“Corrective confrontation was another aspect of Paul’s ministry to mature the saints. Paul say (sic) he admonished every man (Col 1:28). No one escaped his shepherding care. The word ‘admonishing’ comes from the Greek word noutheteo which means to warn, exhort, or to discipline. This is the word used in Ephesians 6:4 to describe a father’s corrective discipline of his child’s misbehavior. Paul understood that one of the responsibilities given to him by the Lord was to confront and correct unbiblical behavior in the lives of the believers God had placed under his care.” Church Discipline Booklet
I agree with the pastor that a major aspect of Paul’s ministry, as revealed through his epistles, was “corrective confrontation…to mature the saints.” While the Corinthian letters are probably the best examples of Paul’s efforts to correct the behavior of a church, nearly every letter of Paul’s seems to touch on the subject of correction at least once. Thus, church leaders today probably act within their responsibilities when they exercise methods of ‘corrective confrontation.’
However, the pastor’s choice of verses to support this point could be better: Colossians 1:28 seems to speak to warning people outside the church about God’s coming glory. And while Ephesians 6:4 is a good analogy to church discipline, it is ironic that church discipline today often ‘provokes people to anger’ despite Paul’s warning to the contrary in the verse. The fact that the author strays from the subject of the Corinthians’ sexual immorality,to the verses from Colossians and Ephesians may be a signal of his intent to manipulate Scripture to suit his purposes…allow me to explain.
First Corinthians 5 deals explicitly with the subject of immorality and church discipline. Paul says church members should exclude from the church those who are sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards or swindlers. Seems straightforward enough…but let’s put this in context: Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, not Seattle. Members of the Corinthian church were probably former members of Judaism, Roman religious culture, and ‘mystery cults’. Many of these religious organizations used bizarre rituals and sexual rites as part of their worship experience. Paul’s concern that the ‘immoral’ behavior of the church should cease may have had something to do with differentiating the church from the surrounding religious scene. Paul may also have been concerned that members of the church were not taking the Good News seriously, but were treating it like just another option on the ‘buffet table’ of spiritual experiences in Corinth. The heinous sins which Paul spoke to are likely indicators of an unchanged heart and are usually easy to spot; I suspect that rarely in the church today do we ever truly encounter these types of people the way Paul would have. That’s why I think the pastor who wrote the Church Discipline booklet strays from 1 Corinthians to other, more nebulous examples of church discipline: It allows him to determine which ‘sins’ members of his congregation should suffer discipline for.
If we stick to 1 Corinthians as our rule of thumb, we can probably say that Ron Jeremy (an actor in pornographic films) should not be allowed to attend worship services until he quits the adult industry. It would probably be an easy choice few members of the congregation would struggle with. But what of ‘lesser’ sins, those grey areas where most people struggle day-to-day? According to 1 Corinthians, those sins would not require discipline. So the pastor switches over to Ephesians 6:4, which uses the analogy of the father-child relationship, to justify his authority over members of his church. I believe the pastor is overstepping his authority and is attempting to control the members of his church.
I agree that it is the responsibility of pastors to exhort church members to spiritual growth. However, I also believe the author of this booklet is stretching Scripture to fit his controlling agenda and force his church’s members to behave according to his private standards.