Although it would be nice to live in a world where no serious conflicts occur and problems could be easily talked out, the sinful world we live in will not be such a world until Jesus returns. Unfortunately, at times we are all presented with an individual or individuals with whom conflict seems inevitable. The Bible has given very good, solid guidelines for dealing with such people both personally and within a ministry context, and this is the procedure OAIM follows when such a situation arises.
The first thing to understand in this matter of discipline is that there are two major driving factors in OAIM, which cannot be compromised: love and sound doctrine. We cannot sacrifice one of these at the expense of the other. Both must work together in balance to be effective in the matter of church discipline. Biblical discipline is never looked at as a negative punishment, but as a positive correction of our behavior to line up with what God wants us to be. God disciplines all of us from time to time (Hebrews 12:5-6, Revelation 3:19) if we truly are His children, just as a loving father will discipline his son when it is necessary. In fact, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:24 that refraining from disciplining our children is really hating them, He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him, and that disciplining a child could save that childs life: Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death. Proverbs 19:18
The sole purpose of discipline is to help move that person closer to godly behavior and, therefore, closer in their relationship with God. Most discipline is not at all pleasant and is often not completely understood or agreed to by the one being disciplined, as the writer of Hebrews says in verse 12:11, No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. OAIM believes that if a ministry follows the biblical procedure for discipline among its members, it will help to expose the hearts of those we work with, whether for good or for evil. Proverbs 12:1 tells us, Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid, and Proverbs 10:17 says, He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Those who refuse any type of discipline in their lives are those who fall into the trap of believing false doctrines because they are too arrogant to accept that their beliefs might not be biblical. Because of these important factors, OAIM believes that the most loving thing we can ever do is to try to help our brothers and sisters see if there is anything that is keeping them from the truth.
In Matthew 18, we see a basic set of guidelines that all Christians can use when a brother or sister has offended you. The entire chapter is well worth reading to get the context for how God expects us to deal with our wounds. to begin with, Jesus has been questioned by His disciples about who will be the greatest in His kingdom. In response, Jesus turns the table on them, exposing how full of pride that question was and how it was exactly opposite of what is needed to be great in the kingdom of God -- humility. And this is the place to start with confronting a person who has hurt you.
This is why the first step in confronting a brother or sister in Christ is to go to that person one-on-one, by yourself, to tell them what you are feeling (Matthew 18:15). You do it merely between the two of you because your purpose is not to embarrass them or to hurt them, but to try to help them see where their behavior was not up to Gods standard of behaving. But this requires a very humble heart to do. We must always remember that we ourselves have sinned against many people as well, and, but by the grace of God, the tables could very well be turned (and might be in the near future). We must treat that person in the same way we ourselves would want to be treated if we were the one in error.
At this point, there are two possible responses the person will have. One response is anger (which is rooted in pride) and the other will be repentance (which is rooted in humility). If the person repents, then, as Matthew 18:15 says, You have won your brother over. However, if you are met with anger, Jesus says to take the second step.
In this second step, you are to take one or two other people along with you. The Old Testament law said that it took one or two witnesses for a matter to be confirmed. And this is what you are doing here. You are also giving both yourself and the other person a chance to present your cases in front of others to see if they judge the offense to be true. Having someone other than yourself, though, will keep things from becoming, he said/she said type argument. Again, you do this with only a couple of people because you are not there to embarrass, but to help correct. Once again, the person has two possible responses: anger or repentance.
If the person has responded in anger, then it is obvious that the church leaders need to be involved. In the case of OAIM, it would be at this point that a person would be brought before the entire group of counselors and cits. Both sides can once again be heard before a larger group of witnesses and a judgment made. Hopefully, by this point, the offender will be willing to repent of his/her actions.
Regrettably, there are some who will not respond to this, or who will not even agree to meet with the counselor board. When this happens, Matthew 18:17 tells us what our next step is: And if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Pagans and tax collectors were not treated very warmly by the people of Jesus day. They would not share in the churchs activities, nor would they be part of the friendship circle of the believers.
Paul reconfirms this type of removing from fellowship in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul compared tolerance of ongoing sin in the midst of the church as a small amount of yeast that would soon work its way through the entire loaf. He knew that if you have a person who has such a hard heart that the procedure in Matthew 18 does not bring about repentance, that person would not hesitate to go behind the backs of the leadership to try to sow their discord and discontent to others in the fellowship. This is why Paul was so adamant about how they should treat this person who was not at all ashamed of his blatant sin.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 Paul says, I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.
As the leaders of OAIM, we have a responsibility to the members of our ministry to follow these biblical guidelines if there is a problem with a member that cannot be resolved as stated above. We do not remove someone from our ministry lightly, and it is always done with a sorrowful heart after all other options have been tried. We have to agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 that we cannot allow a yeast like this to work through the lives of the others in the ministry. It is not at all loving to leave a wolf unchecked among the sheep nor to leave a portion of yeast to permeate and spoil the whole loaf.
The purpose of the type of discipline as seen above is to help the person come face to face with their sin and to genuinely repent of it with a sincerely humble heart. If, because of the disfellowship that happens, the person finally does humbly repent, then it will be our joy to welcome that person back. Paul wrote to the Corinthians a second time and in this letter he asked them to do just this in 2 Corinthians 2:7-8, Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.
Remember, discipline is a way to bring both God and others peace and delight to their souls. Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Proverbs 29:17
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