Thursday, December 18, 2008

Breaking News: Church Following Biblical Mandate

I just came across this news item about a woman in Florida who is upset because her church is disciplining her due to her unrepentant sexual relationship with a man outside of marriage. Now, let me say at the outset that it's very hard to tell if this particular church in this specific situation is pursuing the Matthew 18 process of believer's discipline correctly from this story. The narrative of events in the article is only given from the woman's point of view, with little if any response from the pastor or elders of the church. However, there's nothing in the letter from the church leaders included in the article that would indicate that they haven't got the process right and are following the Biblical mandate correctly. She's been dealt with individually, by a larger group, and now the matter is going to be "told to the church." Having been involved in more than one of these situations as an elder I can testify that they are never easy, mechanical or entered into lightly. And they are always a last resort. I have to assume that the church in question is engaging this process in this spirit.

But all this aside, the thing that really amazes me is that this is a news story at all. Here we have what looks to be a local church that is Word-focused and Christ-centered, and is doing what true local churches must do from time to time. Of course, we can't expect the culture at large or the media to understand this, to them this is just another instance of Christian intolerance and hatred, rather than the act of love that the Bible calls discipline of this kind. And of course, the culture around us has no category called "sin", thus making the need to confront and address sin in the body of believers that much more irrelevant. But that alone doesn't make this newsworthy, does it? No, I think what makes this stand out and show up on Fox News is that this is such a rare occurrence. It's an anomaly, an enigma, an anachronism is these days of seeker-sensitive and socially-responsible churches. If all the Bible-believing churches in the country were exercising discipline like this where and when needed (hopefully not often), this wouldn't be news at all. But alas, that's not the case.

So here we have a church ostensibly carrying out the Biblical mandate on it's leadership to keep the body holy and follow the Christ-commanded process for doing so. And it's national news! That alone seems to be a sad indictment of the state of the American evangelical church. But then, it's also just a symptom of the findings in a recent report commented on today by Al Mohler. Most of the people who are in American evangelical churches and profess Christ have no understanding of the Gospel of Christ by which they claim to be saved.

Which raises another question. If so many professing Christians in our churches don't really believe the essentials of the Gospel - are they really Christians? And are our churches really churches? Questions to consider another day...


James Kubecki said...

Phil, what did you think of Darrell Bock's comments at the end of the Fox News article?

The Doulos said...

I can't say I agree with him. The Biblical process is indeed private, up to a point. Public sin that is confronted privately and not repented of must eventually be dealt with publicly. It sounds like there indeed has been plenty of private interaction up to this point. And the process is not "normally reserved for church leaders." I also disagree with his statement that "the actions are unusual given that Hancock had severed her relationship with the church." Leaving the church is not repentance, and the reason for the woman's departure must be communicated to the rest of the body, for the health of the church.

It's also clear that the woman and the reporter don't understand the motivation of the process. It is always seeking restoration, not a "threat" or "ultimatum" or "crucifixion" by the church. It confuses me that this woman is so concerned about her children being in the church when their mother's sin is exposed - but has no problem telling about it to the national media.