Sometimes we like to think it would be better if we had a complete indexed list of appropriate responses to any and every situation we encounter in life. This temptation is especially strong for pastors and elders, who are daily confronted with problems for which there is no clear solution.
For church leaders, nothing illustrates these problems more clearly than the issue of church discipline. The Bible makes it plain that ministers are to exercise discipline within their congregations....but it nowhere offers a list of sins that are punishable offenses, and it doesn't offer a single model to be applied in every single instance.
Which, of course, is why we have the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Ministers are to use wisdom and discernment in the application of church discipline, not some rigorous fundamentalist black-and-white-ism nor a namby-pamby "everything goes" permissiveness. In his book Church Discipline, Jonathan Leeman addresses these issues on behalf of ministers who know church discipline is a requirement for faithful churches, but aren't always sure how to exercise it.
After laying a biblical-theological framework for the topic, Leeman enters into an eminently practical discussion of which sins to discipline, the role of pastoral and situational sensitivity, the method of discipline, and the importance and procedure for repentent restoration. Leeman doesn't write primarily for the layman or for the unconvinced, but for the pastor looking for guidance.
Part two presents a number of case studies, and offers biblical wisdom for dealing with each. Both big sins (adultery and addiction) and more vague and uncertain sins (divisive non-members) are considered, and while Leeman never tells ministers exactly what to do (that would undercut his whole approach!), he does provide excellent insights.
In the last section of Church Discipline, Leeman points out that proper teaching is the best way to avoid having to administer church discipline. This means teaching about a broad spectrum of issues, including holiness and repentence, membership, discipline, self-deception, and love. The purpose of discipline is unity rather than division, and Leeman introduces a program for its pursuit that will challenge and disciple both congregations and their leaders in godliness.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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