Upon Whom Shall We Exercise Church Discipline?

I remember the first time we implemented church discipline in my former church. It was the greatest spiritual challenge the church had faced. The process took over a year, and it ended with a young lady having to be removed and others leaving because of her removal.

But that was not to be the end of the story. Sometime later, I received a call from the young lady. She said she needed to come and repent before the church. She came and shared her story. She told how she had been saved subsequent to being disciplined by our church, and that it was the discipline of the church that God used to bring her to that salvation. She said she had always gotten away with everything she wanted—a pattern developed because of a lack of parental and self-discipline. The church had made her really examine her life and through that, she came to realize that she was not a true Christian. Correspondingly, she bowed her heart before our wonderful Lord, and He gloriously saved her. We welcomed her back to the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of the body. Continue reading →

The Practical Reasons for the Banishment of Church Discipline Answered

I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.

It was abused in the past

When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.”[1] A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication.[2] Continue reading →

Liberated through Discipline: The Five Kinds of Discipline

The term discipline, both in the Bible and in everyday usage, displays various nuances depending on the particular biblical or life context. The ideas communicated by discipline are that of chastening, instruction, nurturing, training, correction, reproof, and punishment. In the negative sense, the idea of punishment is most prominent. In the positive sense, things like nurturing, training, and instruction come to mind. However, since all discipline is based on the perfect character of God, all discipline is actually positive even though it is not always immediately apparent. Just as the Scripture says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The reality is that discipline and discipleship are so closely connected that to minimize discipline is to minimize discipleship. Lynn Buzzard notes, “To separate discipling from discipline is not only to tear words from their etymologically common roots, but also from their organic relationship.”[1] Continue reading →

God’s Knowledge of the Future Requires Neither Passivity Nor Determinism

Calvinism believes that God knows what will happen in the future, including everything each person will do because he has microscopically determined that humans perform such actions through decrees and compatible freedom. In very stark contrast, Extensivism believes that God knows everything including everything each person will do as well, but for different reasons. Extensivists recognize that Scripture presents the picture that God chose to create man in his image.[1] This includes the ability to choose otherwise within the range of options God has established, libertarian freedom, which is ubiquitously evident in Scriptures reflective of choosing between accessible options. Given that God chose to so endow man, God has eternally known every choice that every individual will make; further, while libertarian freedom is a force, it is a force created by God, and therefore, entirely under his sovereign rule. Continue reading →

New Book Available – The Vulgarization of Christ’s Church

My new book is available in paperback and Kindle, along with my other books at Amazon

The Vulgarization of Christ’s Church seeks to clarify and demonstrate the incalculable and injurious influence that progressive education has had and is having upon preaching, thinking Christianly, and the local church. Progressive education began at the turn of the twentieth century, replacing classical education with what is purportedly a science-based education, which necessarily results in scientism. This seismic shift in public education has not only affected what we learn but how we think. In order to enable the church to detect progressivism’s deleterious sway and protect herself by being equipped with the progressive revelation of God, and thereby counter the influence of progressive education of man, I seek to highlight some of the underlying intolerable essentials of progressive education. My major concern regarding progressive education is that the vast majority of Christians can be or are unknowingly facilitating the very philosophy of education and thinking in the church that will ultimately cause Christianity to be regarded as the scourge of modern society, which will immeasurably complicate the task of evangelism and discipleship.

In the companion book to this one, The Equipping Church: Somewhere Between Fundamentalism and Fluff, I explain the biblical model for the local church and how to build such a church.

Copies are available from the publisher at wipfandstock.com and amazon.com as well as the author, ronnie@trinitynorman.org.

The Need to Equip the Saints

When Christians experience prolonged infancy and satisfaction with milk beyond normal infancy, they will have an immature and incomplete Christian worldview, which inevitably results in them advocating ideas that are merely human wisdom. George Barna’s research revealed, “Only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview…. [Those labeled] ‘born again Christians,’ the study discovered that they were twice as likely as the average adult to possess a biblical worldview. However, that meant that even among born again Christians, less than one out of every five (19%) had such an outlook on life.”[1] I would add to this that what Barna requires to be considered as one who has a biblical worldview is not by any measure demanding, but is in my opinion quite minimal.[2]

This dismal state of affairs is even more reason to return to an equipping model of the local church. If Christians do not have even a rudimentary understanding of Christianity, how can they communicate Christianity to a lost world, and how can they make biblical decisions in an ever-increasingly secular environment? If the shepherds themselves do not study deeply, they are utterly ill equipped to handle the task of engaging a hostile world.

They also are incapable of training those under their watch care beyond the most blatantly obvious truths of Scripture, which, when learned alone, are well suited for being reduced to clichés and the preferred diet of milkoholics (Christians who like to remain spiritually immature).

Man’s wisdom is not merely somewhat ineffective or unhelpful; it is as useless as a ship with no hull. Paul said, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless” (1 Corinthians 3:20). The consideration of what works in building the local church should always be evaluated by asking if it is human wisdom or divine wisdom as revealed in Scripture. If it is human, despite accolades received by the carnal, it is useless in building the temple of God regardless how fast or large the church grows.


[1] Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years.
[2] A “biblical worldview” was defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn his way into heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today. In Barna’s research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview.

Pastors Dare Not Become Enablers of Spiritual Milkoholics

I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able (1 Corinthians 3:2)

Note the past tense verb, gave milk, referring to times in the past when Paul taught the Corinthians milk because they were not ready for meat and that was okay; but the poignant criticism is indeed, even now, you are not yet able. Even now, still, at this point they were not able, when in reality they should have been much more mature and able to think as spiritual followers, feeding on the meat of the Word. Continue reading →

The Importance of Apologetics in Evangelism

Apologetics, which is intellectually stimulating as well as hard work, is critical to engaging our culture. It is a fallacious juxtaposition to ask should we seek to engage people with only the simple gospel, apologetics, or a loving life because it is not either/or but all of the above working in concert. Truly loving people must include telling them the truth about Christianity in a clear and convincing way. Continue reading →

Christian Sadness in the Death of a Loved One

Christians can feel free to cry at a funeral. While we do rejoice that our loved ones who know Christ as Savior go to be with Jesus, death is still a sorrowful time. Jesus did weep at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). We are not like those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but as humans, we do feel deeply the absence of a loved one. Maybe we do more because we know God did not create man to die, but to live (Genesis 1-2). Continue reading →