The Democratic Foundations of Church Discipline

Over at First Things, I recently wrote a piece on Baptist church discipline in America in order to correct some misconceptions.

The Village Church, a Southern Baptist mega-church in the Dallas area, recently disciplined a woman who had her marriage annulled when she found out that her husband had been looking at child porn. Why would the church do that? Isn’t she the wronged party?

Jonathan Merritt attempts to make sense of church discipline in his two-part piece, “Shepherds, Shamers, and Shunners: The Rise of Church Discipline in America.” It would be nice for those unacquainted with church discipline to understand the renewed interest that some Southern Baptist churches have for the practice, but unfortunately, Merritt never fulfills the promise of his title. He doesn’t explain the rise of anything.

You can read the rest of it here.

8 thoughts on “The Democratic Foundations of Church Discipline

  1. Hi Collin

    I tried to post this at First Things yesterday – It did NOT get past moderation.
    Today, since leaving church leadership, I have a different view of Mat 18:15-17.


    You write…
    “Yes, 9Marks has done much to promote the idea of **church discipline** in America, but they root their definition in Jesus’s teachings.”

    BUT – I can NOT find Jesus teaching about “church discipline” in my antquated KJV.

    Isn’t Mat 18:15-17, which you quote, much more about Two Brothers?
    And the outcome desired, is to be, “thou hast gained *thy brother?*
    And says NOT one thing about “church discipline?”

    Mat 18:15-17 KJV
    15 Moreover if *thy brother* shall trespass against *thee,* (Thee is Me, Amos.)
    go and tell him his fault between *thee* and him alone:
    if he shall hear *thee,* thou hast gained **thy brother.**

    16 But if he will not hear *thee,* then take with *thee* one or two more,
    (Thee is Me, Amos.)
    that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

    17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: (Assembly)
    but if he neglect to hear the church, (His Called Out Ones, His Body)
    let him be unto *thee* as an **heathen man and a publican.** (Thee is Me, Amos.)

    I do NOT really know what it means… Or, what I should do…
    When “he (MY Brother,) neglects to hear *the church,*”
    (His Body, His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones)

    And I, Amos, his brother, is to…
    “let him be unto *thee* (Thee is Me, Amos.) (NOT the church.)
    as an **heathen man and a publican.**”

    I do NOT see in these verses the assembly, the ekklesia, disciplining anyone.
    I do NOT see anyone removing My Brother from the Assembly, His Body.
    NOPE, “discipline,” “church discipline” is NOT mentioned at all in Mat 18…

    When My Brother neglects to hear the assembly, the called out ones, the body…
    It is left up to *thee.* (Thee is Me, Amos.)
    How I treat him, My Brother, “as an heathen man and a publican.”

    Best I can figure… A good rule of thumb is to see…
    How did Jesus interact with “heathens and publicans?”
    How did Jesus, treat a “heathen man and a publican?”

    Maybe the test is for me…
    To Love My enemies, bless them that curse Me,
    Do good to them that hate Me, and pray for them
    Which despitefully use Me, and persecute Me…

    How did Jesus, treat a “heathen man and a publican?”

  2. Hi again Collin

    And I posted this today at First Things.


    How did Jesus, treat a “heathen man and a publican?”
    Didn’t Jesus hang out with the sinners, wine bibbers, and publicans?
    Who could complain about that?

    Wasn’t it the Religious Leaders, the Pharisees, scribes, who complained…
    When Jesus sought out the “publicans and sinners.”
    When Jesus went to the home of the “publicans and sinners.”
    When Jesus had dinner with the “publicans and sinners.”
    When Jesus Loved them… The “publicans and sinners.”

    Mark 2:16
    And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him
    eat with **publicans and sinners,** they said unto his disciples,
    How is it that he eateth and drinketh with **publicans and sinners?**
    When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them,
    They that are whole have no need of the physician,
    but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous,
    but sinners to repentance.

    Luke 3:12
    Then came also *publicans* to be baptized,
    and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?

    Lu 5:29
    And Levi made him (Jesus) a great feast in his own house:
    and there was a great company of *publicans* and of others that sat down with them.

    Lu 15:1
    Then drew near unto him all the **publicans and sinners** for to hear him.

