the weblog of Alan Knox

Matthew 18 and Discipline…

Posted by on May 12, 2007 in discipleship, discipline, fellowship, scripture | 58 comments

Matthew 18 and Discipline…

Yesterday, in response to my blog post “Local church again…“, a couple of people brought up the question of church discipline as it relates to structure and leadership. As I was thinking through this issue, and as I was reading through several passages about discipline, I found something new – at least, new to me. Now, I am not supposing that this is new to everyone, but since it is new to me, I thought I would post it here in case it was helpful to anyone else.

Here is the Scripture passage:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)

So, here is the interesting part… there are several commands given in this passage, and they are all given to the same person… that is, the person who is sinned against! (Now, before you ask about this, yes, I know that Jesus also says you should go to your brother if he has something against you.) Let’s step through this…

Brother A sins against brother B. Who is responsible for going to whom? Brother B is responsible for seeking reconciliation – that is, the one who is sinned against. In fact, brother B is commanded to go to brother A alone. (The commands that Jesus gives are 2nd person singular imperatives – “go and tell” – thus, they are given to the individual – brother B.)

If brother A does not repent, then who is responsible for taking two or three others? Again, brother B is responsible, and again Jesus commands brother B to carry out this step. (The command that Jesus gives is a 2nd person singular imperative – “take”.)

If brother A still does not repent, then who is responsible for telling the church? Once again, the command is given only to brother B, so the same brother who was sinned against is responsible for telling the church. (The command that Jesus gives is a 2nd person singular imperative – “tell”.)

Finally, if brother A does not repent when brother B tells the church, then who is responsible for treating him “as a Gentile and a tax collector”? Once again, it is brother B. Interestingly, Jesus does not say anything at all about how the two or three witnesses or the church should treat the unrepentant brother. Instead, the brother who is sinned against (that is, brother B) is once again given responsibility for how to treat brother A. (Jesus’ command is given to “you” as a 2nd person singular pronoun – “let him be to you”.) This is perhaps the most interesting point to me.

What does all of this tell me? It tells me that relationships with my brothers and sisters are MY responsibility. They are not the responsibility of other believers. If my brother or sister sins against me, it is MY responsibility (and no one else’s responsibility) to reconcile with my brother or sister. I would even extrapolate this to say that if my brother or sister feels that I have sinned against him or her, then it is MY responsibility (assuming the brother or sister does not approach me first) to reconcile with my brother or sister.

It would seem, if we take Jesus’ words at face value, that church discipline depends upon each believer – that is, discipline is all of our responsibility. Furthermore, neither structure, nor organization, nor leadership are necessary for effective church discipline, at least, not according to this passage. Perhaps, church discipline is not effective because I have not been upholding my responsibilities.


58 Comments

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  1. 5-12-2007

    Alan- YES! I am very pleased to see this. Church discipline is too often used- well, desired not very often used- as a tool to judge others. In the conversation about the nature of church many shy away from the concept of universal church because they can not comprehend the job of keeping every believer they run into on the street in line. They are right, it is not our job. But we can make our relationships right with every fellow pilgrim we run into as Matt 18 makes clear- it is up to us to make it right with all our individual relationships. As far as the nature of church goes God does provide for us fellow travelers with whom we have deeper relationships and closer accountability.
    Jesus said that the Kingdom of God has come near. But he did not form an organization. He wandered around Palestine with a group of friends. It was to these that he gave the Matt 18 teaching. We can form whatever organizations we think are helpful but the Church is still the Body of Christ- and Christ is not divided.

  2. 5-12-2007

    Agreeing with Strider again. This morning I was thinking about your last post and that the only argument anyone wrote against the idea of a truly local church was that of church discipline. And then I was thinking of this exact passage, and it’s neat that you wrote about it.

    And yes, what you wrote here is also “new” to me — I hadn’t really looks at it that in depth before but I do see now what you are saying — it is addressed to the person who was wronged. Interesting.

    Anyway, I was thinking about the comments about holding people accountable. How does one hold another accountable unless he/she truly knows and shares life with the other? I don’t see how … seems impossible to me. Unless we’re going to use church discipline incorrectly as a tool to judge others and try to keep everyone in line.

    Peace…
    ~Heather

  3. 5-12-2007

    The fact remains that in Matthew 18 it does say that if the brother who has sinned against you doesn’t listen even when you take two or three people with you, you are to take the issue to the church. (I’ve always read Matthew 18 as a personal responsibility, by the way.) But if it says we are to take the issue to the church, to whom are we taking it? A few people from our house group? A larger group of people from a small local body with whom we meet and fellowship on a regular basis? A huge group of people from the local church of believers in our city? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, if that’s how it sounds. I’m very serious about this. I agree with the idea that our definition of “church” is often too narrow and exclusive. But if there is a problem, and we are trying to follow the Matthew 18 model, to what church body do we then take the issue? In 1 Cor. 5 are the commands being given to an individual or to a plurality when Paul says (quotes) “remove the wicked man from among you.”? If this command is to a plurality, what body is it?

