Friday, October 27, 2006

Now that's an interesting idea!

Scholars say Baptists must recover church discipline. Who would have ever thought such a thing!

Isn't it hopeful that long forgotten Baptist distinctives (to say nothing of biblical teachings!) are increasingly becoming part of our denominational discourse? Pray that such discussions won't die out without genuine repetance serious, practical commitment to a recovery of healthy church life within the SBC and beyond.

24 comments:

Nathan Finn said...

Tom,

I am glad our friends at SWBTS made discipline a major part of their recent conference. I think that the church discipline issue is a clear example of how the seminaries are ahead of where many of our churches presently are. It seems that SBC scholars across the board--regardless of their convictions about Calvinism, elders, communion, alien immersion, and even private prayer languages--agree that most of our SBC churches are way off course in the matter of church discipline. I think that the scholarly consensus about our need for a recovery of discipline is a great thing, but it will never make it out of our schools unless pastors are willing to take the lead in moving churches toward embracing (or re-embracing) church discipline. My prayer is that the present generation will be known as the generation that began to take ecclesiology seriously again, not least the biblical (and very Baptist!) practice of corrective church discipline.

Bartimaeus said...

Before you call me heretic for going on Paltalk it is intereseing when you ask to ask the Baptist to name the Baptist distinctives are. Thw best answer I got was all Baptist believe in the rapture. With such ignorance is it any wonder that the LDS get so many converts from the Baptist.

irreverend fox said...

amen,

I'm glad the scholars have discovered this.

hey Tom, GREAT article in TableTalk!

Nathan White said...

I just don't understand how Church Discipline became long forgotten. It's pretty clear in scripture, being taught by Jesus and Paul in a number of places. Certainly there must be something deeper that has led to this shift.

BTW, I currently go to a fairly new church which hasn't setup official membership yet. Thus, my 'letter' hasn't officially been moved. However, I'm still on the membership roll of an SBC church I used to attend, even though I haven't stepped one foot in the door in almost 4 years. Amazing, huh? You've certainly been down this road before Tom, but it's really hitting home with me now...

SDG

Samuel J Bell III said...

Brother Tom,
This is one amazeing development. I guess the refoming of the SBC has to happen in stages. Amen to the resurgeance of Church Discipline.
I wrote a bolg a while back about this very issue let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 31, 2006
"Thoughts On Discipline"
If you have seen the headlines here lately, then you may have read about the Pastor in Florida who was caught lying about his qualifications. You may have also seen in your own church or other churches, members committing, and continuing to commit gross acts of sin.
We need to ask ourselves,"what is wrong with Christianity today?" We also need to ask, "what are we to do as brothers and sisters in Christ?" Well, unlike many modern Christians today, we need to go to the Bible for the answers.

One major problem with Christianity today is that we as Christians do not practice, nore submit, to Biblical Church Discipline. We would rather shove sin under the carpet than expose them or even confess them! This is exactly the opposite of the Bible tells us to do........... Ephesians 5:11 states that we are as believers to have nothing to do with sin, except to expose it. So, the next thing we need to ask is,"How do we do this in love?"
Lets go to the one person we can find perfect love. What did our Lord and Savior say about this? Did he give us any instruction on this issue? The answer to that is yes he did. It is found in Matthew 18:15-20
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
You may be saying to yourself, "this sounds like judging," well it is not judging. Their is but only one Judge as is states in James 4:12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? It is however holding each other accountable for our sins and helping our brothers in love.
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Also It helps the Church guard the Fellowship from wolves in sheeps clothing. Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. We are to rebuke and point out our brothers sins. Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him
Matthew 7:1-6Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.You may notice that Jesus did not say ignore your brothers mote, the Lord said to fist remove your beam, then help your brother.

I pray that God brings about these principles to light in more churches, And I praise Him for the Churches that parctice these principles. AMEN!

posted by Samuel J Bell III at 2:26 PM

If any one would like to check out my blog just Go to samtheman21@blogspot.com

Bill Formella said...

I also believe the reformation is happening in stages and in very strange ways. Consider what's happening at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis. Imagine the successor to the anti-calvinist Adrian Rogers (Steve Gaines) being harshly accused of "leading the church into an Elder led form of church government."

