So how do they deal with that, was asked. Then I began to talk of the records at my former church of people who were disciplined and held accountable by the church for their sin. One of them said that their grandfather had been disciplined, and he came back and asked the church's forgiveness, then he was reinstated. Next question:
Why don't we do that now? Well, I shared with them that on more than one occasion, I have had pastors tell me that they wouldn't/couldn't because it would never work, cause too much of a stir, or cost them their jobs. Of course the alternative is worse--loss of God's blessing (in fact, inviting His judgment), loss of the congregation's testimony in the community, defamation of Christ's name, allowing sin to ravish and kill the life of another brother or sister, spreading the acceptance of sin in the congregation, and just disobedience to Christ's command. I told them about how that the churches that I had served had each done it once to its full extent. One turned out really great, and one turned out pretty bad.
Don't have time to go into all the specifics of the how's and when's of church discipline, but suffice it to say, it is all done out of love. See it more as a pleading with an individual to return to the flock, rather than a bunch of sheep biting the injured. I shared a little about the bad scenario, but I went into detail about the good.
After almost having persuaded the beloved believer not to pursue her course, we informed her that we must bring it before the church, so that they could attempt to plead with her, love on her, and beg her not to go down that path. She was at church that Sunday, and we compassionately informed the congregation of her sin and her need. They responded so beautifully. They began to go to her and cling to her neck, hugging her, and weeping together. They knew of the pain that she was in, and were sympathetic, but they also knew of the biblical teachings and their love for Jesus. It was bittersweet and heartfelt.
Over the days and weeks, she could not be convinced to turn away from the path she had determined to walk. She did exactly what the bible prohibited (not a minor violation), but willful rejection of the written word of God. Our duty was to warn, and that we did in love. However, in the end, she left. We were heartbroken. So why do I call this a good experience of church discipline? Well, it demonstrated to the church how it was supposed to work. It was done in so much love. And even though she knew it was coming, she still came to church to be with her church family that was attempting to hold her accountable. Several weeks later she (name changed) wrote to me this:
I wanted to say thanks to you for ALL you did for me...I especially want to thank you for the way that you shared the WORD with me in such an understanding way...I know I still have some trouble in this area, but thank you...I am attending a Baptist church trying to deal with my sin...
Thank you again, and God bless,