October 20, 2020

Where is Church Discipline When You Need It? Part 2: What does Matthew 18 Teach?

Without any intro, I’d like to get right into what I would be saying about Matthew 18 if I were lecturing on the “What does Matthew 18 tell us about church discipline?”

I’d begin by noting that the church discipline material in I Corinthians 5 predates Matthew 18 in composition. Assuming Markan priority, it’s safe to assume that the matter of what to do with certain kinds of situations in the early church moved Matthew to include more material for that context than you find in Mark or the other Gospels. There is a focus in Matthew on catechetical material and church context.

The epistles (including Revelation 2-3) are evidence enough of what these situations were and why they were of the utmost concern. They ran the gamut from interpersonal conflicts, family issues, business disagreements, immorality of various kinds and division. Evidence in the epistles also is clear that leaders were to function as shepherds in working toward the resolution of these conflicts. The matter in I Corinthians 5 is a matter of scandalous immorality, but it is also part of the larger Corinthian church problem: complete lack of functioning leadership, resulting in a kind of “charismatic” leadership that was allowing the church to go down the route of Thyatira in Revelation 2.

Matthew 18 is part of the material following the Transfiguration, which I locate in Matthew, Mark and Luke as particularly devoted to discipleship and continuing the Christian life in community. This seems to indicate that Jesus, from the time of the Mark 8 revelation of his identity, until the material in John 14-17, was preparing the disciples for leadership, discipleship and issues that would occur in future community and mission.

So when we look at Matthew 18 (and the first part of 19), I note the following:

Particular images: small children to be received and imitated, lost sheep to be found, brother to be restored.

A parable: An Unforgiving servant who refuses to extend to others the forgiveness extended to him.

The sin associated with divorce: The mistreatment of wives, the scandal of adultery in the church.

The images of the follower of Jesus: Receiving a child, being like a child, seeking restoration with a brother through a tenacious process, avoiding the hypocrisy of stingy forgiveness, remembering that Jesus seeks the lost sheep and imitating him.

So what we have here is a very grace and forgiveness filled chapter. It is not a chapter filled with the duty of elders to root out errors and go looking for reasons to accuse. It is not about seeking the purity of the church but about recalling that we all are lost sheep, little children with limited understanding and bankrupt sinners treated with amazing grace.

In the center of this, Jesus outlines a process for seeking to make a personal relationship right. Matthew 18:15 is very restrictive. A brother has sinned against a brother. There is no question that this is a sin. This is not a matter of being less than perfect, but it is a sin that needs to be acknowledged in order to be made right.

It is not initially primarily a church matter. This doesn’t deputize the Barney Fifes of the church to go out and find issues needing discipline. That is not to say the church has no interest, because it does, but not in this first step as Jesus states it. Initially, it is a matter of one brother going to the offending- actually sinning- brother and communicating to him the actual sin against him.

This is crucial, because if the situation fails at this point, there is no process, or certainly not the same process. Doctrinal matters are a different issue altogether. Human foibles are not what is being discussed. Being “offended” is not what is being discussed. A brother may decide to suffer the sin and let the other brother go on. That is an option, though one whose wisdom needs to be checked carefully.

Let me give an example that is common in my ministry: My brother breaks a confidence and tells a group of people something I have said to him in agreed upon privacy. Now he has broken that and sinned against me. But let’s assume it is not a confidence. I’ve told many. Now he tells someone, which is exactly what I’ve done. He has NOT sinned against me. He’s irritated me. If he broke a confidence, and that is a sin, then I should, for his own sake, tell him what has happened.

The clear implication is that the goal is 1) agreement, 2) repentance and 3) restoration. Restoration is not detailed in this passage, but the general teaching of scripture on true repentance makes this unnecessary. For instance, David must tell Bathsheba that he killed her husband, otherwise his repentance is intentionally incomplete.

Now, things get interesting. If the brother refuses to acknowledge the sin, a second option appears that does involve the church community. I do not believe it is compulsory. I believe it is up to the individual to take the following two steps, but IF both are part of a church that has openly established a community standard of relationships based on this principle, then it should be no surprise when a second conversation occurs, this time involving two other brothers.

The language here is the language of witness. These two are present to witness the sincere seeking of reconciliation and restoration. They are also here to support the entire process. There is no reason to think they will not participate in the process by encouraging communication and clarification. Because this matter is a sin, and there’s no disagreement over that, then the brothers may offer to clarify the nature of the issue using scripture and counsel.

This makes it clear that the church has a stake in restoration and reconciliation prior to anything that excludes. Reconciliation is an aspect of the Gospel that is proclaimed and offered by Christians to the world and to one another. (I Corinthians 5)

It is not an option for the church to say “We don’t get involved in personal conflicts.” There’s no way to have Matthew 18 in your Bible and say to a warring family “You have to work it out on your own.” There is no way to say to a church member that a pastor who sinned against him/her is above accountability. All kinds of sins, hurts, wounds and situations WITHIN THE CHURCH are the church’s concern.

The third step is not at all what is usually pictured. This is not a matter of standing up and making public announcement, though in extreme cases where the entire church has been affected, that may need to happen.

The third step says that in some way, “the church” or the proper persons in the church, are told. It’s ridiculous to say every man, woman and child needs to know everything and every detail of a situation. Quite likely only a few, perhaps the elders or a selected group.

Here church leadership most functions as wise, trusted and courageous shepherds. What is the right response? Who needs to be put “on the case?” What spiritual gifts and ministries need to be in play? Prayer? Counseling? Are there practical things the church can do? Pay for a retreat, a counselor or a baby-sitter? How long does this process take? How does each unsuccessful encounter change the strategy?

There is a long list of issues that leaders need to consider. They need to evaluate steps 1 and 2. They may need wisdom from outside the church or from a specialized person. Perhaps the church leaders need to put some restrictions on ministry until the situation is resolved, or perhaps leaders need to simply list options for where a situation goes from here and for how long. A lot is involved and much wisdom is needed.

Remember, this comes when a church is convinced a genuine wrong is present and not just when one party says a wrong occurs. It may be, on that count, that the church’s most valuable contribution is to clarify to everyone what the problem actually is and what has happened, and not to say “Here’s what we are going to do if this doesn’t change.” It is easy to see in Jesus’ example that the problem may be a simple inability to acknowledge that a problem even exists.

There is no doubt that Jesus’ closes by reminding leaders that they have the power to exclude an unrepentant person from the church. How this is done will reflect on how much leaders are seeking to imitate Christ. I assume it will be done after much patience, much effort and much pleading/praying.

But sometimes, it must be done and should be done. It should be done with full explanation to all parties concerned and the church as a whole.

At that point, the agenda of the church changes from treating a person as a brother to treating the offending person as a lost sheep and as a person to be placed outside the visible church with one hope: their inclusion by Christ. The overall witness here should be a constant reference to Christ, a loving tenacity and a deep concern that God as we know him in Jesus be constantly our focus.

I want to close with an extended quote from one of my essays: Our Problem With Grace, and a section from that essay dealing with the nature of church discipline in the New Testament.

What about church discipline?

Doesn’t the New Testament’s clear advocacy of congregational church discipline speak volumes about the necessity of obedience in any right understanding of grace? That’s a good question, and one that can’t be avoided.

There are two New Testament passages that deal directly with the subject of church discipline, though there are many that make reference to it. In Matthew 18:12-35, church discipline is mentioned in a process of personal reconciliation. The church is involved when a brother refuses reconciliation with another Christian.

This passage is found between many passages dealing with Christ going after the lost sheep, and the Christian’s opportunity to live out the grace of God in personal forgiveness. So the passage in view is not about church discipline only. It is also about how the congregation can help a reluctant brother along the road to reconciliation. Being treated as a “gentile and a tax collector” is one step in that process, and I assume it means that when a person refuses to be reconciled we don’t judge him as beyond redemption, but graciously go back to the ABC’s of the gospel, and treat that person as a continuing project of loving outreach.

Grace toward someone who doesn’t yet reflect an understanding of what Jesus means is basic to discipleship. Imagine if this were a racist white brother who refused to come to church with black members. Would our actions toward him be law or grace? What will be his salvation and transformation? Rules about who can be a church member, or acknowledgment that Christ has created all of us as one new man, a new race in him?

The other passage, I Corinthians 5:1-13, deals with a congregation’s failure to respond to a semi-incestuous relationship going on within the congregation. Interestingly, Paul goes out of his way to say that Christians shouldn’t judge those outside of the church, something that may come as news to James Dobson and the rest of the cultural warriors. His words on judging those inside the church, based on behavior, seem unmistakable, and I don’t have a magic reading for this passage. I do have an illustration.

I have a family, and in my family, I have a son. My son is always my son. That relationship is one of pure grace, and doesn’t depend on any actions on my son’s part at all. Within that relationship, there is a kind of communication that might be called rules. Expectations of behavior are pretty clearly stated, and are reinforced as needed.

From my perspective, the essence of my relationship with my son does not depend at all on his behavior, but our mutual enjoyment of that relationship does depend on his behavior. To the extent that he gladly lives out my expectations, our relationship proceeds positively. It has been the case, however, that some of the key moments in our history have been violations of those expectations. His actions had consequences, and he was faced with decisions. How would he respond? What would he do? In our case, his response has always been to pursue the enjoyment of our relationship more than his own desires or preferences, and I believe that is not because of punishments, but because of the superior power of love, grace and affection in our hearts. It is a greater pleasure for you to be right with your family–if they love you–than to sacrifice that for your own way.

But I can imagine a situation where my son needed to be made aware of the value of this family relationship that is his by grace. I can imagine a scenario where his lack of response to truth would lead to me putting him out of the house, and telling him he could not return and enjoy the life of our family until certain changes were made. This is not a question of my love and grace for him. It is not a question of what is in my heart for him. It is a question of how much his life is shaped by that grace, and what steps are most appropriate for bringing us back to a mutual enjoyment of the wonderful gift of being dad and son.

Church discipline in I Corinthians seems to be about a failure of a church to understand grace. Grace loves so unconditionally that it will not abandon a person to his own rebellion and waywardness without a fight. If my son had drugs in his room, and I knew it and said, “That’s OK. It’s normal,” I would be failing to be loving and gracious, something God never fails to do. So Paul is angry that the church has presented God as one who cares so little about whether someone lives in the enjoyment of his grace that he approves of an incestuous relationship. This is a scandal of a higher order than a sexual scandal. It’s the scandal of cheap grace.

This passage isn’t about breaking rules. Sometimes Christians go very, very far down the road of sin’s allurements and dwell there for years. When this happens, we shouldn’t be outraged by such behavior, as if the church is scandalized. The church ought to be a scandal of grace every day, and when it’s not, the Gospel is missing. Go find it. Our treatment of that wayward person, in personal relationships and in the congregation, is all about God’s determination to be glorified in the lives of those for whom Jesus died as a substitute and a sacrifice.

Grace doesn’t approve. Grace just refuses to give up on us. (God really is amazing!)

So, in other words, we must do Matthew 18 as Jesus would do it. This isn’t a license to be a Pharisee.

To be continued….

Comments

  1. M. W. Peak says

    “Grace doesn’t approve. Grace just refuses to give up on us. (God really is amazing!)”

    I think that sums up my walk with God petty darned well.

    As I write this, I am looking out my window and observing a large and brilliant rainbow. Such moments are truly God’s gift to His creation.

  2. pinoy_crc says

    i like your illustration. with your family. and the relationship with your son.

    “Grace loves so unconditionally that it will not abandon a person to his own rebellion and waywardness without a fight.”

    i think the church, particularly, the leaders (elders and pastors) need to think in terms of the church as a family unit and our relationship to God in Christ in terms of unconditional love and grace. having this mindset will surely be a great guide in enforcing church discipline in the right way.

    thank you.

  3. Interesting that you would write this as I have been reading over some RC communications from the parties involved regarding the latest investigations into the Legionaries of Christ. All so carefully crafted in the language of love and fellowship. While I, to my shame, want to just blast them all out of the water.

    Your article takes careful reading. Obviously the matter of individual discipline is a matter requiring spiritual maturity. I wonder if the hard falls of famous pastors might not have been greatly mitigated by such actions, who are not uncommonly immediately excluded or given harsh punishment (that the person fails to follow). However, if there has been no thought on this matter, whether the person’s position is high or low, then I suppose an over-reaction or some paralysis of will is as likely to occur as any thing else.

    Much food for thought. I have never been in an individual church where any member has fallen under church discipline, however public the transgression.

  4. I’m not sure that I would take Matthew 18 as being prescriptive in as many situations as some would think. The first thing to note is that the original audience is the kind of audience that is motivated to do too much rather than too little. I think the Matthew 18 instructions are to take the place of personal vendettas or eternal grudges. There are other places where there is public scandal. I think those are to be taken care of so that scandal does not inhibit the spread of the gospel.

    “It is not an option for the church to say “We don’t get involved in personal conflicts.””

    I’d like to know more about this. I would agree that there are clearly times when this should not be said. But I wonder if there aren’t others where the church can say, “We aren’t in a place where our help is likely to make this better.” I think what is to be done is something that minimizes damage, whether by getting involved or by staying out of it. And I can see situations where a course of involvement is chosen, but where only so much can be done. I’ve seen a pastor agonize over situations where they could see that different kinds of grave damage would be the likely result of both involvement and avoidance.

    But a lot of teaching on this subject is often rooted in concrete situations. I always want to know what those are, as I might be building the case for another course of action that fit a very different kind of situation altogether from the one pictured by another teacher.

  5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    The ancient church must have functioned more along the lines of, for example, the Orthodox Christian millet within the Ottoman Empire–i.e, they were a community with the ability and motivation to police their members. (Apparently the involvement of pagan secular authorities was not possible or desirable.) This model seems difficult to transfer to voluntary groupings, especially ones which actively compete for followers.

    The prominence given to marriage and sexual issues indicates to me that community values did exist, though not without disagreement. Since modern churches divide over issues like homosexuality, they can safely “lay down the line” on that. But what about (to take the most pedestrian possible case) a man who divorces his wife and marries his secretary, apparently because he likes her better? What’s the goal of the disciplinary process–to make him divorce the secretary and remarry the first wife? To make the man repent of his sins? To teach / warn away other potential divorcees? Assuming he stays married to the secretary indefinitely, at one point does he get released from discipline?

  6. Very good thoughts, Michael.

  7. When a church would discipline people for greed and hypocrisy with the same vigor that it goes after various sexual sins, then that is a church that I might submit to the authority of.

    But I’ll never, ever, ever have to worry about that.

  8. Be sure and add “unrepentant” into all these lists you folks are making.

  9. I’m with Rick Ritchie. I don’t think Matthew 18 is normally prescriptive either. Certainly it describes steps an offended church member should take when sinned against. But it does not allow for the witch-hunting that goes on in some churches and in some denominations.

  10. So, in other words, we must do Matthew 18 as Jesus would do it. This isn’t a license to be a Pharisee.

    I understand how you were using the term Pharisee. But I should mention the Pharisees do Matthew 18 fantastically and hold it together between “denominations” in a way that puts Christians to shame. Right now discipline in one has very little legitimacy in other churches that are distant the net result being that people freely flee discipline. Except in those denominations that impose shunning (like the Jehovah’s witnesses or Amish) discipline is ineffectual, and those denominations get a terrible rep. I wouldn’t be so quick to decide that they should be ignored in their handling of this. They have solved a problem Christians still have.

  11. iMonk,
    This is a great piece. My heartbeat is very much in this line of peacemaking and reconciliation where possible. This is one of the toughest parts of Christian life. You have set forth some excellent ideas so far in this series. I look forward to more.

  12. I think the Amish’s shunning isn’t such a bad thing. If you’re merely being shunned then it lasts for a set period of time, and then everyone is supposed to act like the sin didn’t happen. Excommunication is permanent shunning, but I think even then it is possible to be reconciled to the church.

  13. Matt Jamison says

    I think Matthew 18 is as prescriptive as anything else our Lord says.

    As I see it, there are two opposite mistakes that a church can make when it becomes aware of unresolved conflict in the body: One is to look the other way and decide that the situation is not the business of the church. The other is to shun or expel a member without a serious effort at repentence and reconciliation.

    I think it is too easy for us to say that since the church has dealt too harshly with these matters in the past, we should ignore them now. I think this is part of what Jesus is warning us against.

    In our contemporary society, we demand a high level of privacy. Our employers, for example have no right to inquire about our personal lives. Church, however, is different. It is more like a family where members have a mutual interest in the behavior of their brothers and sisters.

  14. I think that one of the most important implications of “Jesus-Shaped” church discipline is to recall how Jesus treated “sinners and tax-collectors.” The end of this story is not that the offending brother is cast out of the church but rather that they are encircled ever more gracefully in the love and concern of the body.

    You get to this when you say, “At that point, the agenda of the church changes from treating a person as a brother to treating the offending person as a lost sheep and as a person to be placed outside the visible church with one hope: their inclusion by Christ.”

    A person who has refused all efforts of reconciliation and has rejected the grace that has been offered, must be the special target of love not scorn. Certainly in practice this may mean that they are asked to step out of roles of leadership, but they are not cut off from the community. Instead by giving them the labels of “Sinner and tax collector” Jesus singles them out for special compassion, love and grace filled attention.

  15. I really appreciate this post. Thank you.

    My question is about the one who sins openly, but not necessarily sins against me. If the sin is hurting the church can I approach the one about the sin? This is where I get stuck on the whole process.

  16. I am not a theologian so it is hard for me to argue some of these finer points of scripture, but from a simple reading of this portion of Matthew and from somewhat parallel portions of Luke, I see the two biggest issues being community and repentance. The goal is to understand our offenses to God and brother and to repent and be restored.

    Ideally we would all be so mature as to be able to recognize our sins and our need for genuine repentance without having to be told or coaxed into it. However, the scriptures seem clear that it doesn’t work that way and that if you pursue that path individually it will only lead to pride or apostasy.

    The life of Christ gets lived out in a community – a body that has different members – each placed there for a reason. Draw people into a community where transparency and confession are valued, nurtured and protected, and then repentance and restoration are much easier. The extreme cases of discipline in Matthew and 1 Corinthians then become last resorts.

  17. Theophilus says

    I was part of a church where an associate pastor had an affair which came to light several years later. In a written statement on a Wednesday night, the associate confessed what had happened. My father, also an associate pastor, escorted him out of the sanctuary. According to dad, the confessing pastor was all smiles when it was done. Now, a decade or so later, that associate pastor is completely restored and, if anything, more respected among the congregation.

  18. “So, in other words, we must do Matthew 18 as Jesus would do it.”

    Much of the discussion here focuses on the
    “end state” of the progression, namely when the church takes steps to exclude the unrepentant individual.

    To me, this seems like spending too all out time time discussing the dimensions of the gallows rather than addressing the issue before it gets to that point.

    Specifically, I’m talking about Jejsu’ instruction to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. I have not been approached even once in my entire Christian life by a fellow believer about a wrong I have committed against them – and trust me, I’m of the “foot-stepping-on” type of personality. Worse, I’ve never approached a brother or sister in the same way. I’d much rather have a sidebar conversation with one of the pastors about it rather than confront the individual.

