Once every couple of years I leave church in tears. Today was one of those days. As our worship service began, our pastor informed the congregation that any visitors or friends would be excused as we stood to sing the morning’s last hymn (yep. . . we still sing hymns!). The reason. . . a church discipline announcement that was good news. He made the announcement two more times. Each time, he sounded more and more excited.
One of the reasons I love my church is the seriousness with which we take the matter of church discipline. It’s seriousness bathed in grace, evidenced in heartbreak, and designed to keep guys like me in check. Sometimes we not only need to know what we should do, but we need to be deterred from doing what we shouldn’t through our submission to the discipline of the church. As I write those words I realize just how antiquated, old-fashioned, and legalistic they sound in today’s world. Maybe that’s because so many of us grew up seeing discipline administered with the law rather than with grace. Maybe that’s also because the culture has somehow convinced us that nobody. . . NOBODY. . . has a right to tell me what to do and how to live unless that somebody is me.
Back to my pastor. On a handful of occasions I’ve seen him preface an announcement of discipline with a solemn declaration of our shared brokenness. That’s followed by an explanation of a long process of showing love and grace that’s been rejected. A name and offense are stated. Everyone in the room knows that they are no better than the one named. In every instance, I’ve left personally challenged and very broken. Not today. Our pastor told us that he had not one, but two good bits of news. We then heard the announcement that two men who had chosen a lifestyle of unfaithfulness to their families and their God. . . and who had been excommunicated from the church. . . had truly repented of their sin. We welcomed them back into the fellowship of the church! Restored. Again, I left with tears in my eyes. This is the way it’s supposed to work.
We need church discipline. I need church discipline. The challenges we face in the world are pervasive and compelling. I need my church. We all need a church like that. I’m glad I’m there.