    I’ve seen in two people’s comments now the idea that church discipline is used as “a tool to judge others” and I was wondering what they meant–is “judging” always a perjorative term? Why does 1 Cor.5:12 seem to say that we ARE to judge those “in the church” (while leaving those outside the church for God to judge)? I agree wholeheartedly with Strider that it is up to each of us to make things right in all our individual relationships, but there are still issues in a body of believers that require a group dynamic. For a specific example, let’s say I’m part of a house church with fifteen members, and one spouse from a pair comes and says that the other spouse has been unfaithful and is unrepentant. The wronged spouse has followed Matt. 18 guidelines and confronted the cheating spouse, with no resulting repentance. They have then gone with two others and had the same result. Now–isn’t there a group dynamic at this point? And is it judging others for the group to say to the cheating spouse “What you did was wrong, and you need to repent?” And what should the group do if the person doesn’t repent? I know this is an extreme case–and it would be better to use a sin that actually happens all the time in the church, like gossiping or divisiveness…

    Sorry, Alan, if this seems too negative–I really don’t mean it that way–I have been thinking about this for a while now, since our family is in a situation where we are far away from the body of believers whom we consider to be our “home church” who really know us and can hold us accountable, and we are not in a position right now to join a local body where we are (because Bobby just can’t be out around people or have people in our house for my preferred type of church gathering…)This entire discussion makes me long for heaven, where we’ll be so busy worshiping the Lord that we won’t have to worry about who we are worshiping with…

    You don’t have to publish this comment, I just wanted you to know what I’m thinking…

  4. 5-12-2007

    I meant pejorative.

  5. 5-12-2007

    Strider,

    I think your last sentence is very important: “We can form whatever organizations we think are helpful but the Church is still the Body of Christ- and Christ is not divided.” We should be careful not to equate organizations with the church.

    Heather,

    It seems we were thinking in the same direction. I agree that discipline is difficult (perhaps impossible) if we are not sharing life with believers.

    Alice,

    I’ll let Strider and Heather answer what they meant about not judging. But, when I read that, I thought they were talking about the purpose of disicpline. That is, the purpose is reconciliation not judgment. The person who is living in unrepentant sin has already broken fellowship, both with God and with other believers. No judgment is necessary. However, reconciliation is certainly needed.

    You asked: “But if it says we are to take the issue to the church, to whom are we taking it? A few people from our house group? A larger group of people from a small local body with whom we meet and fellowship on a regular basis? A huge group of people from the local church of believers in our city?” I would answer: Yes, all of the above.

    In fact, this is exactly the purpose of my last blog post called “Local church again…“. We should not limit our understanding of church to only those with whom we share membership. Are those believers part of the local church? Yes, absolutely. But, so are our neighbors, co-workers, and family members whom God brings into our lives. With all of these believers (membership, neighbors, co-works, and family members) discipline is only as effective as the extent to which we have previously practiced the “one anothers” of Scripture.

    I agree that the context for 1 Corinthians 5 is the corporate context. I think this adds the group dynamic to what we have already seen in Matthew 18. Thus, whether or not the group responds to an unrepentant brother, the individual is still reponsible to reconcile with this brother. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5, though, every believer in the group should take on this same responsibility.

    By the way, I never feel that questions or even disagreements are “being difficult” or “too negative”. I appreciate questions and disagreements, because they force me to consider different perspectives, and to return to Scripture. Also, questions and disagreements help me learn from other brothers and sisters.

    - Alan

  6. 5-12-2007

    Alice,

    Very well stated. You did an excellent job of voicing my concerns on this as well.

    Everyone,

    It is very difficult to know with any precision what the New Testament church was like in their day to day practice. I am trying to picture a church with no “structure, organization, or leadership.” Reading what Alan and others have written here is stretching my mind on this, and, I am still in the process of trying to reconcile it with what I read in Scripture. No doubt, my understanding of the church is influenced by centuries of tradition that have been reflected in what I have been taught and have observed. So, I’m trying not to be closed-minded to what you are suggesting here.

    To me, however, the phrase “If everyone is responsible, then, in effect, no one is responsible” keeps coming back to my mind. I know we should let Scripture interpret Scripture, and not pragmatic concerns. But, it still seems to me, at this time, that the model of church (if you can call it that) that you are proposing is utopic. And, that the impracticalities of really putting it into practice consistently will end up mitigating against the edification of the members.

    I am still very much open to being persuaded otherwise, though. I guess that’s why I keep coming back for more.