Bartimaeus I've been amazed at the broad spectrum within the SBC. On the one hand you have leadership arguing over the details surrounding the distinctives. On the other hand you have the rank and file Southern Baptist that really could care less about whether or not babies are baptised, what form of government you have, etc., etc. All many care about is the programs for the kids and how upbeat and exciting the music program is.

Of course, if church discipline was standard practice in the average SBC church, most of them would likely bolt for a more entertaining denomination.

Tom said...

Nathan:

I share your appreciation for this topic being taken up by the conference at SWBTS. I am also grateful that some scholars are speaking out on this subject. I may disagree with you, however, about who leads whom. Far more pastors and churches than scholars have been calling for church discipline to be practiced and addressed over the lat 25 years in Southern Baptist life. Furthermore, among those scholars who advocate the need of church discipline I wonder how many are members of churches that do not practice it. My guess is--based on an admittedly limited observation--that only a small minority are. This, of course, raises the important question of whether or not such advocacy is primarily if not merely theoretical in nature. That question loomed particularly large in my mind last summer when a resolution on integrity in church membership failed to make it out of committee at the annuall meeting of the SBC. The silence from the
sholars' section was defeaning.

I am very grateful for every good effort that come out of the academy. But the academy never has and never will lead a reformation. That is the responsibility of the church. I agree with you that pastors are the key and must be willing to do the hard work of leading churches to embrace biblical discipline once again. As the churches go, so will the academies go, if the churches do not abdicate their authority over them.

Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your clear understanding of and devotion to our Baptist heritage. I sincerely join you in your prayer!

J.D. Rector said...

Interesting comments brothers and sisters about church discipline. Anyone want to guess who will be the first ones to be disciplined in light of the debate, discussions, and sermons at the last convention in Greensboro?

I hope it is according to the standards set by scripture and not by our whims. I can remember the old folks at my home church when I was a kid telling of folks being discplined for "dancing at the dance hall in town".

My prayer is that we will see genuine Holg Spirit-led reformation and revival in our SBC churches... then we will have true revival at the state and national denominational level!

J.D. Rector

GeneMBridges said...

>>>Before you call me heretic for going on Paltalk it is intereseing when you ask to ask the Baptist to name the Baptist distinctives are.

Dear Brother, you are not a heretic for doing this...

Schismatic :D

Nathan Finn said...

Tom,

I am nearly sick to my stomach as I read your response and re-read my comment. I am horrified that I implied that seminaries lead the churches--perish the thought!!! What I meant to communicate is that the freedom of inquiry that exists in our schools allows for the (admittedly theoretical) discussion about needed practices--like discipline--that many churches will not even countenance a discussion about. I have no doubt that churches and pastors were discussing discipline long before it was on the radar map of most professors. But it was still a small group of concerned pastors and churches, so I am grateful that almost all of our seminarians--future pastors!--are learning from almost all of their professors that discipline is both needed and necessary. I cannot help but believe that as more younger, seminary-trained pastors join up with long-established, reform-minded pastors, that the SBC will head in the right direction on this.

As for your resolution, I am with you 100%, but I suspect that politics killed the resolution, not theology. I cannot speak for the public silence of scholars, though I can informally say that every scholar who I talked to privately agreed with your resolution. But that, I suppose, is the very point you are trying to make ...

RefBaptDude said...

Samuel J Bell III wrote:
>“I guess the reforming of the SBC >has to happen in stages.”

I hear brothers make these kinds of statements often “reforming the sbc”.

My brother may very well mean “the churches of the sbc”, but often that is not the case. Until this kind of mentality is altered and the focus moves to reformation of “local churches” I’m not sure there will be any change. The SBC entities have been out of control for decades and their existence rather than fostering true, biblical, local church reformation, usually works against it.


Nine Marks ministry is a wonderful source of information and tools to help in local church reformation. But nothing works better than consistent expositional preaching and prayer.

Semper reformanda,
Refbaptdude

Bill Moore said...

According to my research, in the latter third of the 19th century churches in the SBC began compromising biblical integrity for pragmatism. The question went from "What does the Bible teach?" to "What gets people into church and keeps them there?"

It's wonderful to see the question of biblical integrity getting more of a hearing than it has in the past.

Bill

scripturesearcher said...

WHOOPEE!

Tom said...

