I have had the unfortunate experience of leading a church through two separate cases of church discipline. The most recent case reminded me of similar events that went down in the young church plant I led.
When you’re a church plant the temptation is to take anyone and everyone that has a pulse. We had a key ministry leader that stepped down and left a huge void in an essential area. I had a couple of options to fill the hole and instead of empowering the person I wanted, I empowered the person who candidated most persistently for the job. That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was that when he confessed some sinful habits, I just blew them off as “every-man’s struggle.” My third mistake was when I realized that the issue was deeper than I thought, I tried to put band-aids on the problem instead of doing major surgery.
I did eventually end up removing this person from leadership, but then I reinstated him 6 weeks later. That was my fourth mistake. Soon afterwards this person’s “personal” sin blew up into a “communal” sin that destroyed his marriage and effectively our young, small church.
We often look at people who end up in harmful behavior patterns as “making a series of bad choices.” That is true. But in reflecting upon the situation, I realize that I, too, made a series of bad decisions that enabled sinful behavior. I was a young naive pastor who overcompensated for accusations of being judgmental by being “too gracious.” I felt “sorry” for the sinner and didn’t want to embarrass him. But all along my gut was telling me “this isn’t right.” And it wasn’t. And the truth is I probably could have saved a lot of hurt and pain and did a little better damage control had I made a decision to confront the sinful behavior instead of sidestepping it.
The moral of the story is that harmful sinful behaviors rarely resolve themselves. Ignoring them or sweeping them under the rug ultimately results in more pain and ugliness and neglecting our leadership responsibility of administering spiritual discipline is a sin, as well. And just as the “perpetrator” will have to give an account, so will we – to our church members, leadership and ultimately to God.
If your child was sick and spreading disease through your household, wouldn’t you do something to keep the rest of the family from getting sick? Of course you would! Your church plant is your family and you have the responsibility to keep your family healthy so it can grow and mature. Hopefully, you will never be in a situation where church discipline is necessary. But if you are, dare to discipline, and your baby will be much more healthy as a result.