Who each knew dozens of people in the community. Information passed around…. And for what??? They were committed to each other already. What possible difference does a man in a black suit ceremonially pronouncing them husband and wife make???
It was senseless and ruining.
My comments are indeed there, now. I had to say something to the likes of Butler and Appleton. Their words and attitudes were making my stomach turn.
Rarely will you read of any church exercising “church discipline” against a member for “grave and public sin.” What there seems to be plenty of, however, are reports of church leaders using their membership contracts as a legal bludgeon to “Lord over” members. If a member complains or questions why, they are accused of being “divisive” or “unsubmissive” to church leadership, or worse: “off mission.” Then that piece of paper they signed is dragged out to shield the church from liability and justify harsh treatment of a member by church leadership.
I sent that same link to Dee and Deb a few weeks ago. It didn’t take long for Kathleen to start critiquing child bearing with her above mentioned article. In my opinion, an article by a Christian to critique a non-Christian article is just silly and immature. What did it profit anyone? except maybe to see the foolishness/busibodiness of the Christian publishing world – who seem to think their input will bring salvation to the lost. Really!?! – bang them over the head about how selfish they are when in reality each individual non-child-bearing couple has a unique story.
If this article is an indication of what is to come from the new/extended collaboration between Crossway and TGC, I’d have to say that it isn’t, in the least, impressive.
Abuse of a system does not show that the system itself is wrong, only that the people involved are abusive. Now, having a delegated team of representatives for the church in such matters of dismissal is one possible way to go about it. I couldn’t make a case against it from the Bible. Granted, you are still granting a lot of power to a small group of people. And in some instances, what if the larger church body should be involved? I don’t see a prohibition against that either. What we see in Matthew 18 is that this section deals with an issue in which one believer has done harm in some way to another believer, and is unrepentant about it. The process, in a healthy church, should protect against false accusation, seek first to settle the matter in private, take considerable time when warranted, and protect the victim from the harmer, not the harmer from his own sin.
“Is Reservation & Conviction Passed Out On The Floor?”
… a church needs to be able to?
“A church has a legal vehicle to protect itself. Its called a membership agreement. Each signing individual must be fully aware of the church’s policies and procedures, and knowingly agreed to be bound by them, prior to signing. ”
[Common sense: If you have any reservations, don’t sign. If you can’t pay the piper, don’t sign.]
Lo, if this 501c non-profit church establishment you are attending requires a signed membership agreement from each person in attendance, after a ‘reasonable’ time has lapsed, might want ta reconsider your steps.
Security guards, security cameras, church lawyers, ironclad membership agreements, unavailable church pastors, etc…are dead giveaways…they all say :
Maybe you should listen. Maybe that is ” ‘sound advice’ ? “, indeed. After all – is that what Jesus had in mind when He said the gates O’ hell would not p-r-e-v-a-i-l?
somethin’ screwy go’in on here…
My house shall be a house of prayer, yet you make it a den of thieves, lawyers, non-disclosed salaries policies and possibly security guards as well?
What is wrong with this picture, ” ‘Dorian Gray’ ? “
Is this a private party, or can anyone join?
“Open up da church window sucker, let me catch my breath!”
FWIW, for me PeaceMaker$ is tainted by their association with SGM. 3-4 years ago, CJ had a PeaceMaker-in-a-box kit sent to all SG churches. Nothing ever came of that. PM did extensive training at the Richmond/VA and Orlando/FLA churches. Both these sites were at ground zero in the SGM implosion. PM also consulted with SGM prior to AoR. Too many acronyms? NBD …
I was at one time taken with some elements of the PM model. However, my experience in SG was that they (SG) were not interested in paying more than lip service to the reconciliation aspects of the model.
They din’t need no stinkin’ peas,
Former SG Pastor
You have hit the nail on the head! The reports we get from people all over the world indicate that such behavior is more common than many understand.
Get ready for the onslaught of books on why everyone must have children and lots of them.
You are correct. It is my opinion that the Peacemaker model sold out to church leadership and are beholden to them for the existence of the organization. They market to the leaders. What do you think would happen if the organization consistently found that the leaders were the ones causing the problems? No more “contracts” for peacemaking. The system is flawed.
And end up the Enforcers of the leaders.
“QUIVERFULL! QUIVERFULL! QUIVERFULL!
OUTBREED THE HEATHEN!!!!!”
Yet another good reason to become one of the Nones.
Or ditch the whole idea of God, Christ, and Church. Over the Berlin Wall and into the West.
And then there’s justification of a system that itself IS wrong.