  7. 5-12-2007

    I see your concerns David, and I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not in fact saying that we chuck out all manmade organizational systems and just ‘love everybody’. I think that in order for us to have good relationships we will need good systems to fit in- this is only human. I love the IMB. I am glad that so many people cooperate together to do mission with Jesus. BUT my deal is that we can not, must not confuse our manmade organizations with the body of Christ. Some have said, and I have experienced that we must divide. That we must decide who is in and who is out. That since I can’t be responsible for ‘everyone’ then I had better limit the number of folks in my part of the Kingdom. I am saying that all the ways we divide are artificial and not eternal. In the end, every single person whom Christ redeems is a part of His Kingdom and His family and I don’t get to decide if they are in or out. The love one anothers apply to ALL His children. We may wonder if Jesus gave us a practical way to do this, if He gave us any direction on who to love. Unfortunately He did. He gave us the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
    So, for Church discipline who am I responsible for? According to Alan’s post it is just me. But in terms of the nature of the Church we are to be actively loving all of God’s children. To do this more effectively we may divide into groups that will help us work together to accomplish the task. These groups will be clusters of people who believe in similar things and who are committed to similar goals but we must not ever assume that Christ is divided or that because you are there and I am here that I can put up a wall that says you are not my brother and I do not have to care about you.
    Wow, another too long comment from Strider. Sorry. And I didn’t even begin to address Alice’s concerns. Wouldn’t it be easier if we all got together and worked this out? It would probably take about 15 minutes and then we could sit around and drink coffee and tea and enjoy each others company.

  8. 5-12-2007

    Strider: Make it chai and I’m there!

  9. 5-12-2007

    Strider,

    Thanks. I do not think I disagree with anything you say in this last comment.

    However, I am still working through what I think, from a biblical perspective, about the concept of the “local church” as traditionally practiced in Baptist (and similar) contexts.

    In the New Testament, I see the “City Church” that included all believers in a certain locality. I also see a group of elders in Ephesus who came together to say goodbye to Paul.

    I wonder, however, when the number of believers in a given locality grew so large that it became impractical for everyone to really know each other, what were the implications of this.

    It seems there were perhaps different house meetings taking place on a regular basis within the same city. Each house meeting, or church (if we decide to call it such) may or may not have had its own “elders” or “leaders.” Perhaps the “elders” of the various house churches formed a joint eldership over the church in the entire city. That seems likely from what I read in Scripture, but not certain.

    Hebrews 13, for instance, on three occasions (v. 7, 17, 24) talks about “your leaders.” The implication I get from this is these leaders were the leaders of a particular group of believers and not, at least in the same way, of other believers.

    From this, I also make the “jump” to saying that these leaders would have known who were the particular people under their watchcare.

    What I am wary about, in all this, at the same time, is the apparently short distance between this and a Roman Catholic type hierarcy, with a Bishop (or Metropolitan, in earlier church terms) exercising authority over the various parish priests in a given locality.

    Anyway, a lot of rambling here. But these are some of the thoughts in the back of my mind when I think about these questions.

  10. 5-12-2007

    I think many problems arise from the attempt to interpret this passage organizationally rather than relationally.

    The process of reconciliation increases in widening circles – first meet one on one, then include a few others, finally take it before a broader, possibly more impartial, group of people.

    Interestingly, if you think about it, the new testament church wasn’t in existence until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. So what was Jesus referring to here? I don’t think he meant the synagogue or temple.

    Perhaps it’s a problem with translation or maybe he just meant His followers. I don’t believe that He was referring to an organization.

  11. 5-12-2007

    It’s interesting to me that when we begin to talk about sharing life with other believers, and being more relational, that automatically people begin to think that we are talking about walking away from meeting together with other believers. Or that we’re talking about walking away from something that is organized. I might be wrong, but I haven’t heard anyone even say that. So why do we always assume that’s what someone means?

    Strider is dead on in his response. And Alan, thank you for correctly responding to the question re: judging others. You wrote what I was thinking.

    Peace…
    ~Heather

  12. 5-12-2007

    Alan,

    Exactly!!

    Matt. 18:15-20 are the context in which we ought to look at the issue at hand.

    It is my opinion that vvs. 19-20 answer Alice’s question, and that of David, regarding the identity of “the church”. If “two or three are gathered in My name”, are they not an ekklesia, (a calling out, or, called out ones)?

    Strider and Grace hit the nail on the head when they mentioned, what I believe is one of our greatest problems in these discussions, the word “church” seems to initiate institutional/organizational images in our minds. This is certainly not what Jesus had in mind.

  13. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  14. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  15. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  16. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  17. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  18. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  19. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  20. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    May I tie another thread on your thread?
    I was studying Matthew 18 this week, too, from the perspective of forgiveness.
    Perhaps, in the past we have looked at Matthew 18 as a model for discipline, but it really teaches reconciliation in the context of both humility and patience.
    And it begins in Matthew 17:24, where Peter went to Jesus about the issue of paying a tax. Jesus modeled both humility and patience when He, Creator and Sovereign, told Peter to fish for the money and pay the tax. Verse 27 is interesting, in that Jesus humbled Himself in paying a tax that He did not owe. BTW, does that ring any bells about His mission on earth?
    Jumping the artificial divide between chapters, it seems that immediately after that, the disciples came to Him to find out which of them would get the greatest honors in the coming kingdom. Jesus told them that the one who humbled himself as a child with no rights is the greatest.
    He went on to discuss the importance of not giving offense (just as He had shown with the tax), and importance of reconciliation in the story of the lost sheep.
    THEN…He went to the heart of the issue, which was pride and lack of humility in their own lives, and told them how to deal with it. I think He was talking about relationship issues that He was seeing within the group at the time, because Peter seemed to have a “homemade” example when he asked about forgiving his brother. Was it Andrew who offended him, or one of the other disciples?
    Whoever it was, Jesus told him to continue to forgive. That is humility and patience. And He used the unforgiving servant as an example, concluding with a warning of what would happen if he did not forgive his brother “from your heart.”
    Discipline within the Body (however you define the Body) has its place, but it must be bathed in forgiveness and patience, and the end goal must be reconciliation.
    Kat

