Three goals of church discipline

Copyright: pling / 123RF Stock Photo

Today I had a reason to spend some time reading the Book of Church Order (BCO) for the Presbyterian Church in America. While it’s not exactly a page-turner, I found something very helpful in the section on church discipline. The BCO states that there are three objectives to be kept in mind when considering church discipline. They are:

  1. The glory of God
  2. The purity of His Church
  3. The keeping and reclaiming of disobedient sinners.

The BCO goes on to state, “Discipline is for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7); therefore, it demands a self-examination under Scripture.”

In addition to applying these goals to church discipline, it would be beneficial for us, as Christians, to apply them in other areas of our lives.

It is so easy, in this hair-trigger, social media age, to fire off opinions and condemnations of others for all the world to see. Not that character assassination by social media is any worse than by one-on-one gossip. But it is too easy to grab a device and post unhelpful opinions to our favorite social media app(s).

Those of us who are Christians would do well to keep the three goals above in mind in all of our conversations, on-line or otherwise.

Does what I say reflect well on the God I claim to worship? Does what I say contribute to or demonstrate the purity of the church? Does what I say help toward steering those who are moving away from relationship with God on a better trajectory?

We are fallen people in a fallen world and there are bound to be disagreements along the way. There is nothing inherently wrong with dialog about issues, whether the dialog be public or private. But we would do well to keep these three goals in mind as the dialog progresses.

I sometimes wonder how Christians would be viewed if every interaction would be restrained by these three goals. I would think that fewer people would think the church to be a bunch of judgmental hypocrites if these were followed.

Also as the BCO encourages us, as we think about confronting others to apply correction, it would be good for us to examine our own behavior and be open about where we also need correction. Remember that beam and speck story that Jesus related (Matthew 7:3–5)?

As I re-read this post, I am reminded of some other areas of my life, besides my speech, that would be different if I kept these principles in mind. For example, I certainly could be more courteous behind the wheel during my morning commute.

Can you think of other areas where application of these three principles should affect our behavior? Please share your thoughts in the comment area below.