Have you ever experienced church discipline?

“Church discipline” is a challenging topic. Most of the (Protestant) churches I’ve attended throughout my life have adhered to the idea that it’s the duty of believers—and the church communities they form—to confront serious sin within the community. Church discipline is derived from passages like Matthew 18 and Titus 1, which encourage Christians to lovingly but earnestly challenge sin, always with the goal of encouraging repentance and restoration.

In my experience, most churches don’t talk too much about this duty, presumably because they don’t want to sound too authoritarian; and perhaps because it’s easy for such discussions to take on a gossip-y tone.

My introduction to the practice of church discipline came when a member of my church congregation publicly confessed to a sexual sin that had affected part of the church community. The church elders, made aware of the sin and its impact on the church, talked to the responsible person and helped him through a process of repentance and restoration. It was the sort of situation that might have resulted in a lot of nasty and lurid gossip; but it ended up being a positive experience of grace for the church (and for the individual who publicly repented).

Witnessing loving church discipline in action was a fascinating experience. It did, however make me wonder about a few things: What would have happened if the church had not confronted the person in such a compassionate manner? What if the individual had refused to repent or acknowledge his sin? Given that everyone in the church is a sinner, how do we decide which sins require confrontation?

Have you ever experienced church discipline, and if so, what was the result? What does godly church discipline look like in action?

11 Responses to “Have you ever experienced church discipline?”

  • My only real experience was about 70 years ago when the country church wanted to put curtains up as dividers for the Sunday school classes. one of the older men was so vehemently against it the church chose to put up the dividers anyway and he had to be expelled from the church because he was creating such a ruckus and was the only one against it.
    Another experience was a member quit going to church,had become involved in a non christian activity. When several of the church officials talked to him more than once he asked to be taken off the church membership. This was done quietly without fanfare when he said he preferred to continue his activity.

    • hi,talking about discipline in a church is very good but some pastors takes the place of GOD instead.My ex-pastor wrong me badly in name of discipline,i became a talking stoff for he and his wife, they tune me to a rage they can use and dump .he drove me out of the churchin the name discipline and authority

  • Sam says:

    Chruch discipline should be done privately….

  • josh says:

    Church discipline is a joy and it needs to be wholly desired from the heart. It should not be a means of power or coercion, and it should not be used for anything except the building up of God’s kingdom. The very identity of a Christian hinges upon their acknowledgment of Jesus’ ultimate victory and supremacy. So long as we hold on to our own comforts or ideas or identities that we’ve created, we inhibit the coming forth of God’s kingdom. So discipline is a joy when we submit to Christ’s authority given to the church in faith and we are thankful for the way God comes to man in Jesus.

  • Discipline is required to be imposed in the church.

    Although some may have been praying, evangelizing or currently in the Lord’s service, but the bottomline of all these is Discipline. We need to be a disciplined servant and believers of God for without it, all might be thinking that they are free to do whatever they want although it is against the will of God. All the way from the Israelite’s journey to the promised land, God is imposing discipline on His people. And even in our present life, we are experiencing the same. If our parents, authorities and institutions whom we are in contact with are imposing discipline, so as the church. The church is in the highest level in bringing the people to become morally upright through disciplie, and thus, the church must not feel guilty of imposing it.

  • Tony F says:

    I believe in Church discipline, however, in todays climate I believe church discipline should be done by the elders of the church in a private setting or at a special meeting of the church members. It is not necessary to carry out discipline in front of the whole church where there are believers and non-believers.

  • Sibbie says:

    With church discipline is it fair to punish a woman who separates from her husband after years of abuse and not the husband for his emotional and possible physical abuse of step children. Isn’t all sin on one level. In our church women are being dis-fellowshiped because of the action they take to protect their walk with God and depression,possible suicide from the constant abuse, etc but the men walk freely not loving their wives as the bible states and exasperating their children as the bible also states. Why is one worth more church discipline than the other. I really struggle with this and the treatment of my sisters in the church. Any advice?

  • Fox says:

    Sibbie, you need to find a new congregation. You know in your own heart that even God will have no room to transform your husband if you are being “required” to stay *obedient and submissive* to his demonstrated sin and violence. No church elder has a right to demand that you (or any sister in your church) SIN in this way. I hope my comment reaches you when you have already done an intervention with some success.

  • Betty S says:

    I voiced my concern for a new S.S. Curriculum that was implimented for 3-4 year olds. The Bible lessons contained stories that were fictional & scary for that age group. As I have 4 grandchildren in that age group, I felt the fictional & scary lessons the new Curriculum contained would frighten them. One story was about an egg family that was terrorised by a snake. One day the snake ate little sister egg but big brother egg found the snake and cut open the snakes belly with a long sharp knife and rescued his little sister egg. I talked to the S.S. Super. and expressed my fear the stories would scare the children plus should that age be hearing about using sharp knives to cut open anything. She dismissed my opinion, stating the new curriculum was chosen by her. I next voiced my opinion to the Pastor. He’s never married and doesn’t have children. I asked if he had read through the curriculum and he admitted he hadn’t, then He immediately ordered a staff meeting in which to discuss the problem. He began by passing out a little pamphlet on “How to Disipline With Love”. Much to my dismay and embarassment, he focused on me during the meeting and even though there were 10 other people in the room besides myself, he directed his very angry gaze at me during the “Disiplining”. He said he refused to pull the curriculum and he didn’t want to hear any more complaints concerning the subject and many other angry words were said by him and he gave no one an opportunity to speak. I have been in love with Jesus all of my adult life and have been a S.S. teacher as well as teaching in the Awana Program and women’s Bible groups. Never in all of my Bible teaching years have I ever been treated so terribly as I was treated by my Pastor that evening. Love was nowhere to be found that night. I left the meeting feeling that he was a bully and throughly enjoyed ripping me to pieces. I’ve asked for forgivness but I just can’t get past the hurt and I don’t know if I can be in a teaching position ever again. How can I get past this deep hurt?

  • Eric says:

    Dealing with a Sinning Brother
    Matthew 18:
    15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[b] 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
    18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
    19 “Again I say[c] to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
    I have not experienced this but have had plenty of experience as you all share of the incorrect and damaging ways people take discipline into their own hands.

  • jeff says:

    church discipline should be encouraged. it helps reduce hiypocracy in the church