By Not Known
With our focus today on Christ’s saying with “I am the true vine” (John 15) comes the issue of discipline. In fact, one of the aspects of church life that we do not discuss widely enough is the subject of church discipline. There are probably many reasons why this is so. As it is not an easy matter to deal with, many leaders shun this topic and therefore a lack of biblical teaching ensued.
Besides, most other churches and even our Constitution tend to be rather silent on the matter. As with such silence, most churches would tend to try to remain less “judgmental” than to pursue church discipline openly. Sometimes, however, it may be a matter of making church membership more palatable so as not to drive away members to other churches. Or sometimes, leaders may seem to come across as high-and-mighty and acting high-handedly with self-righteousness. Really, at the end of the day the matter is one of not taking God’s word seriously enough.
For instance, what do we do with members who come to church only three times a year and demand that they be accorded full privileges when it comes to their funeral? Or ensuring that they be allowed to vote even though they are not involved in any ministry within the body of Christ? Or that they threaten to withhold their giving simply because they do not agree with the pastors’ preaching? Of course, there are more serious issues.
Allow me to make several suggestions for our consideration.
1. We need to encourage humility within the Body of Christ. In the letters to the Corinthians, Paul had exhorted that believers in church ought to examine themselves to see if they are walking in the faith and at the same time help others to walk in their faith.
2. We need to encourage our pastors and leaders to educate the Body to understand the importance of church membership and how discipline is very much a part of it. Membership is congregational relationship and accountability. When someone is hurt, we are all hurt together. When someone sins, we pay the price together. It is the church’s business to decide who its members are and how each member should exercise his/her responsibilities to the entire Body.
3. As a church, we need to pray that God would help us to model ministry to each other by creating a culture of discipleship and accountability in our community. This is so that we may understand the basics of following Christ and living out the Gospel of the Cross in our midst.
4. Together, we need to relook at our Constitution and examine how we may learn to accept and follow what is there and live it out responsibly to one another. Membership, they say, has privileges; but at the same time, membership has responsibilities and consequences too.
5. Finally, we must teach the entire congregation what a Christian is. That we are repentant sinners touched by the Holy Spirit and convicted to follow Christ who died on the cross. While we celebrate the empty tomb, we need also to remember the blood-stained cross and the price Jesus Christ paid for our freedom. Our commitment must be translated into acts of obedience which must be our disciplined life in Christ and to the Body of Christ.