  21. 5-12-2007

    Wow… I am learning from all of you, and I appreciate everyone’s input here. I hope it continues.

    As to “structure, organization, and leadership”, please notice that I said that discipline does not depend on “structure, organization, and leadership”. I did not say there should be no structure, organization, or leadership. Those are completely different ideas. Even if two people agree to meet together in the park, there is a type of structure and organization.

    Throughout these last two posts, I have been trying to point beyond any type of “structure, organization, and leadership” and recognize that, as Strider said (I think), the church is bigger than any of these. We should also not define our responsibility toward other believers – the “one anothers” – by structure, organization, and leadership. This would include discipline. I think one of the reasons discipline fails (even when it is practiced) is because we attempt to practice it within the structures and organizations only.

    Again, I appreciate this discussion. Like David said, I am continually stretched by all of you. I also like the idea of sitting down to coffee or tea – make mine sweetened iced tea.

    -Alan

  22. 5-12-2007

    Wow Kat! I hadn’t thought of that. I am learning more and more also. Thank you so much for that insight.

    Well, if we’re going to sit and talk about it, make mine an ice cold bottle of really good spring water ;)

    Peace…
    ~Heather

  23. 5-12-2007

    Alan,

    Your last comment is helpful for me in clarifying your view. I don’t know why this is so hard for me to get. You write very well. It has nothing to do with that.

    In any case, I would agree all of the “one anothers,” including the teachings of Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, are for all believers in their relationships with all other believers. It helps me for you to say, though, that you are not saying there should be no structure, organization, or leadership. I’m not sure why I was kind of getting that idea.

    In any case, I look forward to keeping up with the conversation. It is enriching for me. And, make mine a strong Spanish espresso, with just a touch of hot milk, thank you.

  24. 5-12-2007

    David, I so appreciate your input here. Your questions and comments are making me think a lot.

    On several occasions, you have made reference to the following statement:

    “If everyone is responsible, then, in effect, no one is responsible”

    Where does this statement come from? You put it in quotes every time, like you’re referencing something that someone else said. Is it a famous quote that I’m unaware of? :)

    At any rate, I would like to gently challenge the validity of this statement. I am not convinced that it is a truth in itself. If everyone is responsible, then everyone is responsible. I’m not sure I understand why it must be concluded that no one is responsible.

    Are you saying that no one will take responsibility since they’ll assume that everyone else will do it?

    White chocolate mocha with raspberry for me, please. :)

  25. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  26. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  27. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  28. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  29. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  30. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  31. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  32. 5-12-2007

    Alan-
    Black tea, no milk, no sugar…but I wouldn’t mind a scone & butter with that! :)
    Kat

  33. 5-12-2007

    Steve,

    I am not sure if any famous person first said it or not. But I have heard it said from time to time anyway.

    And, yes, I am “saying that no one will take responsibility since they’ll assume that everyone else will do it.” That is, in essence, the idea behind the “quote.”

    Once again, I know that pragmatic concerns or human psychology or group dynamics should not be the grid through which we interpret Scripture. But, I am still struggling with the idea that in a system where no one takes feels the particular responsibility to take the initiative to see to it that things that need to be done get done, things that need to get done actually will get done. (Sorry for the tongue-twister. I hope it makes sense.) This seems, as I said before, utopic, to me.

    Not to knock the Quakers. I really don’t know enough about the Quakers to knock them. But I have this stereotype image of a Quaker meeting, where everyone is sitting around waiting for the Spirit to lead someone to speak.

    It seems to me that more edification will take place, in the long run, if there is a little more organization taking place, i.e. thought in planning the meetings. But someone has to take the initiative to see that this happens.

    I definitely think there should be room for the free-flow of the Holy Spirit and spontaneous practice of spiritual gifts. But, I think this should be tempered by a certain amount of organization and planning beforehand.

    Does that make sense?

  34. 5-12-2007

    Could it be that our traditions and organizations have taught us that only certain people are responsible, and taught us to relinquish our responsibilities to those certain people? Perhaps, as Scripture seems to indicate, we really are all responsible, and we are following Christ when each one takes responsibility. In this case, we have learned that “If everyone is responsible then no one is responsible” while the reality would be closer to “If only certain people are responsible then no one is responsible”.

