Position on Church Discipline
Church discipline is an ongoing effort, by a local Church, to reflect the communicable attributes of God (notably holiness and love), at the individual and corporate levels, out of love for Christ, through self- and church-imposed discipline. Church discipline has a vertical component (devotion to God) and horizontal component (spurring one another to godliness). Devotion to God leads church discipline to be done with prayer, patience, humility, compassion, integrity, fairness, eagerness to forgive and care towards all involved parties.
Affirmation and Restriction
Church discipline includes ongoing encouragement (e.g. acknowledgement of evidences of grace in fellow church members) and exhortation (e.g. use of Scriptures to invite fellow church members to pursue devotion to God and holiness with the rest of the Church). Church discipline may involve progressive humble confrontation to clarify intents, facts, and patterns. Church discipline may involve temporary restrictions, until conditions for restoration are met. When church discipline involves restrictions, discipline must always seek restoration of love and holiness. Mat 18:15-20 provides a framework for church-imposed restrictive discipline in cases of patterns of willful, unrepentant sins despite progressive attempts to restore evident pursuit of holiness in the life of a church member. Formal covenant-based church membership can help church discipline by explicitly encouraging local church members to spur one another to love and godliness.
Common areas where church discipline is needed include persistent patterns of:
- divisiveness (2 Thess. 3.11; Titus 3.10-11; Rom. 16.17-20),
- irresponsible and undisciplined living (1 Thess 5.14; 2 Thess. 3.6-15),
- sexual immorality (1Cor 5.1-13), and
- doctrinal heresy (1 Tim 6.3-5; 2 Tim 2.16-18; 2 John1.10-11; Rev. 2.14-16).