Church discipline


A few months ago when the truth of God’s character started to deeply impact my heart and my thinking I began growing and learning in ways I had never known. Although I recognized immediate changes each step of the way, it has taken time for God’s truth to sink in and start to make deep changes to the untruths and lack of faith that was so deeply ingrained into many areas of my life. I had still believed that my sin was keeping me from a righteous relationship with God instead of understanding that Christ has set me free and changed me forever.

Lately I feel like I have been drinking from a firehose. I have been growing and learning so much, so fast. The changes are things I can’t even put words to yet, but daily I am becoming more profoundly aware of the Lord’s presence in my life and the changes that are occurring.

I watched the Matrix the other night. I feel like Neo did in the movie as his mind was being opened to the truth of the real world versus the lies he had known and thought were real. Morpheus challenged Neo and pushed him. In explanation he said, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

That is very similar to what the Lord wants to do for us. He wants to free us from the things we have believed and the limited views we have known. He wants to open our minds to truth, possibilities, and opportunities. He wants us to become the people he has created us to be. It is up to us to believe and to walk in his truth. Faith is more than just asking and hoping, it is walking as if the prayer has been answered and we are changed. Morpheus later told him, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” I believe there are many like me who have made a commitment to Christ in the past, but who never learned how to move from knowing to walking the Christian faith out in a powerful way in their everyday life. Many of us have never been taught how to live as Christians who are radically altered by the Gospel.

The more I come to understand 1) Who he is 2) Who I am because of what Christ did and how that made me a new creation, it is radically altering my life. I have never known the freedom, joy, hope, love, power, and strength that I know live with. It is my prayer that others will also find this truth. Not only will it change their lives, but I truly believe that what I am learning about is the Gospel that Christ promised would change the world.

I love this post from Sarah Cunningham, Oh Yeah, Well, I’m Going To Scream About How Great You Are.

I am thinking about how this would impact the American Church if we treat others this way instead of with the Elder Brother Disease. I think I want to move to Africa!

http://www.sarahcunningham.org/change-is-cheap/oh-yeah-well-im-going-to-scream-about-how-great-you-are

I just added a new page to the site with a list of books on Spiritual Abuse and related topics. It is still a work in process as I would like to add links and pictures for all the books, but it is a great start. (https://restoringtheheart.wordpress.com/books-on-spiritual-abuse-and-related-topics/)

Please take a look when you have time and let me know if there are other resources to add. I hope you find a treasure or two on the list!

On Monday afternoon I was finally able to meet face to face with the pastor and an elder from my church to hear the charges that had been made against me and to seek a path to reconciliation. Despite as much preparation as I think I could have done in the word and prayer, and despite prayer cover from some people … the meeting did not go that well.

We need to learn to thank the Lord for closed doors just as much as we do for open doors. The reason God closes doors is because He has not prepared anything over there for us. If he didn’t close the wrong door we would never find our way to the right door. Even when we don’t realize it, God directs our paths through the closing and opening of doors. When one door closes, it forces us to change our course. Another door closes; it forces us to change our course yet again. Then finally, we find the open door and walk right into our blessing.  (http://sweetnostalgia.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/behind-closed-doors/)

In summary I was dismissed from the church not under “church discipline” but due to a pattern of behavior they did not view as matching the words and actions of a believer. They deemed I was a non-believer who was exhibiting a lack of submission and was at risk of causing division in the church. Since I was deemed a non-believer they did not follow Matthew 18 and did not take the issue to the church. I was informed that I have been “churched” and can talk the talk but that my ongoing questions regarding clarity of communication from the church leaders showed lack of submission. They felt my communication toward the leaders showed intentional twisting of words and creation of miscommunication and drama so that I would have control. I asked if there was any noted miscommunication with others besides the pastor and was told that as far as he was aware the issue was limited to him but of course he was not privy to all other communication.

