Discipline in the Mainline (Pg. 2)
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People Can't Stomach it
Finally, the biggest reason discipline is difficult in the mainline is that people just don't have the stomach for it. Our Classis has the reputation for having the hardest ordination exams in the area (and they are most definitely not hard). But because we actually fail people once in awhile we are considered nigh unto the Inquisition by seminary students. I don't think most of our students expect high doctrinal standards. And I don't think most of the leaders in mainline churches have the guts to enforce doctrinal standards.
Most people in most our churches don't have the stomach for discipline either. How could they? They've never seen it. They've probably never heard preaching on it.
On the denominational level, unity and growth are prized above all else. Purity is almost a bad word, too much like those nasty Puritans. So most people just try to get along. I'm convinced that most mainline denominations still have a faithful remnant larger than those who have bowed the knee to Baal. But the remnant is cowardly. They have "orthodox instincts but little discernment," as Athanasius said about the majority of bishops at Nicea.
The problem with the mainline is that it's just too mushy. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. Evangelicals not in the mainline should especially pay attention here. An orthodox confession of faith is not enough!
OKAY, BUT IS IT WISE?
Is discipline in the mainline possible? Barely, but it can be done.
Is it wise? Yes, but there is a cost and you will only get one or two shots before you're labeled a trouble-maker and banished to the ecclesiastical wilderness.
So be a serpenty-dove. Discipline may be difficult and it may not be popular, but it is necessary. The health of our churches, the vitality of our denominations, the good of the offender, and the glory of God depend on it.
Kevin DeYoung is the Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, the author of Just Do Something! (Moody, 2009), and the co-author (with Ted Kluck) of Why We're Not Emergent (Moody, 2008) and Why We Love the Church (Moody, 2009).
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