Church Discipline

Every family has rules and discipline if those rules are broken. God’s Family is no different. The writer of Hebrews explains the principle here:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.    (Hebrews 12:5-11)

As a member of Hope Family Fellowship, you agree to submit to the church leadership according to:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)

This authority is limited to dealing with sin issues and does not intrude into the individual’s or families’ realms of jurisdiction or personal choices that are beyond the scope of the Scriptures.

If a Hope Family Fellowship member is clearly sinning against the Word of God and/or others, then the leadership will attempt to follow the Biblical instruction given here:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.         (Matthew 18:15-18)

The above verse will be viewed and implemented through:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.   (Galatians 6:1)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Love, restoration, and reconciliation will remain the overarching goal. The method to reach this goal is repentance of the sin issue. Each individual instance requiring church discipline will be prayerfully discussed among the leadership team. After seeking the Lord for His grace, mercy, and wisdom, the person who is sinning will be contacted according to the steps in Matthew 18:15-18 above.

The person will be encouraged to repent and be reconciled to both God and the rest of the members of Hope Family Fellowship as quickly as possible. The goal of church discipline is love and restoration, not punishment or humiliation of the person involved.

The Scripture is vague regarding the length of time between steps, how to “tell the church,” and how long to “bear with one another” in these type issues. What is clear is that the leadership has a responsibility to hold up a standard of truth according to the Scriptures and sin must be addressed as quickly as possible.

Open sin is a disease in the Body of Christ, and the leadership must take the steps necessary to lead those caught in sin to repentance. Church discipline is one of the true marks of being a member of the Family of God.