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“When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.” – John Dagg

 Most of the students I talk to at Southern (and many pastors I know who are serving in local churches) agree that church discipline is what Al Mohler calls “the missing mark” of the church. Most churches do not practice any church discipline whatsoever. Other churches only practice it in extreme cases of sexual misbehavior.

During my five year stay in Romania, I was first introduced to comprehensive church discipline. On the first Sunday of every month, when we took the Lord’s Supper at Emanuel Baptist Church, several dozen church members would get up and leave before the distribution of the elements. Sometimes these were members who were under discipline and thus “not allowed” to take Communion. Other times, these were members who were disciplining themselves and who had decided to abstain because of some private sin in their lives.

My first reaction to church discipline was that the Romanians were harsh. Why execute church punishment? Why not just take people off the rolls instead of having a public reading of excluded members every year?

Now, I realize that we in America are the anomaly when it comes to practicing church discipline. Baptists in the rest of the world cling to the practice as a vital aspect of church life.

My question is: How do we bring back church discipline? Even though many students and pastors agree that the lack of church discipline is a problem, few know just how to restore it to our churches. After all, in our consumer-mindset churches, people will just up and go to the church down the street. And often, a new pastor that wants to institute church discipline doesn’t have the credibility or authority yet to begin the new practice that will shake up a church that has never been down that road before.

So… what are some ways we can begin changing the mindset of our local churches  in order to bring back this mark of the church?


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3 thoughts on “Discipline Matters… But How?”

  1. Coops says:

    I really hope that was a rhetorical question, because I have no idea.

  2. trevinwax says:

    Apparently, no one else did either… since I got dozens of hits on this topic, and no comments.

  3. CD-Host says:

    I ran into this by accident I noticed the blog is still live so…

    I can give you examples of disciplining churches where it does carry with a threat and is effective. Generally they tie their members to the church tightly. As long as the majority of membership would not be troubled by, “people will just up and go to the church down the street” there isn’t much to build up discipline from.

    But Jehovah’s Witnesses, strict Presbyterian churches, fundamentalist baptist churches in small communities…. can create these kinds of ties.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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