The answer to that question depends on whether we’re speaking about what Jay Adams calls formal or informal church discipline. Informal church discipline involves private confrontation, whereas formal church discipline involves a church-wide process.
Teach all prospective members that if they join the church, they will be subject to its discipline. That is, if they sin, they will be confronted about it, and if they refuse to repent of sin, the church will pursue the process laid out in Matthew 18:15-17, even to the point of excluding them from the church. Membership classes are one obvious place to offer this instruction.
They fail to teach their congregation what church discipline is and why to practice it.
They fail to teach about and practice meaningful membership. This involves cultivating a culture of personal discipleship and involvement in one another’s lives in which people transparently confess sin to one another. This also involves teaching what membership is, as well as having a clear list of who is a member of the church.
Explain what the care list is, especially for newer members.
Teach briefly about church discipline, possibly by reading Matthew 18:15-17. Remind the church that love should be the church’s motivation, and nothing else.
Present the person’s name and why they’re being mentioned.
Explain the nature of the sin very judiciously.Typically, details are not necessary.
Explain how the unrepentant sinner has already been approached. What actions have occurred?
A care list cuts out the shock value of corrective discipline. Presenting a person’s name to the congregation months before a possible act of discipline enables the church to better pray and reach out to that person. It also prepares themselves for the sobering and sad act of excluding the individual from the Lord’s Supper.
A “care list” is a tool for accomplishing two purposes: (i) it alerts church members of fellow-members who are in extra need of care or correction; (ii) it prepares a congregation for a possible case of public corrective discipline. Specifically, it’s a list of names which the church leaders announce to the church’s members.
Sometimes members undergoing special trials (medical, spiritual, vocational, and so on) need extra prayer and support. They might even ask to have their names included on the care list.
To many, church discipline (excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin) sounds downright mean. Yet the Bible portrays discipline as an act of love (Heb. 12:6-11). Here are several benefits:
Church discipline is the church’s act of confronting someone’s sin and calling them to repent, which, if the person doesn’t repent, will culminate in excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.
Discipline sounds like a negative thing. The word makes us think of waking up at 5 a.m., endless pushups, or spankings. These hardly sound appealing!
Yet only the proud person believes he or she is perfect. Humility causes us to realize that we are not finished products. We may need inspiration or healing. We may need to be corrected, challenged, or even broken. In other words, all of us need discipline.
Join a church. Remember that the local church, not seminary, is God’s primary means for proclaiming the gospel, building up the saints, and preparing you for ministry (Eph. 4:11-16). Use your time at seminary as an opportunity to grow in your ministry and involvement in the local church, not to put the local church on the back burner.
Jesus himself withdrew from ministering to huge crowds so that he could pray alone (Luke 5:12-16). The apostle Paul made time to pray for churches near and far (Rom. 1:9-10, 1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 1:16, Phil. 1:4, Col. 1:3). But in case the examples of Jesus and Paul aren’t enough, here are a few more reasons why pastors should spend daily, personal time in the Word and prayer.
Have deliberate, weekly one-on-one time with each of your children, probably to include playing, reading scripture, or praying.
Date your daughters.
Leave the church at church so dad can be dad at home.
Take a child with you on visits or short trips.
Take an interest in what your children enjoy doing.
When a church interviews you for the position of pastor, explain that they are hiring you and not your wife (the Bible says nothing about elders’ wives). When the church asks what she will do, explain that she intends to join the church and be a member, just like everyone else.
Help guard her heart from the church’s extra expectations of her.
Give her space to define her own role in the church.
Take the initiative to establish a plan for family worship, then follow the plan!
Come home at the exact time you say you will be home and prepare your heart to serve your family, not be served.
Take responsibility for your children’s education and discipline—don’t leave it to your wife to figure out.
Little kids need the strength of your youth; older kids need your wisdom (so have children while you’re young!).
Pack in truth while your children are little and trust the Lord to unpack it in his time.
Study your children. Know their “love language.”
Consistent, loving, faithful discipline brings peace to the home. Inconsistency brings chaos.