“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?