WHAT WORKS FOR ME… In Dealing with difficult church discipline situations

Dave Livermore, Senior Pastor, Kelso-Longview District (OR Conf)writes:

“Church discipline is a must. Accountability in every aspect of life is best, and being a Seventh-day Adventist Church member is no exception to that. I always ask myself before I jump in with both feet; “Why” am I willing to enter the tunnel of chaos and bring about church discipline? I am willing to bring discipline upon an individual if I can determine that the reason we are doing this is redemptive. I am convinced in my mind this is the best thing we can do, and if the discipline works as prayed for, we will save this person from further mistakes or foolish choices.

Let’s use for illustration sake someone is accused of adultery. I meet with the individual with my associate pastor or assistant pastor and we ask if there is any truth to what we have heard. They say “Yes, I’m in a relationship that is the most wonderful relationship I’ve ever had.” I will tell them that they are deceived. I will encourage them to stop the relationship immediately. If they are willing to do that, we don’t move any further towards discipline. Remember our goal is redemption not punishment. We are a church not a law office.

If they say they won’t change their relationship, I ask them to pray about it and we’ll meet again, I usually allow a specific amount of time to go by, let’s say two weeks. Then we meet again and I ask if they are willing to stop the relationship at this time. They say; “No, I’m not.” I then tell them that they have two options. 1. Resign their membership, right here, right now. 2. I will recommend to the church board that church discipline begin with the objective being redemptive. We must do what we can do to stop this behavior and hold the standard that the rest of us have agreed to live by.

I wish I could tell you that it always works out for everyone. But that’s not true, it’s an emotional drain on the Pastor, elders and board. It is something we enter into reluctantly, but it’s something we have to do. Our characters are maligned because of administering church discipline, but we can hold our heads high and look to Jesus if our reason for doing it was redemptive. At times it works with unbelievable results, marriages are restored, families reunited and joy returned. It’s those that choose to focus on and try to repeat.”

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