“Never laugh at live dragons.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien link
(This page is subject to updates as new material (or overlooked old material) becomes available.)
Church discipline is today's hottest topic in churches. There is no question that 9Marks is the leader in the need to discipline in the church. They define it thusly:
Church discipline is the process of correcting sin in the life of the congregation and its members. This can mean correcting sin through a private word of admonition. And it can mean correcting sin by formally removing an individual from membership. Church discipline can be done in any number of ways, but the goal is always to correct transgressions of God’s law among God’s people.
The Process based on Matthew 18:15-20
- A congregant is told to stop and repent of a particular sin.
- If he doesn't, then two or more people are told to confront him.
- Then it gets announced to the church.
- Then the congregant gets kicked out of the church. if he doesn't *repent.*
The Real Problem: What should be disciplined is not defined a priori.
We are all sinners and all of us are dealing, day to day, with our walk with God. What sins should be disciplined?
There is no question that some sins are severe. 1 Corinthians 5 deals with a case of incest in the church. I doubt there are many who would disagree that such a sin should be disciplined. Other such sins might include cases of adultery in which a man leaves his wife and children, someone who embezzles money from the church, etc.
The bad news is this. Many churches decide, on the fly, to discipline just about anything. This might include pride, divisiveness, arrogance, sinfully craving answers to questions (we kid you not), resigning from church, asking questions about budgets, disagreeing with a pastor, etc.
Why won't they define which sins they punish up front?
Unfortunately, church leaders are sinners just like the rest of us. They can use these poorly defined rules to stifle disagreement, to play "I'm the authority around here" card, to get rid of opposition so the pastor can do things his way, or just because they are in a bad mood. One man got disciplined for not smiling at his pastor in the supermarket!
Would you move to a country that had no defined laws and a police force that could arrest you for anything? Why should you be member of a church that practices church discipline and refuses to tell you what they will discipline?
Two classic examples of abusive church discipline
1. Karen Hinkley and Matt Chandler's Village Church
Karen discovered that her husband was viewing child pornography while they were together on the mission field. There were confessions of pedophile behavior as well. Karen returned home and the state of Texas allowed her an annulment of her marriage.The church put her under discipline and claimed that her ex husband was *walking in repentance* after about a month of counseling. Along with Amy Smith of Watchkeep, we broke this story which became known internationally. The actions of the church were so grievous that eventually Matt Chandler had to apologize to Karen and state that she was certainly justified in seeking a divorce from her pervert husband. The embarrassment and harassment from the church that Karen endured is well documented in our series.
2. Todd Wilhelm and UCC Dubai- a 9 Marks church
Todd Wilhelm, a member of UCCDubai was being considered for a position of leadership in the church. He discovered that the church was selling CJ Mahaney books in the book store and that 9 Marks, as a whole continued to support CJ Mahaney after the accusations of the cover up of child sex abuse against Sovereign Grace Churches. Mark Dever, the head of 9Marks, remains a very close friend and supporter of CJ Mahaney.
Todd, an advocate fighting against child sex abuse, said he could not, in good conscience, support the bookstore. When the church refused to remove CJ Mahaney's books, he decided he would resign from the church. Being a person of intelligence, he decided to look at a variety of church before joining one. This was in direct violation of their membership covenant (we will be writing on this next week) which states you must join an approved church immediately. Wilhelm was put on a list of possible people to be disciplined (names a care group) for 6 months.
Todd offered to sign a waiver so that the church would publicly discuss why they put him on the discipline list. 9Marks declined.
So, here you have a man making a principled stand in a foreign country. Child sex abuse mattered more to him than pushing books by CJ Mahaney for 9Marks. He was abused by the church for acting in a rational, Biblical manner.
Oddly enough, when CJ Mahaney was disciplined by his own church, Mark Dever allowed him to attend Capitol Hill Baptist Church, even allowing him to preach, which demonstrates that church discipline only applied to the little guy in their system.
We do not believe you should officially join a church that strongly emphasizes church discipline unless you have observed them in action for a few years. We believe that such churches are itching for an opportunity to exercise their authority. We also believe they do not understand common sense. If Matt Chandler couldn't get it right, and he is a really in with the 9Marks boys, then why would any other pastor get it right?
However, if you have signed on the dotted line and the membership contract states you cannot leave a church while under discipline, you can legally leave the church, no matter what they say. You can resign from your church whenever you wish. Please refer to our coming Page "How to Resign From Your Church and we will give you tips.
Finally, if you must attend one of these church, look for a large(meg) New Calvinist church. There are several in our area. There are so many people attending that you can go to church each week and participate in activities and they will not know if you are a member of not.
Another story of church discipline/abuse
Links to stories of church discipline
The following links are from stories that we have written on church discipline. We hope you will find them helpful as you explore this area. We are one of the few blogs that has written extensively about abusive church discipline and we have one things to say. Caveat Emptor!