We at Trinity, have been going through the Peace Makers material and studying how to biblically deal with one another when we have conflict/disagreements. If you know anything about people (even believers), you know there is bound to be disagreement. One of the most clear truths in Scripture is how to handle conflict on a personal level, but also a church level. While there are many passages of Scripture that are explicit in the directive of how conflict or even a sinning brother or sister should be dealt with, I can say with confidence that there is a minority of evangelical churches that have ever really followed Matthew 18 in application. Our lack of application in most cases, cannot be traced to a lack of belief of its validity: I personally don’t know of a single pastor or even Christian, that has ever shared with me that they believe Matthew 18 is not part of Scripture, nor have they said that it is not applicable to us today. In fact, I know of countless brothers who have preached on the text in a strong clear way. But, among even those who preach on it, even those who believe it with their head…I know of only 3 pastors who have ever even attempted it. This is troubling - that something can be so clear in the Word of God yet, so few churches that claim to hold to truth have ever followed it out. Now, if this was "Disney Land Christianity" we could assume that maybe those churches have never had a member in unrepentant sin, but I have been in the ministry for almost 25 years and I have never been in a church where there was not someone, at some time caught up in unrepentant sin. After carrying out church discipline in my first pastorate in the 90’s, I realized why so few Pastors would ever lead their church to do this…it’s hard. It is something that has no benefit for the Pastor, and virtually no benefit for the congregation. The world will look at them as being judgmental, they will be talked about, gossiped about, slandered, cussed, hated and even when it is done, there will be countless people who give the adage, “I don’t disagree with it being done, I just don’t like how it was done.” I have been a part of some phenomenal churches and have concluded that either the ones I have been involved in have more people that get into sin, or frankly that the other churches decide that corrective church discipline really isn’t worth it. Sadly, I believe the latter is true. If it is indeed this, then the joy of a repentant sinner is seldom seen or celebrated.
This past Sunday, a man in our fellowship returned to our congregation after being voted out. He repented and gave the most complete gospel - dripped apology to the fellowship I have ever heard. We had a meal in his honor and celebrated a brother coming home and a family reunited, all to the glory of God. Our fellowship was allowed to see that loving someone enough to be uncomfortable, caring enough to do uncomfortable things, believing the Word enough to behave it, has benefits. Now, it usually doesn’t have the benefits most of us would like - like that your church is applauded by society, nor will it be praised by churches who see “the other church” as their greatest competition. But, it will glorify God and that is our calling and that has to be enough. God could have put this man and his family back together in numerous ways but, He outlines in the Word that He will use the body of Christ, and when this is done the repentant Christian as well as his church family is allowed to celebrate because our God is a God who heals. He restores broken, damaged, sin plagued people and He is praised for His grace. I have shared numerous times with our people there are two frightening things for a believer in this world (1) Falling into unrepentant sin (2) Falling into false doctrine. If we really believe that those two are the worst two things that can happen to a believer, we would see that as more important than our preferences and even our comfort. I always challenge our people in our New Member’s class to ask at least two questions before joining a church: (1) If I get into sin or false doctrine will you kick me out? (2) Have you ever done it? Many churches will agree to number one but most have never experienced actually applying the Word in this context.
I say this to simply say “thank you,” God for your amazing grace on this family, and thank you Trinity for being strong and bold enough to do something tough and uncomfortable for God’s glory. We got to experience something great this past Sunday because of that. We are truly blessed.