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How should the church deal with discipline?

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17

            This passage gives churches a clear, three-step process of confronting individuals in a church.  These sins vary from sexual misconduct, criminal matters, business dealings, gossip to child abuse.

1.      Deal with them one-on-one in a conversation.  Hopefully the person responds at this stage and stops their behavior.

2.      Then, bring in another witness or someone of authority familiar with the situation.  This next level of accountability makes the offense more public, while still preserving privacy.

3.      Finally, take the sinner’s offense public to the whole church.  This is a hard step.  Hopefully the threat of it stops the behavior and leads to repentance.  How that information is made public can vary.  If the person is a public figure (pastor, worship leader, ministry director) it may have to come from the pulpit.  If the person is less public (admin or teacher of a class), maybe only a handful of people need to know.

Some discipline may need to go directly to police.  While this can at first be done discreetly, churches have a responsibility to report sexual misconduct and child abuse quickly.