Today’s Wall Street Journal has a story about the practice of church discipline in American evangelical churches. On the whole, the story is negative, focusing on cases which are less than exemplary. A church here in Dallas is mentioned in the article, Watermark Community Church, as well as First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama and Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama. The article says,
“[There is] a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline, an ancient practice in which suspected sinners are privately confronted and then publicly castigated and excommunicated if they refuse to repent. While many Christians find such practices outdated, pastors in large and small churches across the country are expelling members for offenses ranging from adultery and theft to gossiping, skipping service and criticizing church leaders.
“The revival is part of a broader movement to restore churches to their traditional role as moral enforcers, Christian leaders say. Some say that contemporary churches have grown soft on sinners, citing the rise of suburban megachurches where pastors preach self-affirming messages rather than focusing on sin and redemption. Others point to a passage in the gospel of Matthew that says unrepentant sinners must be shunned.”
Dr. Hershael York of Southern Seminary was interviewed for the story, but was not quoted in the final version which appeared in the paper. He did, however, comment on the article on his website. His response is spot on:
“The article is tantamount to being against spanking because some parents abuse their children, or criticizing ‘time out’ because some parents lock their children in the basement.
“I have little doubt that discipline is sometimes abused, but frankly the greater and far more frequent problem in contemporary churches is that discipline isn’t even discussed–regardless of what Jesus taught. What a shame that a publication the stature of the WSJ would countenance so unbalanced a presentation of the facts.”
(HT: Hershel York)