PLEASE NOTE: The Church, under the leadership and lordship of Jesus Christ, is a place for sinners to come and experience life change. However, Church Membership [those who are professing Christians] holds a standard for excellence in conduct and behavior. When church members lose site of Kingdom focus, they may deserve church discipline.
“The purpose of Church Discipline is to glorify God by maintaining purity in the church, protecting believers by deterring sin and promoting the spiritual welfare of the offending believer by calling him or her to return to biblical standards of doctrine and conduct. Furthermore, upon joining this Church, all members are in agreement with this Article and Section of the Bylaws.”
–Rex Frieze, Frieze Consulting
Primary Governing Documents – Bylaws
Section II.B – Page 4
Church Membership Discipline is Right. Church Discipline is Biblical. Church Discipline is included in many church documents – Constitutions/Bylaws or Policy & Procedure Manuals. Church Discipline is one of the most over-looked processes in the modern church.
An old cigarette marketing ad quote once said, “I’d rather fight than switch”. Sometimes this writer feels the church would rather “fight” than switch to the scripture, wherein lies the answer to much of their problems.
A Church Discipline issue is a relationship issue. Within relationship issues lay responsibilities – responsibilities of the church as a whole, as well as individual member.
The most popular biblical reference noted in church documentation is Matthew 18:15-18. Basically, it is a scriptural step 1, 2, 3. When applied to church bylaws, this ecclesiastical reference gives the exact steps to take to discipline a member. The true purpose here is not church membership expulsion, but restoration spiritually.
Step One: Go to the person – meet them in private, discuss the situation, reconcile the dispute, put it behind you and move on. Many church disputes are caused by too much rebuke “behind-the-back” publicly, and it needs to be face-to-face, one-on-one in private.
Step Two: If step one was not successful. If the rebuke was not heard and heeded, then two or more go to establish the testimony of Step One. If this attempt of reconciliation fails, Step Three is needed. As the Steps continue, there needs to be control of temper and tongue or the discipline/restoration process is in jeopardy.
Step Three: Tell the Church. If there is no reconciliation then he is “like an unbeliever”, and membership is dissolved. Technically, this is a vote for dismissal of the name from the church role, as if the member had “lettered-out”.
Bottom line – Church Membership is important to the Kingdom of God. Church Discipline is Biblical. Take the right steps – do it right!
Matthew 18:v.16 – “But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established.” v.17 – “If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.” v.18 – “I assure you: whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” –Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman Publication, Nashville, 2003
Discipline is hard. Personalities and relationships are questioned, bruised, torn, and sometimes severed. There is risk both ways. If a church denies the problem, hoping it will “go away”; it only destroys itself in the long run. When a church avoids discipline, it unknowingly reverses the action described in v.18 and the church takes upon itself an action reversed of heaven!
So, why do we avoid discipline and allow conflict to fester? Simply – Satan has control. Satan has made God’s way too hard and man’s way far easier and better. It’s a trap! Use God’s word to guide the church, not man’s way. Utilize the ecclesiastical references of the church bylaws to do the right thing, the right way, with the right people, and scriptures will be revealed and the church will move forward.
Conflict and taxes are inevitable! Both require guidance and process to be resolved. We pay taxes by IRS codes and process. We can handle church conflict and dispute amicably, scripturally and in a Godly manner – do it!
- Check your existing document and make certain that Matthew 18:15-18 has been administered (steps 1 & 2).
- To instigate step 3 requires the discipline party, by name, be formally presented to the church for an expulsion vote.
- If a person (discipline party) requests removal from the church membership in writing or by phone, prior to expulsion proceedings, the church is obligated to present the person’s name before the congregation as if they were “lettering out”; as you would a transfer or death, reporting by your church clerk at a regular business meeting. Keep thorough records of the request and attach with membership records in an inactive file.
- After expulsion proceeding vote or the “letter-out” process, a report by the church clerk at a regular business meeting, and a formal letter of the transaction by the congregation should be sent to the disciplined or requesting person(s).