Faithful are the wounds of a brother...

If you've not read Citizens' Arrest! Citizens' Arrest!, please read it first. Then this. (TB)

Here's a true story showing how important it is for pastors and elders to challenge one another's motives. Our session (elders board) had been working with a schismatic family of our church for years when MTW TE David Wegener came home on home assigment one year.

We have a policy that David is a pastor of our church when he's here. He'd served our congregation before leaving for Zambia and we have never wanted to lose his wisdom and counsel, as well as that of his wife, Terri, when they're in town. So David favors us with his presence when we have session meetings each month and he often gets into the yoke with us on some of our thornier pastoral matters. Terri teaches our women's groups and David preaches in worship and teaches in Clearnote Pastors College as often as he and Terri are not out deputizing at their supporting churches.

So this particular evening we were again discussing the latest schismatic behavior of this family and David had just gotten back in town and was present. He knew the family well, including that they were quite wealthy...

After listening to us discuss how to work through the latest crisis, David matter-of-factly said, "You guys should disicpline them. The only reason you haven't is that you don't want to lose their money."

Now picture your own church session and try to imagine how this declaration from this interloper hit us.

Well, it seemed to all of us that God had spoken through David and we needed to examine his wise counsel and see if we were giving preferential treatment to this rich man. In fact, I distinctly remember being thankful that David had rebuked us and the obvious was now on the table. And I spoke first acknowledging this was likely partly true.

It's not easy to cultivate discernment. It always leads first to discernment of our own evil motives prior to examining anyone else's motives. But what wonderful work! And what wonderful friends who are faithful to wound us!

So now you have the rest of the story behind David's godly practice of what he preaches.

Comments

Why would a wealthy, powerful man care about any "discipline" a midwestern pastor could dish out? It is probably irrelevant to him one way or the other (I mean, there are plenty of other churches).

[NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: This gets tiring, but readers will want to know that the man or woman who posted this comment is a liar. Habitually. He's posted here on Baylyblog as "Chris," "Mark," "Josiah," and who knows what other names. And this is lying because he won't even maintain one anonymous identity so others may be able to see consistency of voice across his comments. He's using false identities to confuse people and keep from having to answer for his sin. And for what it's worth, he's posting most of these comments from Tucson, Arizona. Almost always, the scoffers on here lie about their identity. Almost always. Funny thing that scoffers against Christ's Church and officers and Word are liars, too.]

"Why would a wealthy, powerful man care about any 'discipline' a midwestern pastor could dish out? "

Oh my. Oh my.

First, I will take it that the form of words above is merely that: a form. Josiah, if you are ~really~ asking "Why?" then you've asked a question that likely cannot be answered (for none of us are reliable mind-readers), or you've asked a question which you already know the answer to.

Now, if you've merely asked a rhetorical question, it amounts to an affirmation expressed in the form of a question. And, the affirmation implied by this form of words would likely be this: "A wealthy, powerful man couldn't care less about a midwestern pastor's discipline."

Well, that's possibly true. I can't judge that matter from out here in the Texas provinces. So, let's grant the affirmation, and go to the next step, which is to ask (and, I mean, ~really~ ask) "So why provide the discipline in the first place?"

Because ...

1. You might be wrong about what such a man cares for.

2. If you're right about the wealthy, powerful man, his mind is amenable to change. Any number of new things in his life (after the discipline) might change his mind. Try imagining some.

3. Then there's the matter of duty, the shepherds' duty to the Great Shepherd. That duty cannot be dismissed by pleading "It won't do any good!" Shepherds are called to faithfulness to the Great Shepherd, not to omniscience about the outcome of faithfully performing their duties.

4. And, then, there's all the other sheep who behold their pastors' faithfulness to Christ. Someone somewhere said, "Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence." If the wealthy, powerful man will not care, the not-so-very-wealthy, not-so-very-powerful might.

5. Related to the above is the Judgment: the judgment the shepherds will face and the judgment their flocks will face. The Last Judgment of both shall be far more clean and straightforward if the shepherds (in this case) prove faithful today.

Fr. Bill,

This question has nothing to do with the post but where are you in Texas, I am in San Antonio. Just curious if I am in your neck of the woods one Sunday.

Michael,

What a coincidence. A Christian brother of mine from way, way back, is named Michael W. The "W" is for his middle name. He's a past stated clerk of the PCA presbytery that includes San Antonio. He lives in San Antonio too (well, Shavano Park, a suburb), and he has attended Faith Presbyterian for many many years.

You are not, perhaps, he -- pulling my leg?

