Vol.XIV No.II Pg.7
April 1977

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

The church where I am presently worshipping has not administered any type of discipline in over 23 years. Where and how do we begin? R.L.


Discipline is a form of teaching. The English word is related to "disciple" or learner. It is used in the A.S. version (2 Tim. 1:7) where the K. J. has "sound mind." It may be instructive in nature, or corrective; but we should realize that in both of these the object is to win the mind-not to use carnal force in order to achieve our ends (2 Cor. 10:3-5). When Paul continues, "being in readiness to avenge all disobedience" (v.6), we must recognize that he is not contradicting himself. He was not vindictive, nor trying to force obedience. If parents make no effort to instruct or correct their children — neither commending the good, nor showing disapproval of the bad — for a 23 year period — how then could they begin? Would not undisciplined children resent the sudden effort? Corrective discipline in the church can be effective only when it has been preceded by instructive discipline, given in an atmosphere of love. The wayward sheep must be convinced that the others act only in a sincere desire to assist in his heavenward journey.

Where constructive discipline is not practiced; where there is no mutual encouragement on a regular basis; where the stronger make no effort to bear the burden of the weak as a general and continuing thing; one need not expect corrective discipline to operate smoothly. The sinner will simply feel he has been discriminated against by other sinners.

This is not a matter of not knowing what the N.T. teaches on the subject; i.e., knowing the passages that deal with it. Although a church which has exercised no discipline in 23 years may need lessons on such, they need much more. An appreciation for the meaning and role of a "saint" is needed. Whole-hearted dedication must be engrained — people taught to love God more than father, mother, wife and life (Lu. 14:26-f). "The church" must take on new meaning, and each made to realize its spiritual mission. "Fellowship" with God, and with one another, must become a precious thing — and the former must greatly outweigh the latter.

Of course I am aware that not all the members of a local church will have the same level of spiritual understanding or attainment. Babes can not be expected to have grown so; although you may find that new converts may "take" to such teaching far more readily than those who are just longtime members of the "party." Strong leadership and uncompromising preaching do much to guide the whole church in its disciplinary functions.

Sometimes the church can do little more than recognize the fact that a sheep is gone. Better that, than to continue to act as though nothing had happened. But such rear-guard actions (the limit of most "discipline" today I am sorry to say) are far from being the loving care, teaching, and correction pictured in scriptures.