Three Taverns Church

Church Discipline, Part 3: Church Image


“The Bible gives very practical instruction to Christian men and women to live holy lives. One of the reasons your lifestyle is important is because it affects the spirit and message of your church…(People) watch Christians and they draw conclusions about the Lord from what they see.” Christian Discipline booklet

The pastor makes a valid point here: People draw conclusions about Jesus based on the behavior of self-proclaimed ‘Christians’. In fact, Paul’s letters seem to exhort his first-century recipients to differentiate themselves from the local cultures through their behavior. However, as I noted yesterday, Paul was writing to churches with very different demographics than churches generally possesses today. I expect that Paul’s corrective efforts were more emphatic and pronounced than might be necessary in contemporary churches. Pastors should take the cultural and religious context of the first century church into account when interpreting biblical passages related to church discipline; I’m afraid the author of the Church Discipline booklet does not.

The pastor continues:

“So we are instructed, along with the Corinthian church, to ‘clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.’ (1 Cor 5:7, NASB) God wants believers to be sincere and not hypocritical! He wants churches to model the truth and share it with the community.”

I agree: God wants us to be sincere in our desire for Him and does not want us to be hypocritical. However, in today’s culture which has the greater likelihood of the perception of hypocrisy: Judging and casting out ‘sinners’ from the church, or allowing ‘sinners’ to attend church? If the first option is more likely to earn a church the label ‘hypocrite’, doesn’t this booklet actually advance the image it was notionally created to combat?

I worry that people will “draw conclusions about the Lord”…from what they read in this booklet. Christianity in America today has the unfortunate reputation of standing for punishment and legalism, the very things Jesus came to abolish. This booklet may further the perception that Christians have appointed themselves the moral judges of the community and serve to advance the very agenda it claims to resist, namely, shaping negative impressions of Jesus Christ within the community.

How do you think non-Christians in your community perceive your church?

If you asked the average person in your community what Jesus stands for, what do you think their answer would be?

4 thoughts on “Church Discipline, Part 3: Church Image

  1. Amen. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God…

    I think a lot of people equate Jesus with condemnation. Our job is to love our neighbor, not condemn them!

    • Thanks for the comment, GoodCup. One of the best books I’ve read in a while (Fire Bearer, Michael Dwinnell) notes that we drastically cheapen the Gospel when we make the Good News a message of morality.

  2. In the scripture from 1 Corinthians, I believe Paul was speaking to the process we should each undergo in our own hearts, not a need to rid the church of all sinners (everyone!) As Christians, we should desire to get rid of the old filth that is in our hearts, though it does not happen all at once, and it only happens by God’s grace. At the same time, we should be extending love and acceptance to others, no matter where in the process they are at!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s