Church Discipline – A Difficult Task?

By | January 17, 2017

“Looking at Jesus through the prism of Johannine values offers unique insight into the priorities of discipleship. One’s personal relationship with Christ towers over every other consideration. What establishes preeminence in the Christian community is not apostleship or ecclesiastical office, nor titles or territory, not the charismatic gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy, or inspired preaching, but only our response to Jesus’ question, “Do you love Me?”

The gospel of John sends a prophetic word to the contemporary church accustomed to treating charismatic persons with excessive deference: The love of Jesus Christ alone establishes status and confers dignity. Before Peter was clothed with the mantle of authority Jesus asked him (not once but three times), “Do you love me?” The question is not only poignant but revelatory: “If authority is given, it must be based on the love of Jesus.”

Leadership in the church is not entrusted to successful fund-raisers, brilliant biblical scholars, administrative geniuses, or spellbinding preachers (though these assets may be helpful), but to those who have been laid waste by a consuming passion for Christ – passionate men and women for whom privilege and power are trivial compared to knowing and loving Jesus.”

-Brennan Manning, “Abba’s Child”, page 111

 

“Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side—leaders whose decrees permit injustice?
They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.” -Psalm 94:20-21 NLT

 

The 9Marx boys are at it once again! In what seems to be an endless discussion on church discipline, our boys inform us above that “practicing church discipline is difficult… but it doesn’t have to be that way.” They go on to say that they hope we will find their discussion “useful” and we will “grow deeper in our understanding of this difficult, yet necessary task.”

That church discipline is a difficult task for our professional clergymen is abundantly clear. Bungled cases and mangled people are strewn along the 9Marx highway in a scene of carnage reminiscent of the highway from Kuwait City to Baghdad in the first Gulf War.  I guess our clergy just need more “practice” to get it right.

 

The problem seems fairly obvious to this rock-throwing peasant. Too many of our present day evangelical churches are staffed with proud, pompous, narcissistic men who have been indoctrinated at institutions such as Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. These wet-behind-the-ears, legalistic young (and sometimes not so young) Pharisees are then turned loose on churches where they immediately attempt to change the church into the 9Marx mold. Lacking is any sign of maturity, wisdom, and most importantly, demonstration of the love of Christ. The end result is good people are damaged.  Examples are numerous, allow me to bring the latest one to your attention.  The Wartburg Watch covered the case of Marie Notcheva, (Link) a woman who had endured years in an abusive relationship.  The pastors at Heritage Bible Church of Princeton, MA were also horribly abusive to Marie. The Wartburg Watch was instrumental in getting the local newspaper to cover the story (Link) and that, along with getting an attorney involved, finally caused the abusive church leaders to back-off!

I guess the highly educated clergy at Heritage Bible Church just needs more “practice” at discipline.  The question is, how much more practice should church members have to endure? My advice to members in such churches is to “practice” church exodus!  It has been demonstrated that “practice does not make perfect” when it comes to abusive clergy.

Ah, but therein lies the problem.  Most often the trigger for abusive clergy to “practice” their discipline is your decision to leave the abusive church.  You see, unless you reassure the abusive clergy of the church you are leaving that you will be joining another church that holds to the same “gospel” of abusive discipline that they hold to, you may be excommunicated!  Absurd? Surely, but these highly educated men have never been accused of having common sense, much less compassion.

As a little refresher course, listen to the audio below of Matt Chandler spreading some love at his church.  Chandler is no novice in the pulpit. He pastors the Village Church in the DFW area – a huge megachurch, heads the national ACTS 29 church-planting organization, and is a celebrity conference speaker and author. He also had a famous case where his church was going to discipline a woman for getting an annulment from her pedophilic husband. (Link)

Knowing that most of my readers have busy lives, and therefore have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to the likes of Dever and Leeman pontificate for an hour on their experience of properly excommunicating rock-throwing peasants from their churches, I have undertaken the excruciating task of listening to these men for an hour in order to extract a few pearls for you.

