Friday, June 2, 2023

Caring Enough to Correct

By Brian Mitchell


    One of the key factors that has led the church to neglect the study and practice of discipline is the downward spiral in practicing discipline in our society as a whole. As a society: we don’t practice self-discipline, we don’t practice family discipline, we don’t discipline some criminals and we don’t discipline the government. We just don’t practice discipline as we should in hardly any area of life. Thus, it should not come as any big surprise that we don’t practice discipline in the church.

    Why must we not neglect church discipline? Because it allows sin to encroach upon the church—weeds in garden. Because we disobey God when we do. Because we give the world reason to criticize the church when we don’t care enough about our brethren. And because when we do we allow the opportunity for those persisting in sin to get to the point where they can no longer be brought to repentance. This is just a few of the reasons why the church cannot neglect the practice of discipline.

    There are basically 2 kinds of discipline. In the broad sense discipline has reference to far more than just a punitive (punishment) action taken by one party against another. Discipline is “training which corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects; punishment, chastisement.” Thus, discipline includes positive teaching and instruction as well as punishment, all of which is aimed at bringing about a positive change.

    First there is Preventive Discipline. This is teaching and instruction given for the express purpose of preventing people from sinning in the first place. This is one of the primary purposes of the Word of God—2 Tim.3:16-17. It is in this kind of discipline that preachers and elders take center stage—this is their job. Preachers are to first and foremost preach the Word so that people will know what God desires of them and what He does not desire of them—2 Tim.4:1-5.

    Elders are to shepherd the flock, feed the flock, set a proper example, and watch out for people’s souls—Acts 20:28, 1 Pet.5:2, 1 Tim.5:17, Heb.13:17. Preachers and elders who are not constantly devoted to the proclaiming of God’s Word to the people they work with, so that they will know how they ought to conduct their lives, are not doing their work and will give an account for it.

    The second form of discipline is known as Punitive Discipline (Chastisement). This is action taken after sin has been committed, for the good of the one sinning, and for the purpose of preventing any further sin—2 Cor.2:6-8. Punitive discipline is the last resort option for those who continue to persist in a lifestyle of sin. It is this discipline that must be practiced by the church as a whole or else it loses its effectiveness.

    It is this kind of discipline that we will be primarily dealing with over the course of the next few lessons. So discipline is both preventive (trying to prevent sin before the fact) and punitive in nature (chastising after the fact). As we will see, both are necessary if the church is to be healthy and effective.

- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at

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