It has been over two years since a story went national concerning a church in Jacksonville, FL exercising Biblical church discipline. The individual that was being disciplined was upset and decided to take the situation to the local media. The church staff refused to discuss the situation with the media and the result was a one sided report that made the church look real bad.
Here are the facts concerning that situation. A woman mentioned to another woman that she was having an affair with a non-Christian man. They were basically living together. The other woman took her aside and pointed out God’s view of such relationships and that as a Christian she shouldn’t be involved in that kind of a relationship. When the woman did not respond with repentance, she then discussed the situation with the pastor so that the next steps would be handled Biblically. The pastor attempted to contact the woman and she refused to talk to him. So the next step in church discipline was commenced. The woman became defensive and claims that she was ambushed and this is when she went to the media.
Since the church leadership did not share their side of the story we do not have an accurate picture of what happened. We only have her side of the story which may or may not be completely factual. We do know that all the steps of church discipline were conducted which means that the woman did not repent. Instead, she left the church and started attending another church that does not practice church discipline. This means that she found a church that does not believe in the authority of the Bible over the local church.
Church discipline was given to us by Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote about it in one of his epistles. The purpose of it is to keep the church pure. The church will ultimately be the bride of Christ so the purity of the church is critical. The problem we have in today’s church is that too many of the local churches have adopted the seeker sensitive approach to Sunday worship. If we are making non-Christians comfortable in our worship services then we are not preaching the true Word of God. We cannot practice church discipline if we are inviting the world into our worship services. Worship is only for believers. The Bible makes it clear that God rejects the worship of non-believers. The Bible also makes it clear that the purpose of church discipline is to lovingly restore a brother or sister in Christ to a proper relationship with God. If they reject these attempts then they must love their sin more than Christ and should be removed from the church. Then we should try to evangelize and present them with the true gospel.
If the woman felt ambushed, it is possible that this step wasn’t handled correctly. If more than two witnesses were on hand or they spoke in a condemning manner I could understand feeling ambushed. They are there to make sure that the process is followed correctly. They are not there to condemn.
It is always a shame when someone is removed from the fellowship. But it is far worse to ignore the sin and thus condone it. This church did the right thing by going through the process. I just wish they had taken the opportunity to communicate to the media the purpose of church discipline so that the reports weren’t so one sided. They were right not to discuss this woman’s situation, but the process should have been discussed as presented in the Bible.
We need more churches to value the Word of God the way this church in Jacksonville did.
A Willing Slave of Christ,