Book Review: Love that Rescues, by Eric Bargerhuff

Review by Jonathan Leeman | 9Marks Journal: Hell: Remembering the Awful Reality | 08.02.2010

This book makes one point: church discipline, in spite of our expectations to the contrary, is all about God’s loving work of rescuing sinners from their sin.

Book Review: Handbook of Church Discipline, by Jay Adams

Review by Jonathan Leeman | 07.18.2010

I don’t agree with every jot and tittle, but Adams’ 1974 work remains one of the most even-handed introductions to the topic.

What should I look for in a church?

Expositional preaching. Does the pastor preach God’s Word, or his own ideas? Does he allow Scripture to set his preaching agenda, or does he pick topics by some other criteria? (2 Tim. 2:15, 4:2-2) Biblical theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine? (Tit. 1:9-11)

How can a pastor know when his congregation is ready to practice church discipline?


You know your congregation is ready to practice church discipline when:

How can a pastor wisely shepherd his church toward the ability to practice church discipline?

Encourage humility. Help people to see that they may be mistaken about their own spiritual state. Consider the example of the man in 1 Corinthians 5 as well as Paul's exhortation to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul charges us to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith. Do your church members recognize that they should help one another do such examination?

Can church members simply resign their membership in order to avoid church discipline?


Sometimes church members who are in the process of discipline will attempt to resign their membership in order to avoid the church’s disciplinary action. Is this something that churches should allow?

Definitely not. Churches shouldn’t allow members to simply resign their membership in order to avoid discipline because:

Why should churches discipline members who consistently do not attend?


Some church members are prevented by infirmity or necessity (think military deployment) from regularly attending the church. Others, however, deliberately choose not to attend the church of which they are a member. Such non-attenders have a toxic effect on the church:

What should a pastor teach before he leads his congregation to practice church discipline?

The authority of Scripture. This, of course, is where it all begins. If your church is not convinced of Scripture's authority over them—over their own lives and over the life and practice of the church—you will not be able to bring them to abiblical understanding of church discipline. The church’s authority, right, and responsibility to practice discipline aregiven solely by the Word of God.

When should a church practice church discipline?


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.

How can a church wisely practice discipline in a litigious society?

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.

What are some mistakes pastors make regarding church discipline?

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.

How should church leaders present the “care list” to the congregation in matters of corrective discipline?

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?

What are the advantages of having a “care list” for cases of corrective discipline?

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.

What is a church “care list”?

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.

What are the benefits of practicing church discipline?


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: