What Happened to Biblical Order in the Church?
An Open Letter to Church Leadership about Church Discipline…
The most serious issue facing the church in our culture has to do with dysfunctional and ineffective forms of government and nowhere is this problem more apparent than how leadership deals with sin, and the appearance of sin, within the church.
Since starting my position of Executive Pastor here at Water Of Life Church I have had to deal with several instances of misconduct ranging from minor to very serious. These are the kind of things that happen in every church and will never go away as long as we are dealing with imperfect people of whom I am surely one.
This month our Senior Pastor, Danny Carroll, will be addressing our entire staff for six consecutive weeks with our Philosophy Of Ministry And Leadership series. It represents all that we believe as a church and in my view is one of the key reasons why our church is among the best I have encountered in this important area. As a staff we are continually reminded of the importance of doing church God’s way—Pastor Dan models it and it is our DNA.
In my opening statement I shared something I have been saying for many years now. As I have occasion to conduct numbers of pastor conferences throughout North America I have been encouraging leaders regarding the importance of solid biblical standards for disciplined leadership and order in the church.
While I am blessed to be part of a healthy church model I am also heart-broken as I hear story after story from churches who are seriously out of order. Churches where elder boards have become nothing more than a pretense of accountability and a shield of yes-men protecting leaders from any fallout over questionable behavior. Could there be a relationship between the toleration of sin in the church, the lack of church discipline and the absence of a sustainable revival?
Could there be a relationship between the toleration of sin
in the church and the absence of a sustainable revival?
If you are a pastor, elder or church leader please hear me—THERE IS NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE! Even the appearance of impropriety must be dealt with—the very spiritual health of those we serve is at stake. The issue often comes down to simple courage. Courage to deal with the tough issues—that is what separates leaders from people who are hand-wringers and followers.
We must not settle for anything less than what we know and believe God wants and deserves. We must also be well informed in how to navigate difficult circumstances in a biblically ordered way. I am greatly concerned with the number of leaders I encounter who search for ways to address serious infractions or issues using worldly methods, which tend toward manipulation rather than ministry and reconciliation.
The result of this approach is that it often leads to stagnation, excuse making and doing nothing. This will end up in enabling the offending party toward no change and can even lead to an attitude of entitlement. The proper response, on the other hand, can lead to reconciliation and restoration at best and possible dismissal at worst. If done in a biblical way the outcome is totally up to the person being disciplined.
If you are a senior or high-level pastor, elder or church leader here are some questions for you to ponder in the area of church discipline-an important area:
- Does your church have a clear written policy and guidelines with regard to code of conduct?
- Do you have a teaching or series of teachings that you roll out often with your staff regarding your ministry and leadership philosophy?
- Are you willing to deal with the appearance of sin as aggressively as you deal with actual sin?
- Do you have a system in place that mandates proper written warnings with clear documentation on expected change?
- Are you bathing your actions and responses in prayer?
- When confronting the offending person do you do it out of love and respect for them—or something less than what Jesus would demand?
- Whether the infraction calls for immediate dismissal or not do you pursue a course for restoration as a part of your process?
- If you are an elder board or council dealing with senior leadership, are your bylaws written in a way that allows a healthy process for accountability?
At the end of the day are you willing to make the right decision no matter the consequences and trust the result to God?