Part of why I was told I was a non-believer was that I have struggled with some sin over an extended period of time. (I did not recognize it as sin until June when God started revealing it to me, but that was not addressed. This sin is unbelief, a small view of God, walking in victimization, doubting the power of God, etc. due to the spiritual abuse I experienced 4-1/2 years ago.) As they are firm believers in Lordship Salvation they believe that no true believer can fall into an extended period of sin, be taken bondage or captive by sin, or have an ongoing struggle where victory is not seen. I asked them about this directly and since they were deeming me as a non-believer I asked if they would help me right then to become a believer and be right before God because I desire to spend eternity as part of God’s family. The pastor told me it was too much to deal with right then and he would just leave that to the counselor to address at a different time. Even when I asked a second time to deal with it right then I was told no. (There was still 30 minutes left in the meeting.)

The pastor and elder came across to me with a defensive and unopen tone, and I witnessed absolutely no desire to reconcile or heal the relationship. They were quite angry that I had defied their communication to not “associate” with anyone from the church as I had emailed/mailed a group of people to express my repentance for my wrong actions and lack of faith and shared what God had been doing in my life. It was clearly communicated at the meeting that they desire absolutely no further contact from me directly and expect me to not communicate anything to anyone else in the church community. My counselor is allowed to contact the pastor and maybe in the future there will be some room for a path to reconcile fully with God’s family but at this time they believe they have no responsibility to me and washed their hands of any responsibility to see me reconciled or restored to God’s family.

Even two days later I am still not sure what I am thinking and feeling after this meeting. The most important things for me are 1) To have assurance that I am saved 2) to know that the relationship with this church and everyone that is attending there is now completely closed 3) to know that no matter how I move forward they will not restore me openly to God’s family and I will not receive their blessing no matter what life and walk I have with God.

I am very sad and grieved for those leaders and that church. I pray that God deals with the issues and shakes the church so that it will be purified and their leaders will move forward in Godly ways.

  1. The pastor and elder will need to stand before God to give account for why they turned away someone who came to them earnestly seeking a true walk with God.
  2. The pastor and elders deemed me as an unbeliever and therefore judged me. At this time no-one else in my life agrees with this assessment and I have honestly gone to others trying to take the stance that maybe I was not a believer and needed to address that issue. If I was a believer they will have to give account for their judgement and rejection.
  3. They are missing God’s heart which is expressed all over the Bible, but is summarized here in Isaiah 61:1b “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”. Also, Matthew 15 clearly shows God’s heart for the lost and how he pursues after them, looks for them, and welcomes and rejoices them when one that was lost comes home. Whether I am just dealing with my sin and repenting, or honestly moving forward with a brand new true relationship with God doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I am now standing in a healthy and right relationship with God and they were unwilling to even listen to or see that. Even if the decision to remove me was correct, they are missing the heart of accepting a repentant person and seeking to help them walk forward in a right relationship with God.
  4. They have lead an entire church community to cut off contact with another believer and to walk in disunity and brokenness within God’s family.
  5. They clearly articulated they are in a “protective mode” at the church right now and in saying that they openly showed that protecting their body and the unity of that individual local church is more important than God’s gospel and the unity and peace within his larger church and unity between his people.
  6. The pastor and elder showed lack of faith that God can change a person’s life.

Although I am saddened and grieving for God’s church I have forgiven these leaders and freely release them into God’s hands. They are not my enemy and I harbor no anger or bitterness to them. They are my brothers in Christ, and I love them deeply, extend grace and forgiveness to them, and will continue to uplift them in prayer and walk in unity and peace with them to the best of my ability. The door is open for the day they desire to reconcile and I pray that God will move them to that place in their walk with him. I honestly believe that no sin or issue is too big for God to overcome and I place this in his hands to resolve. God, I move forward in love, hope, and promise toward the future you intend for me. Lead me to where you want me next and show me the path to integrity, unity, peace, wholeness, holiness, and righteousness as I move there.

Church Discipline That Heals by John White and Ken Blue discusses four concerns and goals of corrective church discipline: reconciliation, church purity, restoration of sinners, and freedom. Often only the first two goals are discussed. Discipline deals with sin and addresses the brokenness it causes, and aims to bring restoration back to God’s people.

Sin brings alienation, alienation from God and alienation among brothers and sisters. Christ died and rose that we might be reconciled to God and to one another. Church discipline must aim at reconciliation among brethren.