Their obsession with church discipline, more specifically, excommunication, is painfully obvious. They chuckle and chortle throughout the session. Ah yes, screwing with people’s lives is so very amusing, is it not? At one point, towards the end of their knowledge-sharing event, Dever even apologizes for their behavior, attempting to quell any concerns he undoubtedly realizes will be forthcoming from the unwashed masses.

The audio below reminded me of the book “Green Eggs and Ham.” Leeman, in Dr. Suess style, asks his pals, would you, could you excommunicate?”

Unfortunately, their banter is serious. Leeman wants to highlight all the possible circumstances in which the clergy could correctly (in their opinion) excommunicate a member who has left his church.

Though I find the whole discussion repulsive, it is telling in the way Leeman formulates his questions.  He asks each pastor if he would excommunicate a member from his church.  In my opinion, it betrays Leeman’s mindset that power and control are vested in the pastor. Mark Dever seems to also pick up on this as he rephrases Leeman’s question to: “you mean would I try to convince the Capitol Hill Baptist church to excommunicate said person?”

I submit that Leeman’s cavalier attitude, evident in his sloppy wording of questions, is not appropriate for such a serious topic. Neither is their levity.

But you know what questions I would like to ask the experts?

Mark, do you think it was appropriate to allow C.J. Mahaney to flee to Capitol Hill Baptist Church in order to avoid discipline at Covenant Life Church?

Mark, do you think a pastor should be disciplined for blackmail?

Mark, do you think a pastor should be disciplined for covering up the sexual abuse of children in his church?

Mark, do you think a pastor should be disciplined for not reporting crimes of sexual abuse of children to law enforcement?

Mark, do you think a pastor should be disciplined for establishing a hush-fund to keep a pastor whose son raped another pastor’s son quiet?

Mark and Ligon, do you think pastors who share a conference platform with a man who has done the things mentioned above should be disciplined?

Am I making you boys a bit uncomfortable with my line of questioning? Why are these types of questions never addressed in your attempts to help Christians “grow deeper in their understanding of this difficult, yet necessary task?”  I wonder if, behind closed doors, you laugh at the stooges in your churches who rubber stamp your recommendations for excommunicating people hurt by your unloving leadership, while never having a second thought about your preferential treatment afforded to a man who has donated thousands of dollars of his member’s tithes to your church?  You Pharisees nodded your heads in agreement with Al Mohler when he chastised Joe Paterno for covering up sexual abuse of children by an assistant coach; you again nodded your heads in agreement when he further stated that any pastor faced with similar credible charges should step down from ministry; but when your fellow celebrity preacher C.J. Mahaney turned out to be the evangelical example of Joe Paterno we quickly saw your lack of ethics.  Yet you want to lecture the evangelical world on church discipline? Please! Your actions have proven you to be hypocrites who have forfeited any right to speak as a moral authority to the church.

I recently wrote about another Sovereign Grace pastor named Matthew Wassink. Matthew Wassink has been removed (rightly) from his senior pastor’s position at Providence Community Church in Lenexa, KS,  because of a sexual scandal. The title of the article is “Sovereign Grace Pastor Matthew Wassink Removed; Why Not C.J. Mahaney? (Link)

In the article, I raised the obvious question of why have Sovereign Grace leaders involved in scandals been quickly removed from their churches and any trace of them purged from Sovereign Grace websites, yet C.J. Mahaney, a man who, in my opinion, has committed equally grievous sins, still remains in his position of pastor and de facto leader of the denomination? I suggested the church is showing blatant favoritism to Mahaney because of his vaunted position.  This is precisely what James, in the second chapter of his epistle, warned the church about.

Providence Community Church is also a 9Marx church. It is my understanding that former pastor Wassink has left the church and is now residing in Minnesota. To my knowledge, he has not been excommunicated.  I am left to wonder whether the 9Marx boys may, during their next educational panel discussion, enlighten us uneducated dolts as to whether such a pastor should be excommunicated?

I submit it may be “useful” to let your 9Marx clergymen in on the fact that harassing women who have divorced an abusive husband and left an abusive church is wrong; excommunicating pastors such as C.J. Mahaney and Matthew Wassink is right.

Perhaps church discipline really isn’t such a difficult task after all!

 

 

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