Episode 53 - 30 Sep 2019
Todd Wagner (Senior Pastor of Watermark Community Church) joins Adam and John in the studio to discuss church discipline. Care and correction is absolutely core to shepherding God's people. Church leaders must be willing to step into these situations with courage and compassion. Listen in for practical insights on what church discipline should look like. Also be sure to check out the recommended resources in the show notes: watermarkresources.com/clp/6753
Todd Wagner (Senior Pastor and Elder of Watermark Community Church) joins Adam and John in the studio to discuss church discipline. While often difficult, we believe that care and correction is absolutely core to shepherding God's people. Church leaders must be willing to step into these situations with courage and compassion.
Many of the problems we see in the church are because church leaders are more concerned with stage building and show business than they are about shepherding. In fact, many people have never seen church discipline done well. The result? Often church leaders will choose to avoid a care and correction process entirely. Sin is allowed to continue and people grow stagnant. However, church discipline is an essential aspect of leadership. There will always be brokenness, hurt, and sin in our church bodies. And that means there will always be opportunities to look into people's lives and shepherd them towards Christ. We cannot forget that Church discipline is good for the church and for the person being disciplined. In fact, it is the most loving thing we can do.
You can't ask people to do that which you are not modeling yourself. Church leaders are also need of thoughtful care and correction. Senior pastors should be able to take critique and redirection when they err. We all need people who are willing to tell us the truth and shepherds who can point us to the better way. And this doesn't mean that every instance of church discipline goes through the entirety of the process laid out in Matthew 18. In healthy church communities, 99% of church discipline happens between friends who genuinely care for one another. Members will address discipline with their communities before ever bringing in church staff. It just so happens that 100% of church discipline at Watermark begins outside of the office of Elder. Only when church discipline has reached it's unfortunate final steps, will the office of Elder get involved.
The majority of corrective discipline is personal, private, and very informal. This process is not the consequence of a singular bad weekend. Church discipline is period at the end of a long, thoughtful conversation. Church discipline arises with cases involving continued lack of repentance. It is when this is a symptomatic issue that the circle is widened for continued discipline. We must also remember that Church discipline requires presenting people with a clear path back to repentance and reconciliation.
Accountability and discipline are signs of God's love for His church. The reason we must hold people accountable is because they count. The day we become too big to shepherd one person in the church, we are too big.
When is it okay to overlook an offense? An offense is too great to be overlooked when it is:
- When it dishonors God
- When it undermines church unity
- When it hurts other people
- When it impedes their pursuit of Jesus
We should never be surprised when someone who isn't walking with Jesus is behaving in a way that wouldn't honor Jesus. This should change our expectations for them. Rather than shepherding that person who has experienced the fullness of the Matthew 18 process, we instead engage in gospel conversations with that person. Treat them like you would any other non-believer, with kindness and compassion.
If we are not wanting to step into situations that need care and correction, then we really are not wanting to be a leader. This is the job of every believer. Church discipline grounded in love will create a healthy church environment.
- Conflict Field Guide
- What Does the Bible Say About Covenant Membership and Church Discipline?
- Quotes on Care and Correction
- Conflict: A Constant Opportunity Series
For questions or additional resources, email us at email@example.com.
Sr. Director of Watermark Resources
Cohost of Church Leadership Podcast