“This time we WILL achieve True Communism, because this time The Right People (US) will be in charge!”
Not a trial. A Show Trial. Public humiliation, dragged before all the Righteous (who have never been caught themselves), cue Church Lady Superiority Dance.
There’s an Eastern Orthodox bishop (now an Eastern-rite Saint — don’t remember his name) who penned a policy for such matters back when years AD had three digits. His policy was that premarital sex permanently disqualified a man from ministry, with one exception: If the couple were already engaged. In that case, the man’s ministry is only suspended until after the wedding. The EO who related this on another blog told of his impression of the bishop/saint saying as he penned it “They just couldn’t wait, could they?”
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
A system working rightly does depend on the people using it rightly. Systems and thoughts can indeed be inherently abusive (I believe a Patriarchal system is inherently abusive for example), but that is not true in every case. Jesus himself laid out in general how to deal with a fellow believer who is unrepentantly harming you. The fact that people abuse this system does not invalidate the system though. If that is how you altogteher invalidate a system or process that is set up, then there would be very few systems, processes or ideas that you should agree with or practice. LOTS of people, Christians included, for example abuse God’s gift of sex. God gave guidelines for appropriate sexual relations (should be within the confines of marriage). If you apply the same standard you use with regards to church discipline, and follow it, then you should remain a virgin your whole life. Now, in reality, that would be absurd, but so is saying that a system is abusive only because people have abused the system.
I would say that this was an inappropriate use of church discipline and demeaning, and should NOT have been done. Matthew 18 seems to be talking about when one believer does harm in some way (not necessarily physical, or even illegal) and is unrepentant of it.
Sweet, fendrel! Hope it offers lot of advantages!
@ Bridget: AGREED!
To riff on selfishness: There is a selfish aspect in wishing to continue self through one’s children. And it’s quite selfish to birth numbers of children in a society that uses up the highest percentage of global resources. Plus, what could be more selfish than to suppose that Europeans make superior Christians? Moreover, raising children has a selfish component in that it requires adults to turn the majority of their energy inward rather than outward to the broader community.
Additionally, progeny-as-evangelism is self-centered. First, it’s passive compared to “going out and making disciples of all nations”. Second, it is a method of maintaining personal control over the evangelical process instead of spreading good news and allowing the Holy Spirit to manage it. Third, handing the faith down to one’s kids at the expense of the broader world can be understood as the worst sort of selfishness because the greatest treasure, meant for all, is hoarded in-house.
One could go on and on about the potential aspects of selfishness in their position. ISTM, their fundamental absurdity is that they see all self-concern as depravity, even while no human can exist without some measure of it. Therefore they must refuse to see the ways they are being selfish in order to maintain their righteous position, which ends up being self-righteous. 🙄
For me, the worst of it is how they dump the full weight of adult responsibility onto the female while withdrawing most adult privilege. The artificial fabrication of female martyrdom is simply wicked. And it creates ugly-spirited martyrs, cf Karen. Ach!
Bridget, perhaps when you war with the culture you don’t have to clean up your own house? Paul tells us to do just the opposite in 1 Corin 5. Start with the Body. And since TGC supported Mahaney publicly, I think they can start with themselves and do a serious check on what they believe and why.
I left a total of about 4 or 5 posts. I probably would have been tempted to leave more, but I got tired of reading all the posts. My first post was approved to appear, but I don’t know about the others.
I didn’t beat around the bush with the author. She left a comment in the comment area, and I told her I found her view points obnoxious and unloving. Because I did.
It’s very easy for people who have ‘X’ (children, marriage, whatever) to criticize others who do not have ‘X,’ or to assume they know why so- and- so lacks X, or attribute, or make up, motives for those who lack X (such as, “Those who do not have kids or choose not to have them is because they are selfish, or blah blah blah”).
IMO, one big factor as to why people aren’t marrying as young or having kids is societal shifts. People are going to college first, when back in the olden days, lots of people got married right out of high school or in college.
I had expected to marry, but I had no idea if I’d meet Mr Right while in college (yes, I went to college) or at my first real job, or at a church in my mid 30s. He never showed up.
I could not have married a high school sweetie anyway (even if I had had one) because of my father’s job (we have to move frequently). I was not born and raised in the same city.
My whole childhood and part of my 20s was spent moving around the country. I do not know what it is like to have a “home town” or the same set of friends since grade school.
That kind of thing may be true for other women, as well our nation is more mobile. That may be another reason, or a contributing factor, to why so many women are staying single longer.
But do Gospel Coalition articles care to recognize factors like that?