    But like so many other ares of individual responsibility, we skip step one (one-on-one) and hand it off to the “group” or “someone else” to adjudicate.

    If we as individuals did a better job with the first step, I think there would be a lot less debate about the need for church discipline since it will be a thing rarely needed and when needed, clearly needed.

  19. Jejsu – also know as Jesus to those that can type properly….

  20. I’m a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological in Fort Worth where church discipline has been discussed heavily in recent years.

    Last month, a pastor from Oklahoma named Ronnie Rogers came and spoke frankly about church discipline. He cited several real-life examples of church discipline in his own congregation and gave it very, very good context.

    http://www.swbts.edu/dashboard.cfm?dateString=20090402&dateToLoad=April%2002,%202009

    Most memorable was the idea that a church should mourn a member’s sin, that it should be so painful that we would be in tears over it.

  21. Also Drew (thanks for the link), I like the speaker’s point that there are no guarantees about this process – this can be done, done well, and yet vindictive acts may occur, other members may leave the church etc. If a church is going to be willing to do this, then that seems an important aspect to understand.

    Another difficulty related to church discipline might be some people’s reluctance to address spiritual matters that don’t feel good (some part cultural component, and probably cannot be separated from our humanness), unless that matter is personal conviction or repentance, in which case we anyway believe the outcome to be ultimately positive. If it doesn’t involve light and love and joy, forget it. Not that I see many comments on imonk reflecting that, but I certainly know (and have known) church members of this mind. Or maybe this has to do with excesses of preaching and teaching about how awful we all are, as helped shape my mother’s beliefs more in the line of “what I am not”, and “what I don’t do”.

    All that being said, I also agree with the spirit of Ethan’s comments, that church discipline is divorced from Christ if not firmly in some framework of hope and compassion, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Really quite a fine line to walk for all of us who are terribly imperfect (not quite the same concept as truly awful).

    Also, I would like to see a response to Patrick’s question. I think the answer is yes, but this subject’s a bit weighty for me.

  22. Patrick:

    I think any member can speak to their brother about these matters, but I think the actual process of discipline needs to either involve those directly offended OR be a decision by the elders to act on account of the church.

  23. Let me propose an answer to Patrick’s question by going back to my point on community. Ideally, I am in a relationship within my church that allows for two or three folks to know that I am sinning and not dealing with it in a positive and repentant manner. Our relationship has been intenionally nurtured to the point where they can come to me with what they see, and I can be meek enough to listen. I think that it is incumbent upon church leadership to foster this type of environment. If I am not in a relationship like that and the elders have to be called in, then I believe that things can start to go wrong on a lot of different levels.

  24. iMonk,
    I appreciate the fact that you pointed out the surrounding context of the Matthew 18 passage. It is interesting to me that it is immediately followed by Peter’s question about how many times we should forgive and the parable of the unforgiving servant. It is obvious that Jesus is steering us toward an understanding of forgiveness. Even if we cannot gain the understanding or repair the fellowship with the brother who wrongs us, we must still forgive them.

  25. I’m thinking that “Church Discipline” could have saved me from a hellish first marriage, and I was too proud and hard-hearted to accept the truth. When I married the first time at 21, our pastor didn’t want to perform the ceremony, as my fiance had been married before. I threw a little fit, and my mother (who didn’t want me to marry him either) begged him to reconsider, and … it’s easy to imagine the “rest” of the story.

    CJH

  26. Thedisciple says

    I think we must realize that we can’t go from overlooking the problem to excommunicating the unrepentant believer–in one quick swoop–not that anyone has suggested that. We don’t have to wait for the situation to develop into a crisis to act.

    Believers, leaders and non-leaders, have a responsibility to each other not only to encourage one another to be strong but also to admonish one another when we start to get out of line. Note 1 Thes.5.14, admonishing them who are out of line.

