At Trinity we are in the process of “resetting” by reviewing and clarifying, and even rewriting practically everything in our fellowship. It’s quite interesting when you see so much confusion in the “Bible belt” about what church should be. The confusion should come as no surprise for us simply because many pastors have not even sat down to think nor teach about church. In the next few weeks we will be walking through and voting on our new church covenant, and the importance of having such a document. Our church culture longs to tell the world what is wrong, but we fail to even clarify to the church body what is right. We condemn same sex marriage, and certainly we should do so with clarity and grace, but when it comes to laying out what a believer is accountable to other believers for, this is when many people lose their backbone. Most have no problem dealing with the overt sinfulness in our culture, but when it comes to issues of faithfulness to the church body, confronting one another in sin, or expectations of the behavior of a believer, we don’t like to deal with that issue because well…we sit by that person. It is very easy to deal with the sinner we don’t know, but our cursing the darkness while ignoring the believer in our midst screams inconsistency to a lost and dying world. They see us preach against homosexuality but ignore division and we wonder why we are not making an impact on our society. It is not the spiritual darkness of the world as man is not more sinful today than ever before, but the problem is the church is displaying less light than ever before. Much of that is because we want to live in isolation, we want to communicate by text or email rather than face to face. “Believers” don’t want their sin confronted but remain the on moral high ground. When one church tries to hold members accountable you have too many other “churches” all to willing to accept them without question in order to increase their nickels and noses rather than keeping watch over their souls. You have believers not willing to join a church until they get a visit with a staff member but want to sneak out under the cloak of darkness or e-mail. Our desire with our covenant is to make it clear that when I am a part of a church family there are expectations. That if a member is coming, or leaving our body there is accountability as a part of their life at TBC. If they are coming to our family, we will be up front and honest about expectations and not paint some “bait and switch” tactic once they are members. If they are leaving TBC and have not dealt with things biblically, we have an obligation to inform the next pastor/church of their level of accountability while here. My original intent was to simply write the “Why?” of a church covenant, however when I read this post by Dr. Russell Moore I wanted to not only speak to the covenant but the undercutting of the biblical standards by so called “sister-churches.” I hope this increases the understanding of accountability among the brethren.
How Church Discipline Can Be Like Doctor Shopping
October 03, 2012
Law enforcement officials use the term “doctor shopping” to refer to the way those addicted to prescription pain medications seek to avert accountability. If you go to your doctor to ask for Vicodin, and your physician refuses to prescribe it, you are doctor shopping if you then seek out multiple doctors until you find the one who will prescribe the Vicodin. Sometimes an addict will have multiple doctors going at once, all prescribing different medicines, often those that are dangerous to mix. I’ve noticed the same thing going on when it comes to church accountability.
The truth is, there’s a certain type of personality that doesn’t want accountability, but affirmation. If one wants to divorce someone one shouldn’t divorce or marry someone one shouldn’t marry or do something one shouldn’t do, he seeks out a pastor’s “accountability.” When the pastor tells him the opposite of what he wants to hear, he leaves and goes to find a pastor or counselor who will. And this goes on and on.
This isn’t being shepherded. It’s the same old autonomy of the self, that first manifests itself in the life-cycle of a child saying, “But Dad said it was okay…” except now grown up into something with a far more malevolent motive and a far more dangerous outcome.
Sadly, there are too many ministers of the gospel out there willing to empower this sort of behavior. If you have a church member who has been warned or disciplined by another pastor or church, you have a responsibility to investigate what’s going on. True, it might be that the old church spoke where there is no authority to speak, disciplining a parent for not homeschooling, for example. But, even then, if you will give an answer for the soul of this person, you bear the responsibility to find out what exactly is going on.
If you’re the kind of minister who refuses to acknowledge the discipline or accountability structures of other churches, you might simply be more enlightened than those churches and leaders. Or you might not know what you’re dealing with. And you just might be fighting against a word spoken by Jesus himself, handing over an unrepentant soul to Satan, with the hopes of ultimate repentance (1 Cor. 5:4-5).
Your affirmation of an unrepentant and fugitive-from-discipline church member isn’t an act of love or mercy. It’s an act of hatred. You are empowering the unrepentant to “bear the name brother” or sister (1 Cor. 5:11), to assuage a conscience that should be convicted by the Spirit. If so, you’d be better off just prescribing an addict another round of Percocet.