Home > Brandenburg, Fundamentalism, Methodology, The Church > Shameful Alternatives for Church Discipline pt. 3

Shameful Alternatives for Church Discipline pt. 3

August 4, 2009

Our lives are supposed to be regulated by scripture.  Everything is in the Bible that anyone needs to be all that he needs to be and do what he needs to do.   A very plain teaching of the Bible relates to when someone in a church sins.  What are the other members to do with a sinning brother?  Passages abound on this subject, starting with what Jesus taught the apostles in Matthew 18:15-17.  As a matter of fact, it is the first place in which Jesus gives anything for the church to do.  And the text is clear.  So churches obey what He said, right?  Well, wrong.

Many churches choose an alternative to what Jesus taught.  When they ask what Jesus would do, they go outside of scripture to find the answer.  What do they do instead?  We know if they are practicing something not in the Bible, especially when God’s Word has something to say about it, that it can’t be right.  Did you know that when we get to the end of our lives that this is what is going to be most important to us?  It isn’t going to be how big our church is.  It isn’t going to be how well-known we are or how impressive we are or how big our constituency is.   It is going to be whether we labored in a way pleasing to God.

So if churches don’t do what the Bible says, what do they do?  So far we’ve covered two that I’ve often witnessed or heard about churches using, sometimes both on the same occasion.  Today we get to number three.

Conversational Castigation

When churches are not taught from the Bible to practice church discipline or how to do it, the people in those churches will resort to other behavior that oft times is a violation of scripture.  Churches that do not practice church discipline become hot beds for gossip (a gardening metaphor).  People see someone sin and they might think that something’s wrong with going directly to pastor or pastoral staff.  Neither do they think it best to confront the sinning person.  That’s definitely out of their realm of expertise.  That kind of activity is only for the big boys, better left handled by the cadre of discipline gurus.  So they don’t turn them in.  They don’t go to them in person.  So they just keep it to themselves?  No.  They tell someone else about it.  Ergo gossip.

Hot, mammoth, volcanic sermons preached against gossip.  Doesn’t matter.  You can keep telling people what not to do, but they also need to know what to do.  If they don’t know what to do or even if it isn’t modeled, they’ll still most of the time do what they aren’t supposed to do.  “Don’t tell anyone” means “you can tell at least one person, but you’ll need to tell that person not to tell anyone.”  And no one tells anyone . . . . except for one person.  It’s the spreading fire of the tongue of James 3.  Gossip is bad, indeed.  It has been voted the most hated practice of the modern workplace.  Yet, people gossip.  Like it.  Like to hear it.  Don’t like it being done to them.  Still do it.

And in these churches that don’t practice church discipline, certain gossip is actually approved.  You can gossip about people who deserve it.  It isn’t gossip then.  It’s a warning.  Matthew 18 still hasn’t been practiced.  No one can scripturally tell anyone else, because we haven’t had one-on-one nor two-or-three-on-one, but that’s OK.  They’re bad people.  People need to be told not to hang around them.  Or that they are on the unofficial bad guy list.   We’ve got trouble in River City with the billiard players putting a ball in the corner pocket.   Inquiring minds want to know.

Without discipline, gossip becomes the great religious pastime of the church.  It’s one way the church develops a good dose of self-righteousness.  You good.  I’m good.  We’re both good.  That’s good.  He bad.  That’s bad.  Good thing you told me.  It is.  Thank you.  Good thing we’re not bad.  Yah, good thing.

But the one under the discipline of “conversational castigation” begins to hear whispers.  The whisper campaign.  He begins to detect that he’s done something wrong and that he better figure it out.  What to do?  I guess wait until his reputation comes back.  It’s been ruined on the short term.  There was no love there to cover any one sin, let alone a multitude.

Actually what’s good about this (and this is true to some degree) is that it is a character builder for the one being gossiped about.  It has served him right.  That’s what he gets for doing thus and so.  And he’ll get over it.  Quit your whining.  We’re not on this earth to have friends anyway.  So much to learn.  The source of those types of tribulation were supposed to be the world.  But everybody’s going to get talked about sometime, so just get used to it.  And if you can’t get used to it, then something’s wrong with you.  That’s your problem.  And so on and so forth.

And then there’s finally gossip about gossip.  He got in trouble for gossip.  He did?  Yah! How’d you know?  So and so told me.  Oh!

And it even spreads to other churches.  She drops the gossip bomb to his parents who covertly slip in their own improvised explosive device.  Oh really?!?  Yes, can you believe it?!?  No!  But they mean “yes.”

A shameful alternative to church discipline, indeed.

  1. Anon
    August 4, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Part 1 and 3 of this series have been an absolute whipping for me. The only reason number 2 wasn’t is because I’m not a Pastor I’m sure. But I’ve done the other two. Useful reproof brother, praise God for his Word.

  2. August 7, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for the comment Anon. I actually think that these shameful practices are widespread in churches in a certain segment of fundamentalism. I think there are many reasons for this that I might explore in my fourth part.

  3. August 8, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Ouch! This is called “meddling.” Blog against someone else’s errors and you get comments; Blog against things closer to home and you get 1 (from “Anon” no less!).

    Thanks for doing this. I am really looking forward (in a somewhat wincing way) to part 4! Builds character, amen!?

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