Imagine That! A Church That Practices Discipline.

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by N. Eshelman, Dec 18, 2008.

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  1. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    I would point you to the January 2009 issue of Tabletalk magazine. Read the article, "Principle vs. Pragmatism."
  2. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    In my humble opinion, the elders' letter to the woman is pastoral and appropriate, whether or not we agree with their application of "tell it to the church" (which may mean, "tell it to all members publicly" or "tell it to the church officers"). It's sad that someone could join a church, expose their unrepentant sin, and expect the church to ignore it. May this cause the woman to ponder her steps.
  3. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    You cannot "quit" a church. That is implicit in your analysis, and it is incorrect. You cannot do that any more than you can be charged with a crime in the U.S., and then decide, "well, I'll just move to Canada, and it will go away."

    There are three ways to leave a church:

    1. Transfer
    2. Excommunication
    3. Death
  4. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    A closer analogy would be someone committing a crime in the US for which the punishment is banishment to Canada. That person flees to Canada of their own accord. There is no way for the US to extradite criminals from Canada. The legal process against them was incomplete when they fled.

    Should they then be tried in absentia in the US for the specific crimes of which they stood accused?

    Yes, my view is partially motivated by pragmatism. But I am not saying that someone can just choose to leave a church, especially not while under discipline, nor am I saying that they can leave other than by excommunication, transfer or death. I am saying that, by leaving in such circumstances, they excommunicated themselves, and that the specifics of the sins for which they were under discipline are now a moot point. So, for pragmatic reasons, I don't think those specific sins need be publicly announced.
  5. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Pragmatism is neither wise nor confessional (1689 LBC 26.7). Excommunication can only be accomplished through an action taken by the lawful officers of the church (pastor and elders). An individual cannot excommunicate themselves. I'll be direct. You are advocating individualism. The individual supercedes the church. That's a dangerous road to take.

    The burden is on you to support your pragmatism with scripture and that, within the boundaries of the confessions. If you can't do that, my counsel to you is to drop this line of reasoning.
  6. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    We are not permitted to excommunicate ourselves. Period.
  7. Timothy William

    Timothy William Puritan Board Junior

    "Excommunicate themself" was the wrong phrase for what I was attempting to say, which was that in leaving the church and denying that the elders had any authority over them was itself a disciplinary offense.

    However, this discussion seems to have moved tangentially away from the OP, and I'm not sure that it can be continues profitably.
  8. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    With all respect, you are assuming it was the pastor who was gossiping, given what the article says..I take it the Mentor let others know..

    I would disagree with you on this, as there is no formal office to hold as a Stephens Minister, it is a lay ministry. Even with the pastor, elders and deacons, if they spent as much time w/ each congregant as a Stephens Minister does with their one care receiver each week, they would not have time for anything else.

    How often each week do you meet with members of your congregation who are hurting through the death of a spouse? How about the elders and deacons? Do they set aside an hour or two each week to sit and listen to and pray with and encourage and comfort that person, through-out the first year after that loss? What about after a child dies? or if a spouse walked out?
    or if a spouse is in the Military in a war zone, do you set aside a time each week to really listen to their concerns and fears and offer them words of comfort and encourage them and pray with them? Other than on the Lords Day? Do your deacons and elders set aside a time each week to do that with those members?

    Do you have time in your schedule to meet with everyone in your congregation who is hurting and in need of that one on one time, once a week for a year or two?

    Our pastors/elders/deacons don't..they may know of the initial needs and be able to help with those, but they don't have the time to really be there for that person as they struggle with those things.

    I can not tell you the number of people I have heard say they left a church because nobody was there for them when they needed it most, when they were hurting the most. The pastors would put them off or tell them get over it all ready, trust God..but not giving them an ear to really listen to their hurts.

    In Stephens Ministry the lay person is trained to listen and encourage and pray for and with that person, and be there for the person who is hurting, when the pastors/elders/deacons or even family and other friends can not be..and the person is comforted in knowing that at least for an hour or two each week, this person is going to be there for them..through that first holiday, or anniversary of their wedding, or birthday or anniversary of the death of their spouse, when nobody else is, when everyone else is telling them to get over it all ready..or to just trust in God, but yet, not being able to talk about the person and their life together. Typically, after the initial loss, after the funeral and the initial month they get tossed aside and ignored, and even forgotten.

    Not everyone knows how to help and Stephens Ministry trains them how to be there. but to be honest, not everyone cares to do that, to be able to set aside that time for another person when they look at their own schedule and how busy they are, they become selfish..but in Stephens they make a commitment to meet with that person once a week, to be there for them.
  9. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    There is much correct in what you say. The context of "church discipline" is a bit broader than many commonly think of it in our generation.

    It is one of the marks of a biblical church. In fact, John Calvin inferred that it is one of the essentials of a "true church."

    Here is what the PCA constitution describes as the purpose, scope, and procedure of "church discipline" (emphasis added)

    One thing to keep in mind here. It appears this person vowed before God and publically before the church to walk obediently and to submit to her discipline. This is not a conditional promise.

    Ex-communication is by its nature public to the church. It is a final and most drastic remedy after many other loving steps have been followed, ample time is given to repent, and the offender is made well aware of the process.

    Earlier steps ordinarily are much more private and involve much time and effort of the church. Sin is costly.

    It is generally only extreme, prolonged impenitence that results in ex-communication.

    After ex-communication the person is treated "as if" they are an unbeliever by being cut off from the church (this should apply all denominations of the Body of Christ). In effect, at that point, they are formally turned over to God for future discipline. Even then, it is with the hope that God may yet, allow them to be reclaimed.

    The ends of discipline are several:

    1) the Glory of God
    2) the purity of His Church
    3) keeping and reclaiming of disobedient sinners

    I like the phrase, "The power which Christ has given the Church is for building up, and not for destruction."
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
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