Nathan:

Thanks for clarifying that point. I agree with you and praise God for the climate that now exists in our schools and for the many godly teachers that serve in them. You are certainly among that number and I know that your students are being challenged and encouraged to think through these kinds of issues in the light of our Baptist heritage and the teachings of God's Word. May your tribe increase, brother!

Samuel J Bell III said...

RefBaptDude said...
"I hear brothers make these kinds of statements often “reforming the sbc”.

My brother may very well mean “the churches of the sbc”, but often that is not the case. Until this kind of mentality is altered and the focus moves to reformation of “local churches” I’m not sure there will be any change. The SBC entities have been out of control for decades and their existence rather than fostering true, biblical, local church reformation, usually works against it."

I was acutaly talking about The SBC as a denomination. Or as a whole. I do understand that the local church is responsible for the actual refoming. But If the leaders of the SBC support the reforms you will have less divison and more unity on the subject. Just look at the resurgeance of the doctrine of Biblical inerancy. This is a normal issue. If you talk to someone about this or that christian principle, they will intern ask there leaders and see what the they say. That Includes not only thier local church leaders but also the leaders in the convention. Correct me if I am wrong in this asumption.
But for the most part it should be the local churchs that are responsible for the reforming. But it would hurt to have the convintion on our side.

johnMark said...

I am thinking along the lines of Bill Moore. If pragmatism (and I think it is) dominates the SBC then who is there to be disciplined? If there aren't many official church members and unbelievers are treated as if they are part of the universal church then who is it that discipline would be used on?

For example, worship service has become, in many places, a service in which the main goal is to just make unbelievers feel comfortable and welcomed. Personal evangelism has today is "Why don't you come to church with me?" The unbelievers goes to church, gets plugged in and feels like part of the church. The idea being that we just show them love and get to know them and eventually share the Gospel. No wonder sermons are dumbed down and believers aren't challenged and really taught Scripture.

So who is really the church today? We are, but some (many?) are letting unbelievers play church. And when unbelievers are lead to play church what kind of discipline can you put them under?

Sorry, this issue is front and center to me at the moment. And the answers I get from some pastors is pragmatic vs. scriptural. I get stories of a time when this happened or that happened to "prove" the point that unbelievers should be brought in and treated like believers until "the Spirit works and gives us the right time to share the Gospel."

Mark

kingofbleh said...

As heartening as it is to see this issue garner greater attention, my fears are two-fold: that some within the convention might seize this as an opportunity to implement legalism (i.e. Res. #5) while others in the dominant seeker-friendly/church growth community would reject this outright.

GeneMBridges said...

If you were at the Convention this past year, you'll remember that, in the midst of the discussion about Brother Tom's resolution there were looks of disgust on the faces of those in the Convention hall when they voted not to consider it. That is, people were shocked and, dare I say, dismayed that it was passed over. I believe that this call was heard by many and has been discussed by many since. They realize that what happened that day was a mistake, and, while I wish they had passed a resolution, in the end resolutions change nothing...actions make changes. Let us pray that the churches act on these discussions. Oh for every state convention meeting to host a workshop at their annual meeting on establish/re-establishing church discipline if not this year, next.

fishformen said...

Tom,
In my first ministry post we did quasi-discipline. In my first pastorate I taught the biblical model and the methods and used H.Wayne House's book of charts to present atangible graph on the subject. The church had to walk through Matt 18 on a women who becme unrepentant for Adultry and the coverup sins that followed. The church stood with the word and experienced a season of God's favor in renewal. The second church I pastroed had gone so long and so hard in the way of "love" that when a deacon was caught in adultry the deacons and other promenant members would not...REFUSED to even be willing to go and have round one of discussions. God removed His candelstick and that church no longer exist. I share this because unless we recover discipline we will see more closed dores due to lack of the manifest presence of God and the poor witness of the defunct local assembly.

G. Alford said...

Without Elders consistent discipline is all but impossible.

It is no coincident that over the last 100 to 120 years as our Baptist Churches began to more and more move away from an Elder led form of government that more and more church discipline became a thing of the past.

The truth is most Baptist Congregations today do not have the strength to discipline.

Lloyd on old path said...

