Thursday, June 12, 2008

A More Disciplined SBC

The Southern Baptists approved a resolution to encourage churches to repent of membership rolls inflated by the dead (physically dead and spiritually dead!). Since true repentance leads to action, this would require a biblical understanding and practice of church discipline.

I want to share a letter a church I served drafted for a member that we removed due to a refusal to repent of immorality. I personally appealed to this person on a number of occasions. When this failed I enlisted two discrete church members to join me in appealing to this person. After several failed attempts over many months we finally addressed the church with this matter. The whole church appealed to this person, and still no repentance (see Matthew 18 for the precedent followed above). I share this so that you might have a sense of the gravity of such a move. There is no delight in sharing this, as there was no delight in actually removing this person from the fold other than the hope that this final action might lead to repentance and the glory of Christ. Of course, names and personal information are excluded to inhibit gossip.

Dear *****:

Knowing you as a friend makes this both more and less difficult to write. It is more difficult because I fear that it will hurt you and ruin our friendship. It is less difficult because I believe God's word that this is the means by which you will be reconciled to Christ. Because I love you as a friend, I pray that the latter will prove to be the case.

Upon the recommendation of the deacons and pastors, the members of ******** Church voted mournfully, yet unanimously, to remove your membership from the church. The reasons for this action are unrepentant ****** and *******. The motives of this action were for the purity of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6-7); the name of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:12-20); and the good of your soul (1 Corinthians 5:5). It is our fervent desire that you will receive this as an appeal from the church who loves your soul to repent of your sin and trust only in Christ our Savior and Lord.

This action was very sobering, for it forced each of us to examine our own lives. Each person found defiling sin in his/her life. This awakening to our own sinfulness was alarming, and could have led to hardness or despair. But we are reminded of the promise of the Scripture, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). So, we flew to the arms of our Savior to repent, confess and be cleansed from our unrighteousness. We pray that God will grant you the same spirit of repentance and faith toward Jesus Christ.

We are eager to receive you back into our fellowship. Please, be reconciled to God and to His church. Sin is a deadly poison. Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you (Matthew 5:30).

With Christ's love,


The last sentence is a reference to John Owen's work The Mortification of Sin. I highly commend this work for invigorating yourself for your battle with sin.

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