If not, I'm in Waxahachie. you can check out our 125 year old sanctuary here:

http://stathanasiusanglicanchurch.wordpress.com/

This is as good a place as any to reaffirm the purposes of Church discipline, which include more than just its effect on the sinner:

1. Restoration of the sinner
2. The purity of the Church
3. Vindicating the honor of Christ
4. Preventing the wrath of God upon those who ignore His covenant

Thanks for immediately jumping on this, Bill.
Blessings,

I think Josiah asks a good question, and one well worth answering. One can't understand how church discipline coudl be effective with respect to "restoration of the sinner" without answering it. I am not the person to answer it, but I'd like to start the ball rolling.

(1)It is an empirical fact that people do hate being disciplined by a church. Churches worry a lot about being sued by such people. Of course, that doesn't answer why the person cares so much, and a court might even say, "Your damages are zero dollars, even if everything you say is true."

(2) If it comes to the extreme of shunning, the person loses friends.

(3) We are all proud, and those who are disciplined are more proud than average. Wealth doesn't protect you from being embarassed when you are publicly (or even privately) rebuked, *especially* if the charge is a true one.

I would also like to add a number (5) to Fred Greco's list:

(1) Deterrence of sin because of fear of being disciplined afterwards.

>>> Why would a wealthy, powerful man care about any "discipline" a midwestern pastor could dish out? It is probably irrelevant to him one way or the other (I mean, there are plenty of other churches).

Josiah, your comment presupposes that the man being disciplined will not humble himself and repent. Granted, many do not humble themselves and repent. But shall we then have no faith? Shall we not strive for this man's soul and for his family, for the purity of the bride of Christ?

Yes, let us have faith, and strive, and trust God.

Along with Fred's and Eric's points, the fact of the matter is that a lot of churches do, in fact, contact former churches to ask about the circumstances of the person's leaving that church. So yes, there are a lot of other churches, but good pastors inquire about former churches as part of the membership process, even if there are large differences in theology.

So what the member has to fear here is being locked out of membership in any church that believes the Bible enough to take church discipline seriously--and some churches take it seriously enough to say "you need to get this right before you attend," which is as it should be.

Bless you in this discipline, dear brothers.

Wow. Thank you for your honesty here and thank God for David Wegener and his boldness!

>>Why would a wealthy, powerful man care about any "discipline" a midwestern pastor could dish out?

Good question. If this life is all there is, then he shouldn't care a lick and the faithful elders and pastors who discipline are of all men most to be pitied. But it's important to remember that the result of discipline ultimately doesn't depend on the men administering it or the man receiving it. The Holy Spirit Himself uses our feeble attempts at discipline to bring Himself glory. It's important for Christians to remember that; otherwise, we might get the idea that we're responsible for changing men's hearts.

Sincerely,

>>Why would a wealthy, powerful man care about any "discipline" a midwestern pastor could dish out? It is probably irrelevant to him one way or the other (I mean, there are plenty of other churches).

This gets tiring, but readers will want to know that the man or woman who posted this comment is a liar. Habitually. He's posted here on Baylyblog as "Chris," "Mark," "Josiah," and who knows what other names. And this is lying because he won't even maintain one anonymous identity so others may be able to see consistency of voice across his comments. He's using false identities to confuse people and keep from having to answer for his sin. And for what it's worth, he's posting most of these comments from Tucson, Arizona. Almost always, the scoffers on here lie about their identity. Almost always. Funny thing that scoffers against Christ's Church and officers and Word are also liars.

If I may ask, by "schismatic", do you mean stirring up trouble or dissent in one way or another?

It also strikes me (in response to several comments on this thread), that if the man concerned didn't care about what the church leadership might or might not do, he actually would have chucked his hand in some time ago and moved on. So discipline, if exercised at this time, could well make a difference. If the man moves on beforehand, the opportunity is effectively lost.

>>by "schismatic", do you mean stirring up trouble or dissent in one way or another?

Not "dissent," but division within the congregation among congregants--women and children and men, both old and young. Like a fox among the chickens and always petty and deceptive.

Love,

Our pastors recently had an occasion to practice church discipline. The couple they disciplined chose to leave, and yes, they did immediately find another church to take them in. However, as some have noted in the comments, this does not make the discipline pointless. Our congregation is now protected from someone who was leading his wife in immorality, refusing to repent when the pastors were made aware of it and confronted him.

As some have said, church discipline is done for the purifying of a faithful church as much as for the repentance of the one disciplined.

Shockingly this man, when running into someone from our church, told them the gory details of his immorality with no shame, but instead acted as if the pastors had some nerve to confront him over something that was going on "in his private life".

My husband and I praise God that we have faithful pastors who refuse to let someone like this commune with the sheep. If we should ever fall into sin, wouldn't each one of us want pastors who are faithful to confront us, and not let us sink deeper and deeper into sin with no one loving us enough to save our souls from death?

