1. says

    Having been on the receiving end of church discipline in a Southern Baptist Church, I can attest that even when there are guidelines, they’re very difficult to follow when emotions and personal biases get in the way, which they do. Churches rarely end up following the most important guideline of all: restoration. I detailed my experience in my blog. Though the experience was several years ago, I still refer to it as spiritual abuse. Time has neither healed the wounds or restored the damaged relationships. Nor do I feel like the discipline process resulted in a strengthening of my relationship with Christ. Indeed, the relationship has been strengthened in spite of the discipline. I’m not sure if you allow links here, but if you do, this is the link: Spiritual Abuse: Darkness You Can Feel (;postID=4714732016451769744)

  2. says

    Why do I feel my stomach cramping up just looking at this?(My sample size might be too small, but I’m really starting to doubt if anything good can come from Crossway.)

  3. jacob says

    We do all acknowledge that church discipline is biblical, right? I feel like there’s been a lot of talk about how terrible this is and how obviously churches that discipline its members hate people. While there are instances of it being abused, it isn”t inherently a bad thing.
    As far as restoration goes, I feel like that burden weighs heavily on the person that needs to be restored. Should the church operate in love? Yes. But at the end of the day, the path to restoration is repentance to Christ and anyone we have sinned against. The church can’t restore that for us.

    • says

      “We do all acknowledge that church discipline is biblical, right?”
      I agree with you that it’s biblical. When the Mars Hill stuff came to light, I kept thinking that what happened (is happening?) there is a result of church discipline being distorted into something unhealthy and dangerous. I think the concept itself is, like you said, biblical.

    • says

      I agree that the exercise of church discipline is biblical and should be used as a last resort when the biblical outline for correction has been followed. However, it should be exercised with great caution. It has an impact on many people, not just on the one being disciplined. And, if exercised improperly, it creates fear among Christians who might have been more open to seeking accountability and repentance. As for restoration, my main concern is that while most discipline processes do contain instruction that the church should seek to restore the person, few churches make any effort, and some do not respond to the disciplined person at all, thus closing the door on his or her effort to seek restoration in the future.

  4. says

    Is it biblical? I’m not 100 percent convinced. It might be biblical in the context of a small group of people who intimately know each other and as an extreme last resort for egregious, unrepented sin. However, this is almost never how it is used modern evangelical churches. God help us.

    • Hal says

      Even a cursory glance of Paul’s Epistles or the end of Matthew will tell you discipline is ‘biblical.’ The ways it is applies nowadays may not be, but that’s a different discussion.

  5. Kenneth says

    I’m involved in a “church discipline” issue now. A member of our church left due to differences in their beliefs and convictions, and then sent nasty letters to other members, made threatening phone calls, entered their homes unannounced, and have continued to harass and threaten people in the church. Now they would like to come back to the church.
    What we want in this situation are two things: we want the church to be a safe place. That is absolutely vital. But we also truly want reconciliation for the people who left and are now wanting to return. We have seen them grow, and let’s be honest – they *need* to experience transformation in a church.

    So we’re wrestling with what “discipline” looks like. What we’ve decided to do is confront them with the things they’ve done, and work with them to develop a plan of reconciliation. We want to see humble apologies for those who they hurt without expecting an offering of forgiveness in return. (The people who they hurt need to come to a place of forgiveness, but we’re not going to “force” forgiveness, and we’ll work with them separately). If the people who left are not willing to change their actions, the church will not be a safe place, and it will not likely be possible for them to experience growth in the church anyway, so we will ask them to leave.

    I believe there has to be a course of “re-entry”, and certainly we’re not asking them to leave because we’re on some kind of power trip. It would be easier for everyone if they stayed away. But we care about them, in spite of the harm they’ve caused.

    Sometimes “discipline” is necessary. We can’t allow our churches to become unsafe places because of the vile actions of one person or a few people.

    I assume when everyone is saying church discipline is biblical, they’re referring to Matthew 18. I think it is good to follow, and we have done that so far with the people I spoke of in this post. Church discipline stings, but it *should* sting everyone. It should sting the pastor, who grieves to see people leave. It should sting the people who have been hurt, because they desire reconciliation with the people who are leaving. And of course, it more than likely will sting the people who are leaving.

    In Matthew 18, the instruction is that if the person continues in sin, after going through all the steps listed, they are to be treated like a tax collector or pharisee… the people who Jesus dined with. We still have to search for and seek out reconciliation.

    So what is the opinion here? I’m confident in our procedure so far, and we’re really seeking healing, but we have to protect people as well. Are we wrong for practicing discipline in this manner?

Leave a Reply