Church discipline is making a comeback. And it should be! For a church to be a church it must affirm the purity of the gospel and the purity of the the God’s people. God is holy. All those who truly love him, will seek to purify themselves. And when a man or woman continues in sin and refuses to repent after being approach by two or three witness, the sinner should be brought before the church. Hopefully at some point during the discipline process, the man or women will repent. But If no repentance ensues, the sinner must be kicked out of the church and treated as an unbeliever. Such are the commands found in Mathew 18: 15-17.
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
But should we make our kids walk through church discipline? In the Old Testament, parents could take their unrepentant and disrespectful kids to the elders and have them stoned. Can we and should we take our kids before the church and have them excommunicated? The easy answer is, it depends.
In some cases, the answer is a flat out no. If the child is not a member of the church, then we do not discipline them. All children come into the world with a sin nature. All kids are sinners and all act like sinners. If they have not repented and accepted Jesus, we cannot expect them to respond to God’s divine means of repentance and restoration. Expecting church discipline to bring an unbeliever to repentance would be like expecting a soccer team to thrive in the NFL. It’s not going to go well. They play by different rules.
For this reason and others, some churches are very slow to admit children into membership. Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. will only baptize people who are 18 or older. And while I do not think we have to make 18 a special benchmark age, our churches should be slow and methodical when considering children for baptism and church membership. If a kid is not a believer and not a member of a church, they are not subject to church discipline. Yes, we should pray with them and for them. We should counsel them with the word (evangelize them). But we should not discipline them in front of the church.
In other cases, the answer is a resounding yes! If a child or a youth has made a credible profession of faith, has been baptized, and has been admitted into the church as a member, then he can be disciplined. If the child refuses to repent of lying, slander, sexual immorality, or any other sin, then their parents should practice church discipline. Their parents should involve the church, bringing a trusted friend or pastor into the situation. Lord willing, the child will respond well and repent. But if he does not, the child should be taken before the church. And if that still does not drive the child to his knees, he should be excommunicated.
In short, we should not hastily kick our kids out of the church. But if we are going to have biblical, healthy churches, we must be willing to excommunicate those who refuse to repent even our kids and teenagers. As 1 Corinthians 5:11 says,
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Because church discipline is such a monumental and necessary thing and because following Christ is no easy accomplishment, we must not hastily rush kids down the aisle, baptize them, and admit them into membership. We must make sure our kids understand what they are doing. The church is no country club. And if we do enroll a child, we must be willing to discipline him. Are you ready to excommunicate the kids?