1Study the biblical passages relevant to the practice of church discipline. Consider getting copies of Jay Adams, Handbook of Church Discipline (Zondervan, 1986), or the volume I edited, Polity (Center for Church Reform, 2001). Although the first is written by a Presbyterian, I as a Baptist think it is very helpful, and though the second is by Baptists, non-Baptists have affirmed its usefulness for them.2Know the practice of your own denomination. Consult with pastors that you respect.3Consider contacting the Center for Church Reform and coming to Washington for one of our weekends. Here you can look at one example of a church that has recently struggled to recover the practice of church discipline.4Communicate clearly to your existing members and potential members the need for church discipline so that they are convinced of the need for it in principle before they ever need to put it into practice. Help them particularly to see the great benefits of church discipline. For this, see my Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Crossway, 2000) or the booklet version of it (Center for Church Reform, 2001).5Educate your new members about the expectations of church membership. Consider having them sign something that acknowledges that they understand such discipline and desire it. For more help on this, see Ken Sande, The Peacemaker (Baker, 1997).6Develop a body of godly lay leaders in the church who agree on this in principle and in any particular case that you begin to pursue.7Pray about the subject in general and with any specific case in particular.8Practice patience. It is better to go slowly at first and to make sure that you are bringing the congregation along with you than to rush ahead and risk causing the congregation as a whole to reject this biblical practice.9Remember that the Church ultimately is Christ's. It will not fail. Meditate on Matthew 16, Acts 9, and Revelation 21-22.
Many of us were reared in pious evangelical homes and churches where "Christianity" and "Churchianity" were regularly contrasted. Christianity involved having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ whereas Churchianity involved an attachment to mere externals. This contrast could also appear in terms of the informal versus the formal, real versus nominal, born-again versus dead religion-or […]
Pietism is a recurring tendency within Christian history to emphasize Christian practice over theology and church order. Its own historians identify four general traits in this tendency: (1) it is experientialpietists are people of the heart for whom Christian living is a fundamental concern; (2) it is biblicalpietists are, to echo John Wesley, people of […]
In September of 1994, I became the pastor of a local congregation in Washington, D.C., composed of about 500 individual members. As good Baptists, we counted individuals, not families. Computing the number of members that way reflects the strong Baptist tradition of the necessity of individual profession of faith for Church membership. Membership cannot be […]
When Paul, Silas, and Timothy first wrote to the church in Thessalonica, they said they knew that God had saved the Thessalonians because "our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction" (1 Thess. 1:5). The authenticity of the Thessalonians' faith was evident […]