I’ve read several books concerning church discipline. Most of them discuss the various purposes of church discipline (God’s glory, restoration, reconciliation, purity of the church, etc.) and the various reasons that would lead to church discipline (divisiveness, sexual immorality, blasphemy, false teaching, etc.). I undestand the proper motivation (love and restoration) and the proper procedure (from Matthew 18). However, one thing has always concerned me: Why should the one undergoing church discipline be concerned about it? In other words, why is church discipline a deterrent?
If I understand the scriptural teaching concerning church discipline, undergoing church discipline should be a major deterrent to sinning, or at least to unrepentance. However, as I’ve seen church discipline practiced, most people who undergo church discipline either continue “attending” church meetings with very little ramifications, or they simply begin attending another “church”.
So, what is the big deal about church discipline?
Well, I’m finally understanding what the “big deal” is. Last night, as I sat among a group of believers, I thought to myself, “What would it mean to me if this group told me that they would not fellowship with me any longer?” It would be devastating! Even if I could continue to “attend” meeting… even if I could continue to “attend” Bible studies and prayer meetings… if my brothers and sisters told me that they would no longer associate with me, it would certainly cause me to stop and evaluate my life. It would be a deterrent to an unrepentant attitude.
What was missing before? Why have I just started understanding church discipline? Because I have only just begun to understand what true fellowship is – and it has nothing to do with occasionaly “pot-luck” dinners. I am finally beginning to understand what it means to share my life with others, and to share their lives.
Church discipline is meaningless without true fellowship.