    -Alan

  35. 5-12-2007

    David, thanks for taking the time to clarify and expand on your comment.

    I can appreciate your concern about utopia. I’m getting pretty used to being called utopian, idealistic, and unrealistic in conversations such as this :) so I can tell you that you are not in the least bit alone in thinking that pragmatic concerns factor in at some level.

    For me (and I’m not trying to sell you on anything — just continuing the dialogue) I prefer to approach things from the opposite perspective and hone in on the utopian ideal.

    Shooting for anything less than the ideal sets us up for compromise.

    For example, you mention the stereotype of the Quaker meetings, and you feel like more edification would take place if some preparation was made. (And I would like to point out that “preparation” probably needs to be defined here so I don’t misconstrue your statements.)

    My question would be: Is this really playing out? In models where preparation is given a place, is edification happening at a greater level? My experience says no. In fact, quite the opposite.

    I realize this is all anecdotal, but I have experienced edification (and I’m talking about receiving and giving) exponentially greater through my experiences with Spirit-led fellowship than I ever have been in a prepared, organized format.

    That’s not to say that I never was edified in the latter. But the proportion is far greater in the current experience of simple fellowship than it ever was.

    In other words, if edification took place in, say 1 out of 10 gatherings in the past, I now experience it in probably 9 out of 10 times, if not all 10 times.

    Having said that, let me add that “sitting around waiting for the Spirit to lead someone to speak” is, in my opinion, quite consistent with Scripture, and should not be discredited too quickly.

    So what happens if no one speaks? Would I rather them speak without being led by the Spirit? No. Why would I want that?

    But, if I can share anecdotally again, I would say that my experience is that those times of silence and waiting are actually quite rare. God is not in the business of disappointing those who want to hear from Him, in my very humble opinion.

    I definitely think there should be room for the free-flow of the Holy Spirit and spontaneous practice of spiritual gifts. But, I think this should be tempered by a certain amount of organization and planning beforehand.

    I would simply ask: Why?

  36. 5-13-2007

    Alan & Steve,

    Once again, you give me some good things to think about here. I hope to not be closed-minded, and trust God will continue to lead me on these issues. I’m thinking the best thing, at this stage, for me to really catch what you are saying, is to observe it in action. I hope to be able to do that.

    Thanks,

    David

  37. 5-13-2007

    Kind of interesting for me that, right after I posted this last comment, I came across On Going Back to an SBC Church by Internet Monk Michael Spencer. This seems to describe well the other side of the perspective on some of these issues, and these two sides taken together represent for me the tension in which I, and, I imagine, many other by-products of conservative institutional Christianity find ourselves in these days.

    I would be interested in anyone’s comments, from the perspective of what we are talking about here on Alan’s blog, on Internet Monk’s post.

  38. 5-13-2007

    imonk’s post made me sad. I really relate to what he said. Keeping a house group- organic church- going is very difficult. Many many do fail in the US and around the world. His long list of things he would find today as he goes back to the SB Church sounded exactly like the list I would write when I go on home leave. We miss our small group terribly when we go home.
    Actually David, I think this whole discussion proves we have not found IT yet. We are not yet relating to each other organically or organizationally as the King has intended yet. Let us keep striving.

  39. 5-13-2007

    I haven’t read the iMonk’s latest post yet, but I’ve marked it to read later. Thank you for pointing it out to us, David.

    I think Strider is on to something. Regardless of the amount of organization in our groups of believers, the key must be relationships that center on the fellowship that we already have with one another in the Spirit. Without living according to this Spirit-created and Spirit-enabled fellowship, we are relating to one another as we should, whether we are in an organic group or an organized group.

    -Alan

  40. 5-13-2007

    I “went to church” this morning. It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful times of worship and fellowship in Christ I have experienced in a long time. In our church here in Madrid, we have just experienced a great loss, as the 18-year-old son of our “Senior Pastor” suddenly died on Thursday with bacterial meningitis (see my post here).

    The church I go to is fairly traditional, and could be called “institutional.” Today was what you could call “open-mike day,” though not everyone used a microphone. There were about 250 people present (normal Sunday morning attendance for us). The pastor and his family were at home recuperating from the ordeal they have been through this week. A “deacon” of the church “presided the service.” The “praise team” had prepared a number of different songs of worship and reflection in which to lead us. Several members of the church had written some words of reflection related to the happenings of this last week, which were read at different points of the service. And, mixed in between all this, were spontaneous prayers, words of comfort and admonition, and testimonies of various members of the congregation. God’s Spirit moved through us in a special way in order to minister to a hurting group of people this morning.

    It was indeed a refreshing experience to be led spontaneously by the wind of the Spirit, and to receive the edification offered by so many different members of the body.

