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Should a church discipline a member for non-attendance?

By Iain Murray

Iain Murray entered the Christian ministry in 1955 where he served as assistant to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel as well as several other ministry positions. He is a co-founder of Banner of Truth Trust and now is retired and living in Great Britian.

Each local church is imperfectly a manifestation of the truth, purity and unity of the body of Christ. Persistent non-attendance for unjustifiable reasons is calculated to destroy the credibility of the church. But discipline needs to be introduced with much wisdom and with the support of the oversight of the congregation. It needs:

1. Insuring that on becoming communicant member every professing Christian understands what he or she is being committed to in the local church.

2. The Presbyterian former practice of insisting on a rule of “adherents” (prior to membership) and the Methodist trial-period prior to membership were expressions of a concern for high standards for members.

3. If discipline is necessary it should be exercised in stages:
==>Personal admonition/counsel from elders.
==>With-holding attendance at the Lord’s Supper (impossible in churches where no supervision exists over who partakes of bread and wine)
==>Removal from membership role.

Two extremes to be avoided: severe, authoritarian standards of discipline, and laxity which ignores unfaithful behavior. The devil’s quest strategy is to blur the line between church and world.

Additional Reading: R.B. Kuiper. The Glorious Body of Christ

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