What is church discipline?
The process of dealing with sin in the church is not one to be taken lightly. It is an important act to be carried out by those serious about the sanctification and holiness of the church. When godly men assigned to lead churches act in a godly way the truth prevails.
What about those that don’t act in a godly way? What about those guys that fill positions that have self-serving interests?
I haven’t done a survey, but I’ve spoken to enough pastors that follow the practice of church discipline to know it very seldom comes to the point of excommunication of sinning members. I praise the Lord for the remedy He has prescribed for the church to work these things out for the benefit of all. There are a few things that need to be understood about church discipline that authoritarian churches have missed.
1. It needs to be a legitimate sin in order that it be dealt with appropriately. 1 Corinthians 5 is a crystal clear example. Paul hadn’t been to Corinth, but he knew what was going on. He made judgments about the situation and told the Corinthians they need to put this guy out of the church. He was in grievous abominable sin.
My family, and many others I know of left the church this website exists to expose. I know the majority (all members) of those that have left GFC were excommunicated. Not because of the type of sin going on in Corinth or any other sin that can be clearly pointed out. No, excommunicated as an act of retribution. “You can’t leave here.” That’s the bottom line. If you leave you can plan on being excommunicated. That’s not a biblical excommunication.
2. The sin needs to be exposed before someone leaves. If you excommunicate someone after they leave by trumping up charges about them in the exit process this does not elicit a legitimate charge. Let’s say they sin in the leaving process. Someone says something about someone else and they are accused of slander or divisiveness. Was this what they were doing before they left? Was the Matthew 18 process worked through with them? If the answer is no, then you can’t go back and apply it to them once they’ve left.
I won’t spend a lot of time explaining how those that leave are set up to fail in this regard. The leadership sends congregants after those that leave expecting to hear why they left and then apply it to speaking out of school about the leadership. It’s all very predictable.
3. Church discipline is designed to be restorative, not retributive. If a church excommunicates every member that leaves, is it really a church? Are they truly seeking to restore them to fellowship because they left, or are they seeking to get them to admit how wrong they were for leaving? Why would everyone be excommunicated?
It is my sense, through experience, and conversations that legitimate churches excommunicate very few people in their ministries. If someone decides they must leave for whatever reason then the legitimate church wishes them well. The authoritarian church can be quickly identified by how many they excommunicate. They use it as a tool to beat the departing sheep one last time.
There is a lot more to be said about the tool of excommunication for authoritarian churches, but for now, these are clear identifiers for what to be aware of. The church needs to be protected from unrepentant sinning members, but the church also needs to be protected from wolves, using their ungodly tactics to abuse the Lord’s precious sheep.