Guest / Limited Access /

The Protestant reformers named three "marks by which the true church is known": the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline to correct faults. Today, church discipline is feared as the mark of a false church, bringing to mind images of witch trials, scarlet letters, public humiliations, and damning excommunications. Does discipline itself need correction and redemption in order to be readmitted into the body of Christ? We have asked several experts from different (and sometimes contrasting) professional and theological backgrounds to explain how church discipline fell into disrepair and how it can be revived, so that the true church can fully embody the pure doctrine of the gospel once again.

Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six

Who killed church discipline? As in any good mystery story, fingers point everywhere.

It's tempting to finger the megachurch as the prime suspect, if only for its size. In such settings, it is hard to keep track of the membership rolls, let alone members' personal lives. Congregants from the 9:30 service rarely meet those who attend the 11:00 service, even if they may be committed to biblical mandates to help a fellow church member in spiritual or moral trouble. But how can one even tell a member? Many people attending these churches may be church hoppers or perennial visitors, considering themselves free-floating Christians without accountability—and they like it that way.

But so do those attending tiny congregations; the culprit is not size. Many Protestant churches, especially evangelical ones, have long disconnected salvation and church membership: a consequence of the enduring tradition ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Bookmarks
Quick reviews of The Wet Engine, Knitting, Her Heart Can See, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.
Current Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Should Your Favorite Ministry Become a ‘Church’?
Why more parachurch groups are telling the US government they’re not like other nonprofits.
RecommendedTullian Tchividjian Confesses Second Affair Concealed by Two Coral Ridge Elders
Tullian Tchividjian Confesses Second Affair Concealed by Two Coral Ridge Elders
(UPDATED) Tchividjian prays his story will 'serve as a warning' on sin, while Florida ministry leaders who tried to help reflect on what they’d do differently.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickThe Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
The Bible Never Says ‘All Men Are Created Equal’
How the New Testament offers a better, higher calling than the Declaration of Independence.
Christianity Today
How Discipline Died
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.