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5 Ways to Keep Church Discipline from Being "Weird"

4. Follow the process.

Once again, we fail our congregations when we don’t begin church discipline until we feel pressed to remove someone from membership and refuse them the Lord’s Supper. It’s as if there aren’t previous, patient, hopeful steps in Matthew 18. Even the context of Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 5:13 appears to demonstrate excommunication is the final straw, not the only one.

If we will follow the biblical process of church discipline, beginning with confidential and humble rebuke of a brother’s or sister’s sin, if unrepentance persists and the circle of visibility widens, expulsion will be seen as a regrettable and sorrowful necessity and as something intended for a person’s repentance and restoration, not for their punishment.

5. Practice gospel-centeredness.

God will get the glory and our churches will give him glory when church discipline is practiced in the context of a grace-driven culture.

You can expect church discipline to seem unnecessary and legalistic in churches where the gospel has not had any noticeable effect on the spirit of the people.

But in churches where God’s free grace in Christ is regularly preached and believed, church leaders will be regularly setting aside their egos and narcissistic needs, and the laity will be bearing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things, and believing all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), including that while no discipline feels pleasant at the time, in the end, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).  

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Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, Director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of numerous books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, The Prodigal Church, The Imperfect Disciple, and Supernatural Power for Everyday People. A frequent preacher and speaker at churches and conferences, you can visit him online at jaredcwilson.com or follow him on Twitter.