Blessings,
Nancy Wilson

"a lot of churches do, in fact, contact former churches to ask about the circumstances of the person's leaving that church."

I'm glad to hear that, but I wonder how prevalent it is. I wonder if others reading this blog could tell us if in their towns someone who left their church unrepentant after an adulterous affair would have any trouble (a) being admitted to membership at some other Bible-believing church--- or, (b) a separate question, at *any* of the other Bible-believing churches in town.

My husband was explaining a new term to me recently called "trolling" on the internet -- it sounds to me like said "trolls" have made their way to the Baylyblog.

Thank you for calling out liars, when you can. Sometimes it is easy to tell who they are (by the names, comments, etc.) but not always.

At my church recently we were asked to pray for an unnamed person who was receiving church discipline. Without much effort, I think I've figured out who it was, a former elder who has disappeared, along with his family. I want to call him to tell him how this has impacted me, and how I suspect that whatever he has done (and I have no idea what it is) actually led to his dereliction of duty as an elder. Alas, I have no proof of anything, and I have given up. I guess my point is that there are multiple people who are impacted within church discipline, not just the perpetrator. I am grieving over this.

>>> ...schismatic behavior...

>>> If we should ever fall into sin, wouldn't each one of us want pastors who are faithful to confront us, and not let us sink deeper and deeper into sin with no one loving us enough to save our souls from death?

Yes! I'm sure I am in danger of falling into this sin. I pray that if I do fall into it my pastors will not fear me or my money but will fear God and come to rescue me.

Responding to Eric, comment #16
>>>"a lot of churches do, in fact, contact former churches to ask about the circumstances of the person's leaving that church."
>>>I'm glad to hear that, but I wonder how prevalent it is.

I have never heard of a church contacting another church to ask about someone’s leaving. Only the opposite – no contact at all; total acceptance regardless of what has happened.

Years ago, in my own family, an inappropriate relationship between two married people had begun as a result of a music ministry that they had together. There was more and more travel to distant churches with the two of them alone in the car -- a situation which made many people uncomfortable. When it became very obvious what was going on, the elders *finally* addressed it, but it was too late. The two left the church in a huff, immediately found another one, and after both divorces were final, they were married in this other church.

The consequences continue to this day.

In this discussion about the way churches respond to someone coming into their fellowship to escape discipline, this is one of the most frustrating things in ministry, today, for pastors and elders who make some small effort to be faithful to use the keys of the Kingdom our Lord entrusted to us. Again and again, pastors prey on defiant souls kissing off their vows of submission to Christ's Church. It's quite apparent these pastors have only one thing on their mind--growing their numbers. No matter the sin, no matter how many harmed by the sin, no matter the seriousness of the discipline, they're happy to have you.

Across thirty years of ministry, this is the normal experience of this pastor.

When our pastors and elders have gone to other pastors to warn them of the danger this or that soul is in having repudiated their vows and/or the counsel of their elders (Titus 2 women), the pastors refuse to meet with them; or they meet with them and explain how wrong and sinful they were in their handling of his latest addition from our congregation.

One man with a revolving door ministry regularly explains to the pastors and elders of the prior church how he would have done it if he had been there to minister to the souls leaving their church. It never seems to hit him that his track record with these men and women is even worse than theirs. When he gets souls from other congregations, those souls don't get better under him; they only hide or get worse. And many don't stay with him long enough for him to get to know them.

We pastors almost have a corner on conceit.

Ironically, when our pastors and elders have reason to warn another church of the danger posed by a soul rejecting the admonitions or discipline of our elders, the two congregations we have found to be most careful to support our pastoral care are not Reformed.

They are a new church plant and the old megachurch Campbellite congregation that is far and away the largest congregation in our city.

Praise God for them! What an encouragement it's been to experience their conscientious approach to this aspect of pastoral ministry. The good guys don't always finish smallest.

Love,

Eric, my experience is that at Fourth Baptist Church of Plymouth, MN, the pastors do ask about the circumstances of a person's leaving the other church, as well as at Flatirons Baptist Church of Boulder, CO, and Northern Ridge Baptist Church near Denver. (I've been a deacon at two of these churches, and have been present as pastors announce they've talked with the former pastor....)

OK, I've just told you just my denominational affiliation, but rest assured that at least in some fundamental Baptist circles, it does happen. Hopefully it does more often in the circles you travel too, brother.

I just put up a quote from Kuiper's "The Glorious Body of Christ", where he describes the less-recognized dangers of worldliness among church leaders.

"They think in terms of costly stone edifices rather than lively stones that are built up a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5). They strive after statistical rather than spiritual prosperity. That also is worldliness."

Read the rest of it here:
http://clearnotechurch.com/blog/2012/mar/28/worldliness-church

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