Friday, January 18, 2008

Church Discipline - No perfect people allowed

My pastor, and friend, Phil Print has taken some heat this past week from some critics for some church discipline issues. He has my full support, and gets a hearty AMEN! from me on how he has handled this. He posted the following on his blog:

What "No perfect people allowed" doesn't mean

We've recently been criticized by a few people who say our motto (no perfect people allowed) is nothing more than an empty slogan. The criticisms have come as a result of us confronting a couple of people in our church regarding their sin (which we thankfully rarely have to do). The sin we confronted was out in the open for all to see. It was sin the couple agreed was occurring. It was sin the couple refused to turn away from and receive any help with. It was sin that was creating some divisiveness in our community of faith.

The criticism is: What right do we have to exercise church discipline on sinners? Our sign says, No perfect people allowed. We're all sinners, right? Who do we think we are confronting people and calling them to repent of their sins? And what right do we have to ever ask someone to leave our church if they refuse to repent after a period of time?

First, the Bible calls us to exercise church discipline when needed. There is Biblical teaching that clearly outlines the process church leaders are to follow. Read Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13; Galatians 6:1; Titus 3:10; etc. We not only are called to do this in the Bible, but we leaders are held accountable to God if we don't! Our motive for this is always love--to help the person(s) turn from sin and live the kind of life that God blesses.

Second, our motto "no perfect people allowed" isn't an excuse to sin boldly. It doesn't mean we go light on sin or say "whatever" when those around us sin. It means we acknowledge that we're all sinners. It means we all humble ourselves before God and each other, striving to become more like Christ. It means we come out of the closet, admit our sin, turn from it, get help, and grow. It doesn't mean I come out of the closet, refuse to do anything, and expect everyone to let me do my thing.

In John 8:1-11 Jesus shows us how to deal with others who sin. He cared about the woman caught in adultery. He treated her gracefully. But note what he said to her in vs. 10: "Go and sin no more." Jesus called her to leave her life of sin. He expected her to make a change. We are to do the same for each other.

Here's my formula:
Struggling with sin yet open to exploring God's counsel...OK.
Refusing to deal with blatant sin...not OK.

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