Over the last two weeks, we have focused on church discipline. As we have said, there are two types of church discipline; formative discipline and corrective discipline. Formative discipline is the building up of one another in the Word through encouragement and instruction. Corrective discipline is the correcting of one another when we err. Usually, when we think of church discipline we think of the final stages of corrective discipline, meaning excommunication. However, the overwhelming majority of church discipline will never reach that stage, especially if church discipline (read: discipleship) is a regular part of the church culture. When discipleship is a priority in the life of the church both formative and corrective discipline will be a part of the ongoing interaction between church members. Mark Lauterbach, gives a good example of what this looks like in his book, The Transforming Community.
Discipline is expressed at every level, not as a mean-spirited harangue, but as the necessary corrective to sin and reminder of the Gospel call to holiness. Brothers and sisters in the body should function as comrades in a holy war, pursuing godliness. They should have agreement in the measure of holiness and they should apply it. First, they look at themselves and face reality. In addition, they tell a few friends of the war they face, their particular temptations, and their need of prayer. Then they help others apply it, in the context of humble and authentic fellowship in Christ.
My wife sat in a group of women not too long ago where this was the atmosphere. One of the women shared her sense of guilt in not getting all the things done that were before her each day. She was a mother of three young children. She lost her temper. She did not open her home to others as much as she wanted.
What struck my wife was how the other women helped her understand the standards of God, helped her get rid of false guilt, helped her see what the real sins were, and encouraged her to keep living under the cross. She came away heartened for the journey.
The function of the church is to build up, to encourage, to strengthen, to exhort, to support. We are to be friends in Christ who fan the flame of our faith and hope and love. (pgs. 77-78)
Let’s tell one another of the “war” we face, of our “particular temptations,” and our “need of prayer.” Let’s help one another “understand the standards of God, get rid of false guilt,” identify “the real sins” in our lives, and live “under the cross.” Let’s walk together!
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” –Hebrews 3:13
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25