Tom, I very much support the recent interest in church discipline. It seems that the discipline must start with those in the pulpit and in leadership positions in the SBC. I listened to a sermon by a former SBC leader that denounced the doctrines of grace in recent days. It was truly heartbreaking. It brought me to tears because the local congregation believed the speaker's heresy. When the woman was caught in adultry, the Lord dealt savingly with the woman, but He knew the greater sin was with the religious leaders . Doctrinal heresy is the greatest sin in the church today. What ever happened to original sin???????

IN HIS NAME said...

Tom,
Question, When did the Baptist church turn away from having the title of Elders and start calling them Deacons?
I find that we have such a lack of Bible knowledge in our church membership. No one wants to join in a Bible Study to get to know God. It seems we have a Social Clubs, rather than a Churches.
In His Name
Wayne Smith

DOGpreacher said...

I have been blessed to be sent by God to a small...NO, I mean SMALL SBC church (9 attending members)a little over 2 years ago. My first 2 Sundays were spent preaching 2 Timothy 3:15 - 4:5, to tell them the kind of preacher they should be looking for as a pastor(I was only to be their until the assosciation sent them somebody as an interim), and they just kept asking me to come back. The 4th week they called me as pastor.

Did I jump into the "40 days" craze? NO! I preached to them about a 365 day program of personal repentance & much increased time alone with God (The Word and prayer). I preached 2 Chronicles 7 and didn't stop with ..."humble themselves and pray...", but spent some serious time on "...and turn from their wicked ways...". Folks, when you have a humbled (repentant) church, you will have a church who will begin to esteem each other more highly than themselves, and a church that will be forgiving. THAT'S when you know God has sent revival.

I have stooped to NONE of the shameful & unbiblical evangelism forays that are so prevalent in our denomination. Instead, I promise those who come that the sermons will include rebuke, reproof, and longsuffering exhortation unto sound doctrine. I promised them a pastor who will not be slack concerning his ongoing education, seeking out wise counsel (Thanks Charles Otts, T. Nettles, Fred Malone, Randy Lowe & Phil Newton for some of your precious time, & your encouragement...as well as many of you online), and most of all, I promised them I would not knowingly compromise God's Word.

God's grace has been abundant! He has sent 2 more retired ordained pastors to share their wisdom as Elders, solid servant-hearted men for deacons, and there has been a 500%+ increase in attendance. This has not been all at once. 1 or 2 a month for 20-22 months.

Guys, God is faithful. If there were still only 9 people at this small rural church, He's STILL faithful.

I told another local SBC pastor that I was just crazy enough to believe that if I took every word of Paul's solemn charge to Timothy as if it were to me, and was obedient to the same, I believe one would see God's handiwork in the Church! He agreed, and began to do the same. This pastor has a bigger "platform" than I do. The church he pastors is 4 times larger than ours. He has also been the preacher at the last 2 annual associational meetings (approx. 135 churches), and did not disappoint. Borrowing from MacArthurs "Ashamed of the Gospel", he challenged those men like they had never heard.

I exhort all of you to "preach the Word", making full use of the "platform" He has given you.

Thank you Tom for suffering the persecution that comes with making FULL use of the "platform" He has given you!

Pastors, I am sure evidence of God's amazing grace & plan concerning the preaching of His Word. God's handiwork in equipping me to preach His Word in this county (where I was known for my musical talents [as well as my capacity for MUCH alcohol]in the local bar) has (after consitency for several years, ministering to the same "sort" as I was) given me a "platform" within this tiny county.

If He has done this with me (& He has) for His glory, just look at what He has done in your lives to bring you to the "platform" He has you on now. Oh, let's be grateful for grace, and work hard!

grateful for grace,
The D.O.G.preacher

Jason Dawson said...

I appreciate that all of a sudden we're interested in discourse about church discipline.

This must happen. But does this not stem from a deeper problem of wanting unbelievers in our (seeker sensitivity when the only true seeker is God) congregations, and then allowing a large population of unregenerate people to lead congregations.

Does it not stem from pleasing man rather than God?

Pragmatism plagues SBC and although God's word is practical this though of "what works" is man's wisdom.

We will fool ourselves if we treat the symptom and not the sickness. Church discipline is a symptom of a much deeper sickness and that is man pleasing verses pleasing God.

We have become more like the world, and honor men more than God.

It's a start but it is not the heart.

Preachers must begin to honor God and preach the word with out fear of their paychecks and whether their congregation is 20 or 200 or 2000.

In His Mercy,

Jason