    However, all the while, this blog conversation was in the back of my mind. One thing I was thinking about was: if it were not for the planning and preparation of the praise team, and the wise, sensitive direction of the deacon who “presided” the service, my suspicion is that what happened this morning may not have turned out to be quite so meaningful as what it did. As it was, the service went longer than usual. Some people perhaps spoke or prayed a little longer than they should. But, it was helpful, in my opinion, to have someone guiding us, while at the same time being open to the spontaneous expression of the Spirit among us.

    I imagine that in a smaller group, the group dynamic would be a bit different. There may not be the same need for the same type of directive leadership. In some small groups, however, in which I have participated, there was just as much, if not more need for someone with the “authority” to let others in the group know when they were speaking too much, or help the meeting to move along, and ensure that everyone was participating in a way that led to the greatest edification of all.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, it seems there is a balance out there somewhere in all of this. I’m trying to find it. It looks like i-monk is trying to find it too. There are a lot of precious brothers and sisters in Christ in so-called “institutional churches” who are hungry for reality and are trying to find it too. I believe there are many in so-called house-organic-simple churches who are trying to find it too.

  41. 5-13-2007

    David, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your heart in these discussions!! :) You are a blessing, my friend. I do hope to get to meet you when you are on this side of the big puddle.

    if it were not for the planning and preparation of the praise team, and the wise, sensitive direction of the deacon who “presided” the service, my suspicion is that what happened this morning may not have turned out to be quite so meaningful as what it did.

    It would not be realistic at all to think that a church used to certain structure and “guidance” by its leaders would be able to suddenly function in a completely Spirit-led time of worship. So your suspicion is probably quite correct.

    In so many ways, part of exploring the idea of Spirit-led fellowship is a process of unlearning all of the procedures and policies and expectations that have been put on our gatherings.

    So, in the context in which you find yourself, I don’t think there was anything wrong with that preparation. But that doesn’t have to mean that it’s always necessary for balance, or whatever.

    Have there been times in our fellowship gatherings where someone has talked longer than I thought they should? Yep. Sometimes it was even I who talked longer than I thought I should!! ;)

    Is every time of gathering a fall on your face weeping in awe at the majesty of God feeling the fire of the Spirit burning in your heart time? Nope. Not at all.

    But there is a process by which believers learn the freedom of actually listening to the Spirit and sharing what the Spirit is saying. And you’ll just have to trust me for the time being when I say that eventually (and it doesn’t even have to be a long period of time) it really does happen without human “guidance”! I’ve seen it.

    I find it really interesting that you describe the time this morning as “one of the most beautiful and meaningful times of worship and fellowship in Christ [you] have experienced in a long time.” Could it be that the freedom for people to share from their point of relationship with God made that much of a difference?

    I will say this much. I think that it is much more feasible in smaller groups than larger assemblies. Which is what drove me to consider simple church in the first place.

    I read 1 Cor 14 and thought, “If this is what ‘church’ is supposed to be like, how can we capture this?” And I began to realize that the only way I had ever seen it play out was in small, intimate fellowships where relationship and freedom in Christ allowed the Spirit to move unhindered.

    Couple that with the mentions repeatedly throughout the NT of churches meeting in people’s homes, and it all began to make sense to me.

    While I see a place for larger gatherings to happen from time to time, I do see the more “normal” expression of the church to be relational, which necessitates a certain amount of “smallness”.

    For example, consider this aspect of 1 Cor 14: Paul says that if one wants to speak in tongues, yet no interpreter is present, the one with the tongues should remain silent. Wouldn’t that require a certain amount of relationship to even know if one gifted in interpretation is present?

    I don’t think that your way of thinking is very different at all from mine, David. You’ve expressed the need (desire?) to experience something different in order to understand, and you’re probably right about that. I’m not sure that this kind of stuff can be “observed” or “taught”. It seems to be something that just happens when we step out in that direction and trust God to handle the reality of it all.

    I’m sorry, Alan. I realize we have gotten way off topic. I just can’t resist David’s sweet spirit in continuing these conversations!!

  42. 5-13-2007

    Steve,

    You ask: “Could it be that the freedom for people to share from their point of relationship with God made that much of a difference?”

    Yes, that was actually a big part of the point I was making. I am in no way arguing against this. I am just, I guess, exploring the possible disadvantages of doing away with certain structures that seem to me to not necessarily get in the way, but actually facilitate this.

    Once again, though, I am open to learning new ways of doing things, and look forward to opportunities to experience that more in the coming days.

    Also, on previous comments on other posts here, Alan has seemed to indicate that group size should not be a big concern. I tend to agree more with what I hear you saying here, though. I think that group size does have a big role in how we relate to each other and what types of things happen and how they happen in the “assembling of the church.”

    It is because of this that I still see a place for different types of church meetings: some more small-group oriented, and spontaneous; and others more large-group oriented, with more pre-planning. But without hard and fast rules and black and white categories.

  43. 5-13-2007

    David,

    Thank you for sharing about your meeting this morning. It is exciting for me to hear how God worked through the experiences and voices of many different believers.

