Guest / Limited Access /

The term church discipline most often brings to mind a dramatic Matthew 18 moment, when a church member's unrepentant sin is brought before the full congregation. But when a pastor falls, there is no simple, three-step Bible passage at hand, and we're not great at figuring it out ourselves. The many possibilities for handling such failings are reflected in the structures of our hundreds of denominations.

Fallout from the Ted Haggard scandal continues. New Life Church's outside board of overseers acted decisively after the revelations, but many wondered, Could Haggard have been helped earlier? The overseers wondered, too. Now at least one overseer (each a full-time pastor) must be present at New Life each Sunday. In addition, the board may require Haggard's replacement to regularly attend a counseling retreat. On top of that, the general public was asked for "factual, first-hand information regarding the spiritual health of this church, its ministers, or ministries."

When that process resulted in the December resignation of another senior leader, several commentators labeled it a "witch hunt." But contrary to these complaints, such discipline isn't merely aimed at saving a church's reputation. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy, good repute can spur leaders to avoid temptation. A bishop or overseer, Paul wrote, "must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."

Down the road from New Life, Pastor Benjamin Reynolds was holding monthly accountability sessions with his deacons at Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church. But the usual response to inquiries about spiritual health was, "I'm blessed," he told the Los Angeles Times. He added, "I wanted to say, 'Please! I feel like crap!'"

Reynolds ...

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

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

Tidings
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Tidings Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Nepal's New Peacemakers
Christians become voice for freedom after national crisis.
Current IssueNew & Noteworthy Books
Subscriber Access Only
New & Noteworthy Books
Compiled by Matt Reynolds
Recommended‘The Young Pope’ Takes an Anxious Look at the Danger of Doubt
‘The Young Pope’ Takes an Anxious Look at the Danger of Doubt
HBO's unsettling Vatican satire asks what happens when spiritual leaders shirk their own faith.
TrendingAll 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.
Editor's PickMy Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.
Christianity Today
Bottom-Up Discipline
hide thisFebruary February

In the Magazine

February 2007

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