Church Discipline Assignment

March 6, 2002

My personal experience with church discipline is fairly limited. First of all, I have hardly ever seen it done. Secondly, I do not believe that it is done in the correct manner when it is done.

The church has never personally disciplined me in a formal manner. By the grace of God, I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant it anymore than most of the sinners in the church. Most of the time self-discipline and the conviction of the Holy Spirit have gotten me to change any wrong direction I was heading.

As far as me disciplining others, I haven’t been in the place to do that until recently. I’m definitely having a learning experience with the 6 to 11 year old Sunday school class Jenny and I are teaching. A couple of the children are testing my resolve, to say the least. I realize I need to be absolutely careful in how I deal with the children that tend to be troublesome. As I let the Holy Spirit lead me, I can help shape these kids in the image of Jesus Christ.

The main church discipline experience that I want to share about happened in the town I grew up in. I know the church and people who were involved, but I did not attend the church on regular basis. From time to time, our family would visit the church.

This church has been in my hometown for probably over a hundred years. I’m not even sure when it was planted. Unfortunately, just like many other churches that have been around that long it was a stale, dry place spiritually speaking. As long as I can remember there were about 20 to 30 people that attended the church. Many of the twenty-some people are still same ones since our family moved there 20 years ago. (Man, I’m getting old.) You could probably count on one hand the number of people that had been saved in that church during that time, as well.

For many years this church had the same pastor, and the members really liked him, his family, and his style of preaching. The church and pastor did not believe anything heretical or blasphemous. The fire had just long since departed. The pastor’s preaching didn’t really bring the Holy Spirit’s conviction on the congregation very often.

A couple years before I left home for college, the pastor moved away from my hometown. This, of course, brought on the search for a new pastor. The next pastor was appointed like many large denominations sometimes do. He was brought in from some other town to fill the opening. This started the trouble.

As far as I know, the new pastor didn’t preach anything heretical or blasphemous, either. His style was not to the liking of the long-standing leadership of the church, though. This pastor had the habit of preaching on uncomfortable subjects such as “hell” and “the need to repent from our sins.” Maybe his most unforgivable habit was his tendency to put his foot up on the altar while preaching. Uh oh. That didn’t go over too well with the faithful few of this church.

Issues such as these spurred on talk between the members of the church and how they didn’t appreciate his tone or actions. As gossip often does within the church, the unhappy talk spread through the small church very quickly. Soon enough talk of ousting the new pastor began to surface among the congregation. The sentiment to “get rid” of the pastor grew especially as the elderly members continued to discuss their dislike of his tactics.

During this time, I had at least one opportunity that comes to mind, to visit the church while he was there. I didn’t find anything necessarily disdaining about they way he preached the gospel or carried himself. He was, on the other hand, most assuredly different than the prior much loved pastor.

I think this was the key to the reaction of many of the churchgoers. They were set in their ways, and were not comfortable with this change. I believe this really reveals the heart of that congregation at that time. When we are following God, we have to be ready for anything, and many times what comes along in our walk with Him may not be the thing we were looking for. But it is exactly what He wants for us. Maybe this was God’s wake up call for them, or possibly He was testing them. Who knows but God Himself, if He was again reaching out to this church that had strayed from their first love. God is the only one that can answer that at this point.

The elders of the church had their way, and the replacement pastor was sent on his way. Maybe he could of done some things differently – tried to reach out a little more to where congregation was. Maybe he could’ve tried to change his approach, his style – his method. Maybe he wasn’t sensitive enough to the needs of the church, and therefore shut the door on the possibility of reaching those people. Maybe he could’ve just tried harder to fit in. Or maybe he was doing what God called him to do – bring the Word with conviction and authority. I’m more inclined to think the latter.

Of course, as humans, there are always going to be issues in our lives that can be changed for the better. I’m sure he could have refined some things to better reach that church. When all is said and done, though, he, as a vessel of God to speak God’s truth must do so without reservation.

Thankfully that church now has pastors that bring God’s word without reservation, and they are not being run out of town. God is still calling that church to be a lighthouse to that community.

Many of America’s churches are in this state of mind. And something needs to be done. Something needs to reach to the core of these congregations and change them. That something is the Fire of God. As we are led by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in boldness, things will happen – because it is God making the decisions and not us.

MSR

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