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Many churches have a written covenant or membership agreement that addresses both care and correction offered by the leadership of the church. What does the Bible say about these membership covenants and the church discipline that is often included?
All Believers Should Be Part of a Local Church
When we come into relationship with Christ, we are grafted into his body, the church. Jesus is the ultimate shepherd, yet he has designed the leadership of the church to shepherd its members.
1 Peter 5:5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
All Christians Have a Responsibility to Lovingly Rebuke
It’s not just the church leaders who should lovingly and gently reprove a brother or sister in Christ who is not behaving in a manner consistent with their faith. Anyone who is “godly” should be involved in this process. This isn’t saying we must be perfect to call out others who are sinning, only that honoring God should a priority in our lives if we are rebuking others and that we are growing more and more in obedience to God.
Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
Discipline Is for Our Good
God disciplines us for our own good and in doing this he is treating us as children. Most discipline can be done privately. However, if the person needing rebuke does not respond, it may be necessary to involve the elders, small group, or others in the church who know the person and agree there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
“Church discipline” can at times go wrong, but when done biblically and ethically, it is a necessary component of any healthy local church. If you have been subject to church discipline, lay aside your pride and listen to what is being said to you. Be willing to change. Trust that God is using the faithful people around you to correct and lead you.