Submitting to authority.
First of all I would like to thank you personally from the bottom of
my heart for such a forum as this.
My question is this. Our church has recently been struggling with a
discipline issue regarding a brother in our church. We had been going
through the scriptural procedure found in Matthew 18 regarding
discipline. I have been directly involved in the process as I was the
first to approach this brother one on one. It has been an on going
process which has not brought this brother to acknowledging of his sin
and in fact he has now left our church. The leadership seems to
believe this is closure to this issue. It has never been taken to the
church body and the excuse seems to be that we don't want to divide
the church anymore than it already has been. My problem with this
decision is that we or being irresponsible to the authority of the
scriptures and more specifically disobeying the Lordship of Christ.
My question is,. Is there ever a proper reason to leave a church or am
I to humbly submit to this decision?
This is a very simple explanation of a very complicated matter for me
and I am torn about it.
Thank you in advance for your considerate response to this question.
The goal of church discipline is corrective and redemptive. If a
brother refuses to respond, then he is to be treated as a
non-Christian who has yet to be converted. How do we treat
non-Christians? Obviously we do not cease to care for them as persons
for whom Christ died. But if the brother leaves the church and is
bitter or cynical there is not much we can do except pray and wait.
Church discipline also guards the holiness of the flock since "a
little leaven leavens the whole lump." If a church does not stay
alert in order to maintain Christian standards for acceptable
conduct, compromise invariably creeps in little by little until the
whole church is no longer a godly, separated people. The New
Testament church is called to guard sound doctrine (teaching) and
matters of conduct.
One of our good friends in my church is in this exact state of mind
right now--having divorced his wife and moved away to do his own
thing. He has been justifying all he has done and has not been open
to reason at all. Ordinarily, each step of Matthew 18 should usually
be carried out. Church discipline does cause some controversy in a
church, but obeying the Lord is more important. In the case of the
brother mentioned above, his situation is well-known, most of the
church is aware of the fact that he has not responded to either
elders or friends. He was not serving in a place of leadership, and
he has also now moved out the area. I myself don't see any point in a
public announcement in his case. It may well be that your church has
gone far enough with the brother you are concerned for.
I believe you will find Ray Stedman's sermon on Matthew 18 helpful,
I am one of several people I know who have been through church
discipline. It was for me a life-saving procedure. Now, many years
later, I am grateful for the faithfulness of my church elders and
friends who were obedient to Matthew 18 and thus they allowed God to
deal directly with me until I came to my senses seven years later. I
can assure you that God's discipline can be very severe when
necessary. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
HOW church discipline is conducted is very important. I think this is
clear from Ray Stedman's discussion of the subject. I remember
hearing Ray preach the above-mentioned sermon--with tears and a heavy
heart. I was sitting next to the disciplined elder's wife that day
and she said the fact that I had come back to the Lord was a great
encouragement to her. Sure enough, a few months later this man did
come to the Lord and took corrective steps on all fronts. Today he
and his wife are back in the service of the Lord and he is a blessing