Congregational Discipline2 Thessalonians 3:6 — But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. (NKJV)
This is a command given to every Christian when another Christian turns back to the world. The action must be carried out by every member of the congregation if it is to have the impact God intended. Most Christians recognize the New Testament teachings here and in Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Titus regarding collective discipline within the church family. But does the “fact” that we carry out what has come to be known as “church discipline” mean that we have dealt correctly with those we mark? I think an important question MUST be asked of every member: What did I do to draw closer to that person before the situation arose that caused the withdrawal?
Congregational discipline must be viewed in two parts: (1) instructions must proceed the (2) withdrawal process. In too many cases there is a lack of instruction. Teaching should involve public teaching for the benefit of all who could be involved in the same type of sins, but it involves much more . It involves getting to know one another, discovering strengths and weaknesses. It involves having an association with each other, so the instruction is personal, ongoing. Many weak and feeble Christians could be prevented from falling away IF a solid connection can be made with other Christians. How can I “weep with them that weep” and “rejoice with them that rejoice” unless I make an effort to help them make a connection?
Here is a good test to use any time you see a person begin to weaken or drift away: what did I offer to make a connection with that person? This requires us to be attentive to the needs of others.
We most often feel sad when we hear that someone is the subject of “congregational discipline”. If the members failed to make a connection with new people coming into the church community, they will bear some responsibility for the lost soul, and the effectiveness of the discipline will not be what God desires because the soul is lost.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 — Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. This command has the same strength as the above verse and we must recognize the requirement of comfort, support and patience prior to dealing with the unruly. IF we go to them in love, concern, warning, and supporting them with ongoing efforts to restore them, I believe we will have fulfilled all that God requires.
It seems that it is impossible to Scripturally “withdraw” from anyone that I have not made a substantial effort(s) to bring them back to the Lord.
"Congregational discipline" is a very personal opportunity to show love for the soul of another.