Shaping Holy Disciples
Mark Dever says church discipline is not about punishment or self-help.
Interview by Mark Galli |
Christianity Today, 07/25/2005.

Mark Dever is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington D.C., where he has been intentional about deepening the meaning of church membership and thus church discipline. He is the author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church .

What is church discipline?

...Formative discipline is all the teaching we do—the positive statements, the modeling, the instruction and sermons and Bible studies and books that we pass out. Corrective church discipline is where we have to say, "Hey, Tom, I think you're wrong."...

Some people think the word discipline is the problem. But why do people react against church discipline yet seek the spiritual disciplines?

Spiritual disciplines can seem like a human-potential wellness campaign, only expressed in spiritual terms. Church discipline sounds like excommunication, which sounds judgmental....

What is the difference between biblical church discipline and voluntary accountability...

Accountability is one aspect of church discipline. Church discipline is both formative and corrective, and it gives testimony to the authority of God and to our humility....

In those rare cases when an active member must be expelled, why does it usually hinge on things like marital unfaithfulness? Aren't there other sins that are equally destructive that should be disciplined?

You have to consider what is provable, publicly demonstrable. You may deeply struggle with pride, which may be before God a far stronger issue. Your local church could help you deal with that. ... In our church, non-attendance is the usual behavior that would get somebody excluded. You need something demonstrable.

If a church wants to start taking church discipline seriously, what would you suggest?

My basic advice is not to do it—that is, do not do church discipline until your church membership is meaningful. With most evangelical churches today, the membership is fairly meaningless. And it would be weird to have two deacons turn up on your front doorstep to confront you about adultery or gossip, because there's been no natural conversation about your spiritual life. Not only should we be talking about football and the weather after worship, but also about our own self-denial or lack thereof, our response to the Word just preached, the way we choked up at that older member's testimony, how we've cared for a distressed family, about our concern to evangelize Muslims in the area, and so on. August 2005, Vol. 49, No. 8, Page 32