Monday, January 31, 2011

Community and Church Discipline

Church discipline is a subject that is seen in many different ways by different people and different churches. We are given general guidance in Matthew 18 and in Paul's letters to the Corinthian church. Over the centuries, it has been misused by those in authority and been ignored by others.

While I have always believed that the concept of church discipline is Biblical, the way that concept is carried out has always been a bit fuzzy. In some churches, a person can be subject to discipline for things like not attending every time the doors are open, or going to movies. Some churches don't hold their members accountable at all. Other churches carry out discipline only to see those folks go across town to another church. There have even been cases where those who have been disciplined have sued the church.

In the last year or so, I have gained an appreciation for what church discipline was in the early church, and for what it can be today. In the institutional church, things are structured in a way that prevents people from really getting to know one another and forming a real community. Even the small group is usually conducted in a way that keeps folks from knowing and being known. This not only allows folks to put on a good front and hide what's going on, it also prevents people from being able to speak into the lives of others because that close relationship isn't there.

In a simple church, such as St. Thomas, one of the most important things is community, a sense of family. The gatherings are for the purpose of building one another up, and transparency is not only encouraged but worked for. The goal is to be open and honest with each other, and allow others to speak into our lives. It can be a messy process, but it is also vital to spiritual formation. In the time we have been meeting together, I have grown in my relationship with the Father, and closer to my brothers and sisters. They have become my family along with my physical family. If I ever did something that would cause me to be removed from the fellowship of this grace filled group, it would break my heart. I can see how Paul's instruction to remove the sinner from fellowship could be so devastating and how it would cause the person to repent.

Maybe church discipline would be effective if more congregations really were communities of faith and not just organizations.


Kansas Bob said...

It is a messy process.. families are messy.. sad that churches don't like the messy transparent stuff and opt for the phony plastic stuff instead.

co_heir said...

Yes, it is sad.

AmyW said...

It's a trust issue as well. Sometimes the harshest critics and ones with the longest memories....are those right next to you in the pew.

co_heir said...

Amy, that is so true. Unfortunately, church people are sometimes the least trustworthy.

Weekend Wanderings

After some really warm days here in the sunny South, the temperatures have been just a bit above normal with a fair amount of rain. The prof...