    I am not against preparation. In fact, I think preparation is good. However, I would not say that preparation is everything, nor would I say that only those who have prepared should be allowed to take part in the meeting. It seems that Paul allowed for the Spirit to move someone to speak without preparation.

    Since people prepared for this meeting, it seems that they knew that they would take part. What would happen if they knew that they would be taking part in each meeting? What is they knew that it was expected that many people would speak during the meeting?

    Steve,

    I don’t think this is off topic. It is not on the topic of discipline, but it is on the topic of the “one anothers”, which, I think, are foundational for discipline.

    -Alan

  44. 5-13-2007

    David,

    It seems we were commenting at the same time. I think, I could be wrong, that when I said that group size should not be a big concern, I mean that group size should not change the parameter of how believers meet together. Paul does not give us different rules for small groups and large groups. I think, given 1 Corinthians 14, that both preparation and spontenaity (Spirit-led spontenaity) are important any time believers meet together, regardless of the number of believers.

    -Alan

  45. 5-13-2007

    Alan,

    I am all for freedom to participate in church meetings without previous participation. That is what I understand the gift of prophecy to entail, as opposed to teaching (a la Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the NT and Today). However, I think most church meetings will go better in the long run if there is at least some preparation and planning beforehand.

    Also, I agree that “Paul does not give us different rules for small groups and large groups.” However, I don’t see either that he says anything that would prohibit different types of meetings in different contexts. I think he leaves us at liberty to decide this. More of a “normative principle of worship” type of thing. :^)

  46. 5-13-2007

    David,

    I think this is one issue that it is probably not worth arguing over, at least not at this point. For now, I think I would like to think more about what you’ve said, especially concerning your meeting this morning. I continue to thank God for what he is doing to comfort the believers there.

    -Alan

  47. 5-24-2007

    Another conversation I’m joining late. :) I’ve really enjoyed reading the posts here, and the ensuing conversations. I’ve been quite discontent about how church is ‘done’ these days, and it’s refreshing to see these conversations about maintaining the assembling but yet without all the added junk. :)

    I fully understand that my thoughts on this particular topic are not necessarily conventional thinking in the church, but I simply hope to add to the conversation.

    Are Jesus’ words in Matt. 18 (and may other of His words) directed to the Christian ekklesia? Or are they spoken to the Jewish ekklesia? We know that Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” (Gal 4:4). He ministered and taught under the Old Covenant. Would it be too far off to suggest that many of the
    red letters
    were actually a matter of Jesus teaching and fulfilling the Old Covenant?

    “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped and the world become guilty before God.” (Rom 3:19). Jesus established that He was talking “law” in Matt 18 (“that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”).

    What I’m getting at, is that in many of His words and teachings, Jesus was establishing and showing the depths of the reality of the true meaning of the law. The purpose of the law is to silence every mouth (perhaps from self-justification?) and to make the world guilty. Then, once the tutor of the law (Gal 3:24-25) has fulfilled that very purpose in an unregenerate person, that person then dies to the law (Gal 2:19) and comes to Christ, by grace alone, through faith. The Old Covenant/Law teachings are no longer needed in that person’s life because they have fulfilled their purpose. The regenerate person then lives by the very life of Christ, rather than through trying to live by Old Covenant teachings. Does this make sense? Whether anyone agrees with me or not, I’m just wondering if it makes sense that Jesus was a “law teacher,” but not for the purpose of having Christians live by those particular teachings, but rather as part of the whole “law package” of stopping mouths and making people guilty, so they would eventually come to Christ.

    Another example follows in Matt 18 when the rich young ruler asked Jesus, “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus answered with, “keep the commandments. The rich young ruler justified himself by saying he had kept the commandments since his youth. Jesus pressed him further… “sell all you have and give to the poor.” This “stopped” the rich young ruler’s mouth, and he went away sad. Wouldn’t we all? I wonder if the man eventually understood, and came to Jesus freely.

  48. 5-24-2007

    Joel (jsbreeze),

    The only concern that I have with what you say is that Jesus called people to follow him. I think the things that he says are for those who are following him.

    -Alan

  49. 5-24-2007

    Hi Alan,

    What I’m getting at is that we take a look at Jesus’ Old Covenant/Law teachings with a different perspective. Not a “new” perspective; just a perspective that’s different than conventional church wisdom. With conventional wisdom we simply take Jesus’ words at face value, without looking at the further revelations we’ve received about the Old and New Covenants. This other perspective is based upon the revelations Paul received and shared about the purpose of the Law and Old Covenant.

    Indeed, Jesus said, “whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34).

    To take up one’s cross symbolizes death. To “lose your life.” Paul’s revelation was that he had been “crucified” with Christ, and he no longer lived. (Gal 2:20). He had lost his life, and the life he now lived in the body, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and set him free. He said, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

    The thing is, “how” did this happen? Was it by following the Law and Old Covenant? Of course not, but he said the Law played a part in all this. He said, “I through the law, died to the law that I might live to God.” (Gal 2:19). So the only way that he could live to God would be to die to the law, and the only way to die to the law was through the law itself. Paul describes this very wonderfully in Romans 7. Romans 7 is often used in churches to teach about Christian marriage, but it’s really about lawful Jewish marriage. Paul uses the principles of Jewish marriage laws to show how a person must die to the law in order to be married to Christ.