    NOPE – In MAT 18, you can NOT find “discipline,” or “church discipline.”
    You can NOT find My Brother being “kicked out of the assembly.”
    Or, My Brother being “voted out of the assembly.”

    In Matthew 18…
    I kinda see Jesus asking WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, His Church, His Body…
    When *thy brother* shall trespass against *thee,* (Thee is Me, Amos.)

    To forgive… and love…
    From our hearts…
    Our Brother…

    And treat My Brother as Jesus treated the publicans and sinners.

    Yeah… Maybe the test is for *Thee?” (Thee is Me, Amos.)

    1. Amos, thanks for your comments. I don’t moderate the comments at First Things, but I assume they did not approve the comment because of its length.

      My point in writing the piece was to explain that Baptist churches who discipline have reasons rooted in Scripture and tradition. You may disagree with those interpretations and traditions. I was merely addressing what I saw as an oversight in Merritt’s piece.

      Historically, most people have interpreted Matthew 18 as Jesus giving the congregation the authority to remove people from fellowship. This interpretation is strengthened by Paul’s directive in 1 Corinthians 5.

      You seem to be offended more by the word “discipline” than the actual concept. Discipline means calling people to repentance, which is how you believe we should treat the pagans and tax collectors. Baptists have traditionally used church discipline as a way to call people back into repentance and restoration. We shouldn’t think of “discipline” as “spanking.” We should think of it as the root of “discipleship.” Removing people from the congregation is the instrument of last resort for calling wayward disciples back.

  3. Collin

    Thanks for posting the comments and your response.
    First Things posted the second comment but NOT the first.

    I’m familiar with your statement…
    “**Historically,** most people have interpreted Matthew 18 as Jesus giving the congregation the authority to remove people from fellowship.”

    And, The challenge is – “authority to remove people from fellowship”
    Is NOT found at all in Mat 18:15-17. Seems that has been added.

    The challenge is – The words “discipline” and “church discipline”
    Are NOT found at all in the Bible. Seems these terms have been added.

    You suggest how WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, should think of “discipline.”
    “Discipline means calling people to repentance.”
    We should think of it (“discipline”) “as the root of “discipleship.”“

    That sounds nice, even sounds correct – But, is that in the Bible?
    Who determines “Discipline means calling people to repentance?”
    Who determines “discipline” “as the root of “discipleship?”
    When, “discipline” “discipleship” are NOT found in the Bible?

    The challenge is – Once WE, His Ekklesia, begin to use words NOT in the Bible. Now WE, His Sheep, have to use other words NOT in the Bible to explain them. 😉

    In my experience…
    The ones with the “Titles,” the Power, Profit, Prestige, the Pulpits…
    Get to determine what those words mean.

    And NOT the Bible.

    And now we’re dealing with “Commandments of Men,” and Doctrines of Men.”

    That are suspect…

  4. Collin

    **Historically,** if it’s NOT in the Bible, isn’t it then a “Tradtion of Men?”
    A “Doctrine of Men?” A “Commandment of Men?”

    And Jesus warned His Disciples about “Tradtions of men” – Yes?

    Mark 7:13
    KJV – Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    When words like “discipline” and “church discipline” are used…
    Words and Terms NOT found in the Bible. “Doctrines of Men.”
    Those with the “Titles.” Those in Power…
    Can, and do, make “church discipline” to mean whatever they desire.

    A simple disagreement with “church leaderhip” (A term NOT in the Bible)
    Can lead to “church discipline” if you refuse to agree with “leadership.”

    And this seems to be the norm – as you say about Merrit in your post…
    “He claims that proponents of “church discipline”
    often end up abusing and shaming people in the congregation.”

    TVC even put someone into “church discipline”
    After they resigned from that organization without the elders permission

    Leaders, having WE, His Sheep, sign legal “church membership contracts”
    So they can perform “church discipline” without being sued…

    Is just another tool, for those in Power…
    To control and manipulate WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, with fear…

    Fear of – The pastor/leader/reverends…
    Having “the authority to remove people from fellowship.”

  5. Collin

    Did you know 9 Marks recommends…
    **legal protection for church discipline?**

    This article at 9 marks says…
    “In order for a church to **legally protect itself** in such matters,
    it must clearly teach these things to incoming members.”

    “For more on this see
    Ken Sande’s article on **legal protection for church discipline.**”

    If “church discipline” is biblical…
    Why do they need legal protection?

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