Discipline is not just about removing someone from fellowship or controlling their behavior. In fact if done correctly those should only occur in extreme cases where everything else has been tried without success. The heart of discipline needs to really be about reconciliation and bring the sinner and the church into a healthy and holy relationship with God. We live in brokenness. Each of us is walking in sin and needs to repent that our heart is not completely given to God nor are we walking in absolute obedience.

Restoration for us opens the door to reconciliation. The former rebel becomes a friend again. The fallen become comrades in arms with the fighters. The once wounded resume their roles as integral members of a healthy community. The goal with their reconciliation is achieved along with that of their restoration to holy living. Thus to be restored means more than to have repented and been forgiven. Sin damages. It weakens resistance, dulls conscience, debases appetites, brutalizes instincts. It is habit-forming and character changing. Sinners need to be healed and rehabilitated. We do not use the word restoration to refer to being restored to fellowship. Rather restoration means being brought back to the holiness one held before a fall. At best, in practice, it means something more than the narrow definition of the word would suggest-but rather becoming better, wiser, and stronger. It is to such a condition that repentance must be the doorway.

A couple years ago I was working at a youth camp and a High School senior was distraught after the evening program. As I sat with her trying to listen and calm her I learned that her heart was deeply broken because she was making a commitment to Christ, but she knew that by tomorrow she would sin again and I she didn’t want to do it. She wanted her sin to be completely gone so she could be righteous. She hated her sin that deeply! I smiled and wished she could have seen how beautiful she was and how her heart enthralled and pleased God.

One of the most important things that we need to learn as Christians is how vile our sin is, how much it hurts God and others, and how we need to learn to hate it and do all we can to turn from it. Turning from our sin is repentance. Repentance can then lead to restoration and reconciliation. Together all of those lead us toward righteousness.

“Church purity is primarily concerned with the righteousness of Christ’s body. Restoration, however, is primarily concerned with the righteousness of an individual. For fellowship to be reestablished with a brother or sister (reconciliation), the church must be pure. And for the church to be pure, individuals must be made pure (restoration). Restoration thus opens the door to reconciliation. The former rebel becomes a friend again. The fallen become comrades in arms with the fighters. The once wounded resume their roles as integral members of a healthy community. The goal of their reconciliation is achieved along with that of their restoration to holy living.” (Church Discipline That Heals by John White and Ken Blue)

The quote above is in reference to restoration and reconciliation with a church, however each of us need to honestly assess our lives and see our own need for repentance, restoration, and reconciliation directly with God. My recent story has come about because I had become so darkened in my thinking and unaware that I was being deceived, misled, and sinful in my thoughts that I could not even see my own sin. When my pastor became aware of it and tried to speak to me about it I couldn’t understand. I didn’t walk in conscious awareness and rebellion toward my sin, but instead was so deceived I didn’t even recognize it.

If I had been aware of my sin I could have repented, restored my walk with God and been reconciled to him without the involvement and discipline from others. Unfortunately that isn’t my story, and God is so loving that he provided another way out for me. Every day though we need to be checking ourselves and seeing what needs to be restored and set right in our walk with God. Even one day can start leading you down the same path I was on of deception, deceit, and being blind to our sin and our need for a Savior and a Lord.

Are you willing to move toward righteousness in your walk with God today? What conviction is God speaking to you about and encouraging you to address?

The pastor and an elder from my church have agreed to meet with me and my counselor. The meeting will occur on July 27th.

I am very thankful for God’s favor in providing this opportunity and excited to see what he does.  I will be praying for God to prepare our hearts, open our minds, and bring healing and hope that only he can bring.  I know this conversation will only be the first step if true reconciliation is to occur, but I am encouraged that a door is opening to take a step in the right direction. God’s heart is for reconciliation and restoration and he specializing in raising things from the dead so I have complete faith that he can work amazing miracles during this time. It is now my responsibility to spend the next two weeks diligently working on all that I need to do to prepare my heart, soul, and life for that meeting so that I am open as possible to hear, receive, and give all that is needed.

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