Nope, they would rather chalk up stuff like childlessness to simplistic things like, “well, those ladies not having kids must all be frothing at the mouth feminists, or they are selfish.”
If you want to see the ultimate in “progeny-as-evangelism,” read the last chapter of Edmund Morgan’s book The Puritan Family. The chapter is called “Puritan Tribalism” which kinda says it all.
At least that is the 9Marks interpretation of the verse. Not being a fan of congregationalism, especially the form I have found held to by 9Marks disciples, I would submit there are other interpretations. The Presbyterians believe that “the church” Jesus was referring to was the ruling council of the local synagogue. Samuel Miller, a professor at Princeton Seminary in the late 1800’s, made his case quite well in his book “The Ruling Elder,” as did James Bannerman in his book “The Church of Christ, that telling it to the church means to bring it before the elders.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
While some of them have been very clear that yes, the purpose of Christian couples having 35 kids apiece is to “outbreed” the Muslims, I pick up the whiff from some of them that they think marriage/parenting is superior to singlehood/ childlessness, and/or that God really only likes, or approves of, marriage/kids.
Some of them have a deep fear of feminism, and I suspect the push by them for all Christian women to marry and have a child is to stave off feminism, or its influence.
There is just this undercurrent of judging all lifestyles that are not 1955 Beaver Cleaver Mom + Dad+ child at home = aberrant, weird, un-deseriable.
I think there’s something more going on than wanting to ‘out breed the pagans,’ at least with the more mainstream groups.
Among some of the mainstream “marriage and parenting is the only way to go in life” types, I pick up a prejudice and/or suspicion and/or dis-trust against singlehood, or any one else who doesn’t fit the ‘Beaver Cleaver’ template.
It’s funny they twist their hands in worry about declining Christian birth rates, when the problem before that is getting Christian women married. You have to get me married first before I can or will have a child.
They don’t want to help singles past 25/30 get married, though.
For the singles who are under 25, all they do is keep saying, “Christian kids need to get married at age 18.” But no actual steps are taken to help single ladies (or any age) get paired off with single guys.
Dating sites are not the solution married Christians think they are for Christian singles, either. You will, and can, run into a lot of freaky, vulgar men on those dating sites.
I’m in my early 40s and still a virgin. HUG has said he is one too (he is in his 50s). As for me, the main reason I have not had sex is that I was following the biblical mandate that 5ex is for marriage only.
I’m not sure what you mean by,
“then you should remain a virgin your whole life. Now, in reality, that would be absurd”
Some of us have remained virgins our whole lives.
They could just ask Mary Pride to update her book.
He’s saying hypothetically that no one should have sex because some people abuse it.
This all just makes me sick…
If you are single, it is “sinful” to not be married.
If you are married, it is “sinful” to not have children.
If you have children, it is “sinful” to purposely stop having more children.
If you have enough children, it is “sinful” to not raise & discipline them by approved Christian(TM) standards
Same here. Only it seemed that “saving yourself for marriage” became a guarantee of never being married.
And caught hell for it.
This is just another go-round of Christianese One-Upmanship.
Just like the Proof of Salvation is “Whatever *I* do that You Don’t.”
And how The Unpardonable Sin is “Whatever YOU Do that *I* don’t.”
@ Jeff S:
I think I see. Thank you for explaining.
I’ve seen people who eventually got around to marrying and having a kid or two. The pressure never stops.
I’ve seen them say on forums that until they got married, their friends/family would hound them constantly about it.
Then, when they finally got married, their friends/family would start asking, “When are you having kids.”
When they finally had Kid #1, they would get the “When are you having Kid 2?” questions.
For couples that were infertile after Kid 1, or simply weren’t interested in any beyond Kid 1, they would get scolded for it. They’d hear, “Kid 1 needs to have a sibling.”
It’s irritating how people move the goal posts on you like that. Even if you get married, that’s not enough, folks will start pressuring you about having a kid. You have a kid, then they want you to have two more.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Yep. Waiting until marriage in today’s climate looks to be a recipe for “you shall never marry.”
It seems a lot of people (especially men) expect 5ex before marriage, even guys who classify themselves as “Christian” on dating sites.
And yep, you do catch Heck from society for being a virgin past your mid 20s or so – from Non Christian society, I expect it, but I have been very saddened to see the same pressure, stereotypes, and insults from Christians on this issue!
Some Christians/ churches will insult you, blame, you or treat you like a weirdo or failure for being never married and/or a virgin into your 30s-40s or older.
I used to think that Christians were supposed to support people waiting until marriage to have sex (or support the idea of it at least), but I see that many of them do not.
