Is Church Discipline Necessary?

Honor God, Love Others, Clarify the Gospel

A husband cheats on his wife, divorces her, but still remains an active member in his church. Some churches use church discipline in cases like this, others don’t. Kent Hughes, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Phil Ryken sit down to talk about church discipline in their churches. They encourage pastors and church members to proceed with love and courage as they correct and rebuke sin.

Rev. Dr. R. Kent Hughes is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Kent has more than 40 years experience in pastoral ministry including 27 years as senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor at Anacostia River Church in the Washington, D.C. area. Dr. Philip Ryken is the President of Wheaton College. 

Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)

If Your Brother Sins Against You

15 “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.16But 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.17If 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.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Kent, Thabiti and Phil agreed that church discipline is necessary because God commanded it. They practice it out of a desire to honor God, to love others, even when it’s inconvenient, and to clarify the gospel. 

How does your church handle church discipline? What systems or procedures are in place when dealing with unrepentant sin? Does your pastor (or if you are a pastor, do you) address church discipline from the pulpit? If so, how?
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Phil said church discipline shows people inside and outside the church what it means to be a Christian. It expresses love to the person in sin while clarifying the gospel for the congregation. What has your experience been with church discipline? Did it show others what it means to be a Christian? If so, how? Did you and the church see it as an act of love? Why or why not?
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If you’re a pastor or church leader, have you ever had to perform church discipline on a member of your church? If so, what was your experience like? How did you and other church leadership respond? If you’re not a pastor or church leader, have you ever confronted someone about their sin? If so, describe your experience. How did love and courage factor into your confrontation?
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Jesus encourages us in the Sermon on the Mount to examine our own heart before pointing out the sins in others (Matthew 7:3–5). What practical steps could you take this week to examine the sin in your life and confess it to God? After confession, what could you do to turn away from sin and toward obedience?
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Seek to honor God, love others, and clarify the gospel as you correct and rebuke sin in your congregation. But also remain open to the conviction of sin in your own life by the Holy Spirit. Confess your sin to God and a trusted friend, and then repent—run to Christ.  

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