    The bottom line is that “Mr. Law” had a work to do, and that work was to bring a person to the point of death, so they could then be married to another – Jesus.

    So what I am getting at is that, just as Paul said, “whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law,” then any time Jesus teaches the Law or any Old Covenant principles, He is speaking to those under the law (those who haven’t come to faith), and the purpose is to lead a person to “die,” and to take up the cross (be crucified with Him), and then and only then can the person truly walk with Him.

    In fact, Paul shows us that this life as a new creation is so much better than simply following Jesus! Paul says we are in Him, and He is in us. We no longer live, but Christ lives in us! We’re no longer following a teacher; we’ve become “one spirit with Him.” Paul says we have been made “alive with Him.”

    The law itself wasn’t so forthright in proclaiming its true purpose. Jesus wasn’t forthright when using the law for its true purpose. But in the end, He revealed all of this to Paul, and Paul then to the world!

    Sorry I’m writing so much. :) I like to build my cases with sufficient context, but I don’t mean with my many words to imply that I think everyone else must see it my way. I love discussing this, and I’m fully open to leaving it alone or to further discussing it with anyone.

  50. 5-24-2007

    Joel,

    I think I understand what you are saying, and I agree that our lives should be lived in the freedom that we have in Christ and not under the law. I think this teaching comes from Jesus himself though, since he said the son would set us free. This teaching about discipline for example is in the context of forgiveness. At this point, I’m not comfortable with a distinction between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul.

    -Alan

  51. 5-24-2007

    Hey, that’s cool Alan. :) I enjoy the discussion here, and as I hear Bruce Williams (old, old national talk radio host) say often, “agree or disagree, we will most certainly remain friends.” :-D

  52. 5-24-2007

    Joel,

    I agree with Bruce Williams. Not only that, agree or disagree, we can both continue walking with Jesus and trust Him to teach us both. It’s not about right or wrong; it’s about Him.

    -Alan

  53. 12-21-2010

    I’m 3 years late…

    I saw this post in the “Popular posts” sidebar

    I may seem too push to far, but what if the “sinning brother” is one spouse in a married couple ??

    I highly esteem what Jesus taught in Matthew 18 and think it is very effective to bring repentance and to get rid of unrepenting self-proclaimed christians… (what is typical of false christians is inability to genuinely repent).

  54. 12-21-2010

    Tommy,

    That is a difficult question, isn’t it? You would still treat your spouse as your spouse, I think.

    -Alan

  55. 3-6-2012

    If I’m left to treat my offending brother as a tax collector, he is still my neighbor, and therefore love never leaves the equation.

  56. 3-6-2012

    Jim,

    “Love never leaves the equation.” No, no it doesn’t.

    -Alan

  57. 6-12-2012

    Alan.
    Remembering that the readers and writers of the NT didnt consider their questions, answers, explanation and narratives to be ‘scripture’, like we do, we should try to think like they were in order to catch was was unsaid. Context, pretext etc
    Having spent 40 yrs in two entirely different kinds of church relationships, and both were relational in nature, we have once in a while faced the need for discipline.
    Here is what we found.
    The depth and honesty that a group of believers live in daily one anothering relationship, in whatever context they find themselves, even within the IC, they will have more or less need for discipline.
    Like a healthy family, the closeness and warmth of constantly giving and receiving love and care precluded most selfwill, hidden bad habits and untruth, which are the chief stumbling stones among most churches.
    Loved and loving people usually wont trade it for less security and fulfillment.
    In dysfunctional families and churches, order and obedience are often the objective of discipline whereas in loving relationships, restoration is the only objective, and at almost any cost.
    Church discipline, like family discipline, should ONLY ever begin when ALL personal anger, forgiveness and a desire to see the sinner made whole has been assured. This process alone, in a church or family will slow down the steps and afford time to hear from God and one another.
    Paul instructed the believers who were spiritual to restore a fallen brother. There was no plan B. He fully expected someone who uncharacteristically fell into a sinful habit to repent, and he expected this in the context of everyone else surrounding and loving them back to repentance. That love might take on some creative or difficult attributes. The record of the man in Corinthians, sleeping with his step mother is an everyday example of a spiritual church and family restoring someone. That should be the norm.
    As was mentioned in some of the replies, that puts the onus on the rest of us to prevent the need for discipline other than a rare occasion, by one anothering regularly enough that a fear to hurt God and others develops in each heart and mind.
    If we will teach this, we will see it emerge, as Ive experienced for many years. We have seen more successes than failures, and even the failures arent over yet.
    blessings
    greg

  58. 6-12-2012

    Greg,

    That’s a good, thorough explanation. Thank you.

    -Alan