Another aspect of “Salvation by Marriage Alone.” Probably started during the Reformation Wars as a backlash to the Medieval Church’s over-emphasis on Salvation by Celibacy. Communism begets Objectivism.
I was born on Thanksgiving of 1955, have always been an aficionado of the Nifty Fifties, and The Fifties of these Christianese Culture War types bears little resemblance to the REAL 1950s. It’s a MYTHIC 1950s filtered through Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed.
As a guy who tried “dating services” many years ago (before they went online), you can also run into some freaky, desperate women there.
Actually, when I was going through that in the Eighties, Christians (at least the ones I hung out with) were pretty neutral on the issue. What hurt the worst was the pressure from my own family.
It’s a similar dynamic to hazing, where someone who was oppressed/hazed turns right around and oppresses/hazes the next generation that comes along. “I Didn’t Have It Easy, WHY SHOULD YOU??????”
Thanks for Wendy Alsup’s article. Can I ask for your opinion?
Towards the end of article, she writes what she believes: “The woman’s root problem is that, even though child birth is painful and the man rules her, she still has a morbid craving for him, looking to him in completely unhealthy ways that do not reflect her status as image bearer of God. The woman wants something from the man that he was never intended to provide her, that he even on his best day is not equipped to provide. He becomes her idol.”
But isn’t this idea of female brokenness being promoted as godly by super-complementarians? They think women should always submit to the man, maintain a craving for his approval/decisions, make him as God-for-her and thus idolize him. ISTM that what complementarians propose as from God (even to declaring part of the nature of God!) is actually what, in scripture, said to be evil.
Why doesn’t Alsup address that?
(*BTW, her view was explained in depth by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen in “Gender and Grace” (pub 1990). She, as Alsup, is Reformed but from a more liberal camp. I wonder why Alsup doesn’t at least mention Van Leeuwen’s work.)
I wonder why she mentions Foh’s teachings/interpretations as being quite recent, yet doesn’t deal with the entire complementatian teaching in the same way since it, too, is a newer contribution to the gender issue (the early 80s).
Good point! Of course one can’t cover everything in one post, but its narrowness doesn’t tempt me to pursue Alsup’s other writings, which I’ve not read. Have you read anything else of hers?
I am joining this discussion late but don’t think anyone posted this. There is an old saying that he/she who writes the contract writes it to protect his/her interests and not the others person’s interests. I am sure this applies to church membership contracts.
Thus I am sure most church membership agreements only protect or mostly protect the church and leaders and not regular members.
Short answer: yes. At the risk of quoting myself, I cover this in my review of a Doug Phillips talk for women here.
1. Notice first the flagrant hypocrisy of “super-complementarians” (by which I assume you meant patriocentrist types like Phillips and company) deriving their usurpation teaching from a woman. I had the same reaction when I recently heard a patriarchy teacher quote Marva Dawn in a talk on worship. I thought women couldn’t teach men? Why was Susan Foh commentating on Genesis in the first place? And I’m not sure John Piper’s (pretty sure it was him) explanation of (paraphrasing) “Well, as long as he can’t see the woman” is a sufficient out.
2. I agree that what Alsup is describing (“manolatry”) can and does happen and is a much more likely interpretation of that passage than Foh’s. As to why she didn’t address “super-comps,” I’m not sure she was talking about patriocentrists in that post. If you were referring to more mainstream comps (Piper, CBMW, etc.), she of course may not agree that they’re teaching “manolatry.” That is, after all, a huge part of the entire gender debate.
3. In Alsup’s defense, the softest versions of comp (i.e., functional egalitarianism) don’t teach “manolatry.” Whether CBMW, etc. teach “manolatry” is, of course, open for debate.
“Pastor So & So, mind if my lawyer lõõks this here legally binding document over?”…
to which you could add:
“…it’s okay Pastor So & So, he’s a Christian lawyer.” 🙂
My take on this whole ‘women want to usurp their husband’s authority’ is that, by the Sixties and Seventies, women were realising that they were autonomous individuals in their own right and were learning to assert and stand up for themselves. Anything men could do, women could do just as well, if not better, as World War II had proved, where women worked in factories, fixed cars etc while the men were away fighting. Women were proving their majority, by which I mean that women were showing that they are adult human beings and want to be treated and respected as such and no longer as minors or children. This change in women’s outlook was now challenging the status quo and evokes a backlash ‘you shouldn’t be doing that, it’s not your place.’ Ironically, the explanation is given by a woman (Foh).
I certainly do not like the idea of people who are joining churches being asked to sign a document, one of the primary purposes of which is to be a contract between the member and the church that will be used for legal purposes. It seems to me that some notice should be given to the signers ahead of time.
