This leads me to what I wanted to bring up in the blog. We learned a lot and studied a lot on the practice of church discipline. Now I know this is not a very familiar term today, but church discipline is something that happened from the New Testament churches all the way to the present, though presently very few churches practice or know church discipline. A definition of church discipline would be: the action taken by church governing bodies against individuals or groups of individuals whose actions, beliefs, or reputation effect the holiness and purity of the church body. It is important to note that this happened within the context of single congregations. Members of the church were held accountable for various types of attitudes, actions, and beliefs both inside and outside the church. The church would regularly conduct "tribunals" to try cases being brought up. Evidence would be presented for the accusation and the church would vote on a verdict, then a proper sentence would be given. Sometimes the sentence involved repentance and reconciliation with members of the church, and in many cases, the sentence was expulsion from the church. There were some who refused to undergo such trials to respond to accusations against them, but for the most part, individuals absolutely went through this process.
You see, in the past, church wasn't viewed as simply a place to show up on Sunday to worship. Churches were families. They were communities of faith. There was much love and affection for each other, but there was accountability. They believed the only two ways to leave a church were 1. death or 2. expulsion. You didn't want the reputation of having been expelled from a church. You would not be quickly received by other churches because they assumed that you had doctrinal or character issues that they didn't want exposed to their churches. Purity in the church was paramount!
When I read of this and reflect on what happens in our society today regarding church, I cringe. Very few people would dare to hear a charge brought against them, more-less publicly repent in order to be restored to the "right hand of fellowship" within the church. Today's churchgoer would simply leave and go somewhere else. The church they would go to would blindly receive them into the fold and more than likely, more issues would arise later.
Here's my questions for you: what are your thoughts on church discipline of the Church of the past (NT - 1800's) vs. the Church of today? Would you undergo church discipline or would you leave? What are your thoughts on how churches can, to some degree, recapture the ability to handle issues of discipline, yet retain the individual within the fold of the church? I would love to hear your thoughts.