    Admonishing may sound odd in the USA where truth is relative and political correctness makes us sensitive to correcting others’ actions. Here are some guidelines from 1 Thes.
    1. This is an action between believers–who have turned from idols to serve the true and living God 1:9. We don’t admonish non-believers for their sins.
    2. These believers, for the most part, are growing in their faith 1:3.
    3. The believers rely on the Word of God as their authority, their rule of faith–the standard we aim to live by. See the emphasis in chapter 1 and 2.
    4. There is a concern for one another–they also pray for one another. Chapter 2-3
    5. There is a concern for holiness, avoiding sexual sins. Chapter 4
    6. There is a forward looking hope, in the return of Christ–that makes the struggle with the flesh and the world worth fighting. Chapter 4-5
    7. This is a chuch which encourages each other, and has leadership which models encouragement and admonition. Chapter 5.
    8. When we care for each other; when our relationships are more than hi/bye on SunAM; if we actually love the brothers and sisters, we are transparent in give and take relationships–then we can approach those who are messing up and put into their minds (admonish) the need to change their way in that particular situation.
    9. Then, and only then, go to 2 Thes.3:11-15, can we take the next step of church discipline.
    Skip the above steps if you don’t mind just playing at what it means to be church, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ.

    Interesting, I went to that site mentioned in the comments of part 1, the one blog about church discipline, and noticed in the list of topics that admonish was not mentioned. See also Rom. 15:13-14 for some additional key information about admonishing.

  27. Thedisciple —

    The church discipline blog is mine. There are about 150 posts so you might not have seen the stuff on admonishment, there isn’t much on it. The reason is that it is rarely part of a discipline procedure, though it can come in reconciliation procedures. Very few churches require sinners to “stand for a censure” where for example, the pastor castigates them for an act.

    Generally what you calling admonishment happens in the first phase (when a single individual corrects another individual) or after the 4th phase. Some churches have “correction” as a very regular part of their process. Sovereign Grace (which I use frequently as an example of an abusive church) comes to mind.

    What in particular were you looking for?

  28. Thedisciple says

    CD-Host,

    I hope I did not come across as criticizing your blog. I think that admonishment should be a part of the discipline procedure. It would fall under the one-on-one interaction rather than public censure. Your site looks quite informative and when I get the chance to tackle the 150 posts I am sure it will teach me. Thanks for the work of ministry.

  29. My wife and I had some friends want to visit us a few years ago about something that they wanted to discuss with us. They asked us, to make things more comfortable, if they could ask an Elder of the body we were in at the time (we left, but for other reasons) to join us. Our response was, “a) Have we sinned against you? b) even if we have, can you tell us what Scripture says about having an elder present?” (we knew why they were coming, but even Matthew 18, as iMonk has reminded us here, it’s a personal matter on Step 1.).

    So, they came over and shared what was on their minds. And no, we didn’t have a close “more than Sunday” relationship with them. So, after they left, we pretty much blew them off, but asked ourselves if it was really an issue. What they presented. It really is hard to take correction from someone you don’t see eye-to-eye with regularly… I’m still not sure we “sinned against them” but perhaps there were some personal disagreements, rubbing each other the wrong way, etc.

    So, we called a closer friend of ours and asked him what he thought about the matter they brought to our attention. Brought us to tears. Not because we thought we were sinning, but because we were having an effect on people that we didn’t intend (or want).

    I’m looking forward to seeing more on the topic, iMonk.

  30. i have seen Matthew 18 done beautifully, both times with men who were in leadership of the church, representing us. Their wives went to them first, then friends with her, then the entire congregation. Scary. dramatic. But in both cases, marriages were restored, and eventually, the one pastor returned to ministry.

    it is hard to do the first step, i think. i hate confronting people, but God put this in the Bible to encourage us to value love and relationship. Also, makes you rethink if you are actually “sinned against” if the first step is confronting the person on your own 🙂