Also, I am not sure about the fear of lawsuits. I have not read the Guinn case, but my initial suspicion is that there must have been some egregious facts to warrant a lawsuit and the award of damages.
In our state, the courts apply the doctrine of abstention. This is consistent with the First Amendment. If someone is kicked out of a church, the courts don’t get involved in that.
That doctrine has even been used in the denominational context. The Crowder family sued the SBC, the SBC President and the pastor serving as the parliamentarian at the time (I think that’s right) for a ruling at the convention on a motion. The Crowders said that the SBC did not follow procedure properly and that as messengers they had a right to being treated properly under the SBC Bylaws and the rules of procedure for the Convention.
The federal courts abstained from making a decision, and said that even if the SBC did not follow procedures (the SBC had followed procedures, but that is another story) correctly, the courts did not have the power to step in and make the SBC follow its procedures.
As to defamation, well, that depends on what is said about the person. If the church tells falsehoods about a person when kicking them out and after, that person can sue the church and the people who told or are telling fasehoods. That could still happen if there were a church covenant.
Your complaint that being vague about procedure and what offenses warrant which penalties leaving things open to flexibility is true. But that seems, to me, to be a difficulty attendant to the infliction of “discipline” in most private organizations. There is an element of subjectivity that is unavoidable.
We have a membership covenant, but it is very simple. It doesn’t mention discipline procedures and such. We have no discipline procedure.
The only thing that we have is a statement in the bylaws which says, “The Church shall have members. Qualification for membership in the Church shall be determined by the Elders.”
The only “discipline” that we would ever bring on someone would be to remove them from the church. I cannot imagine some sort of discipline less than that which we would try to enforce.
In our context we have decided that removing someone from the church would be a function of the Elders. I realize that some might disagree with that. We believe that is biblical, but we also believe that is wise. Any set of actions that would require removing someone would be serious. Keeping discussions about such matters within the Elders, and not in a public meeting, reduces greatly the chance that church could be sued for defamation or outrageous conduct in dislosing someone’s dirty laundry in public or semi-public meeting.
I cannot imagine having a code of conduct outlining which sins are deserving of which punishment. Or having a discipline procedure that is minutely described. That would almost send a signal that the church is expecting to do those kinds of things a lot.
We have been a church for over 20 years. We have never kicked anyone out or discussed kicking someone out.
I believe that what gets most churches into trouble is a culture that makes discipline a big deal AND then employs discipline in an unwise way. And trying to discipline someone who has left the church is a big error in my judgment. Once they have left, what other discipline can the church exercise.
Common sense and balance seem to be the big issues here.
Ok. Lines seem to be drawn more deeply between comps and egals than between comps and super-comps (“manolotry” lol), which is possibly why Alsup ignores Van Leeuwen. Also seen, perhaps, in Alsup’s recommendation of a McCulley book (for info about 2nd/3rd wave fems) which carries a foreward by Grudem and an appendix essay by Ken Sande.
I am glad Alsup is helpful to many people but ISTM she’s still talking the talk albeit narrower/gentler. I remember when I started dismantling these beliefs, how energizing it was to let go the peculiar stiltedness and constant self-consciousness caused by presenting first and totally as female. Waves of the old exhaustion roll back when I read too much of it.
The disproportionate level of venom by many trad-comps towards egals/fems is also very strange to me.
I enjoy your Big Box Series. You are succinct and thorough. Thanks!
Yes, I would agree with that. I wish the mainstream comps would draw a harder line between themselves and people like Doug Phillips. And by harder line I’m thinking, like, a very public thrashing complete with naming names anytime anyone uses the words “patriarchy.” If I were comp (rather than a fence-rider/undecided), I would NOT want to be associated with that position at all. It’s like theological polio – debilitating if untreated. Too bad so many are refusing the vaccine.
My question is, how does this work for church discipline after a person leave the church? I mean, I can see a document like this giving the church protection against lawsuits by current members. But I’d heard of them trying to use this to prevent people from leaving: “You can’t leave this church over a doctrinal issue.” And I’ve heard of elders stalking people (that’s how they describe it) after they leave. How can a document like this possibly be legal in protecting them in doing that?
I guess my question about how it would work against people who leave a church probably deals more with what you’re saving for Wednesday, eh.
“Furthermore, Atty Sande includes language which might be construed that a nonmember might be bound by this covenant as well. But, I will leave that until Wednesday.”
As in, put in there in fine print somewhere that it applies to them after they leave to, I guess.
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