11 Reasons Churches Don’t Practice Discipline

Yesterday, my post spoke briefly about the importance of church discipline. At the same time, though, many churches don’t practice discipline. My own informal surveys have shown these reasons for this omission: 

  1. They don’t know the Bible’s teaching on discipline. I can only guess what percentage of regular attenders in evangelical churches even know biblical teachings about church discipline. This topic is one some pastors choose to avoid.
  2. They’ve never seen it done before. Some of the reticence to do church discipline is the result of ignorance. If you’ve never been part of a church that carried out discipline, it’s easy to let any of these reasons halt the process.
  3. They don’t want to appear judgmental. “Judge not, lest you be judged” takes precedence over any scripture that calls for discipline, especially in a culture where political correctness and individual freedom rule the day. Judging, it seems, is deemed an unchristian act.
  4. The church has a wide-open front door. Church discipline is challenging to do if membership expectations are few; that is, it’s difficult to hold someone accountable to standards never stated in the first place. The easier it is to join the church, the harder it is to discipline people when necessary.
  5. They’ve had a bad experience with discipline in the past. For those churches that have done discipline, the memories of poorly done discipline seem to last long. They remember confrontation, judgment, heartache, and division – with no attempt to produce repentance and reconciliation.
  6. The church is afraid to open “Pandora’s box.” If they discipline one church member, they fear establishing a pattern that can’t be halted as long as human beings comprise their congregation. 
  7. They have no guidelines for discipline. For what sins is discipline necessary? At what point does church leadership choose to make public a private sin? Rather than wrestle with tough questions, many churches just ignore the topic.
  8. They fear losing members (or dollars). Sometimes churches tolerate sin rather than risk decline.
  9. They fear being “legalistic.” Legalism can quickly become rules-centered bondage marked by joylessness. Church discipline assumes some standard to which believers are held accountable—and that standard can become legalistic if unchecked.
  10. They hope transfer growth will fix the problem. At times, a church is willing to confront a member in his sin – but only enough to encourage him to move his membership to the church down the road.
  11. Leaders are sometimes dealing with their own sin. When church leaders are hiding their own sin, they’re less likely to engage others about their failures. To discipline others would be to bring conviction on oneself.

What have you seen? Why do churches not practice church discipline?

4 Comments

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    In the past pastor and deacons have used the threat of church discipline to intimidate and manipulate church members. “If you don’t do things our way, we will put you out of the church” In the past people have been unfairly disciplined for matters where counsel and reconciliation rather than censure and expulsion would have been a better way tp have dealt with a church member’s conduct. The person who needs disciplining is the unofficial leader of the church or a member of his circle. A church may avoid disciplining a member out of concern that it will develop a reputation like the church down the street which expels and shuns members at a drop of a hat. Church discipline has turned into something akin to the votes taken in the Reality TV Show Survivor when the remaining survivors gathered tp vote the next person off the island. Those are a few things that I come to mind.

    • A sad but true observation. It takes a TRUE disciple of Jesus to practice EQUITY and too often evangelical churches are just copying the R.C. “business model” instead of REAL Biblical practices.

  • mark says:

    Many churches do not want to put the donations at risk. The person in need of discipline frequently has supporters or is a member of the large, donating family. It would not be wise to put 10-50% of the church’s total income at risk. Perhaps if evangelicals had confession, even the one said by everyone, it would help matters.

  • ncbelieverscommunity@gmail.com says:

    I have no problem with Church Discipline because I have no problems. I believe in healthy conflict. If conflict is treated as being a healthy ministry and those people have a choice to behave properly or not. Yes they are angered with me for 2 to 4 years but they know if they behave properly, they can come back. A majority do come back because these are their friends.

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