(This post was written last week, Wednesday, February 1, saved but never posted )
Because of the news lately, I’ve added a blog-search feed to my blogwatcher that looks for blogs containing references to Faith Harbour, Randy, Eklektos or … well, me. Today, after the Christianity Today article was published this morning, two new blog postings appeared, The Prodigal Sheep, and A Classical Presbyterian. They each raised the issue of the church to enforcing its “rules”.
It’s true that Christians need to hold each other accountable. And the Churches needs to hold congregations accountable. But, to what or whom are we accountable? Church rules, specific interpretations of scripture, traditional doctrines? In a church that acknowledges that “there are truths and forms with respect to which men of good characters and principles may differ” (G-1.0305 of the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA)) our strength comes in our ability to hold each other accountable to growing, learning, praying, reading scripture, studying, and discerning the will of the Spirit.
Accountability and discipline is not about punishment. It’s not about control. It’s not about keeping the right rules. It is about learning and practicing a way of life. When I discipline my daughter, I do so not to “keep her in line” or to be sure she grows up to be just like me, but to help her learn appropriate ways of living according to the values our family lives by. A community of believers also have a responsibility to hold each other accountable to a specific way of life — Christ’s way. And we do that, not by shunning or judging or excluding, but by entering into relationship with each other as we encounter the living Christ.
I think the church needs to hold its members and leaders accountable to the marks of discipleship … daily prayer, Bible reading, spiritual friendships, significant giving, regular worship, and meaningful ministry or service. When we hold each other accountable to that … when we hold ourselves accountable to that … the rest will fall in line. I think many of the problems our churches have faced are because we are not paying enough attention to how we live the path of discipleship, and, instead, we attempt to “discipline” good, faithful people for not following the rules.