Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 8, 2008

Church Discipline and Congregational Size

I am not convinced that it is wrong for churches to be quite large.  However, Marlin Jeschke quotes the English Baptists from some time ago, pointing out that a smaller congregation can be more effective in the realm of church discipline:
English Baptists practiced discipline consistently.  John Smyth held that “the cheef care of every member must be to watch over his brother . . . in bearing one another’s burden . . . admonishing the unruly, comforting the feeble-mynded . . . admonishing the excommunicate . . . restoreing them that are fallen.”  At whatever point someone under discipline showed repentance, “the procedure came to an end.”  The only cause for excommunication was “[despising] the counsel of the church.”
    
In general, English Baptists viewed discipline “in a highly positive light.”  They did not see it as intruding upon their private lives but as seeking their general well-being.  “In fact it was considered ‘disorderly’ for anyone in the church to contract a debt before having applied to the church for relief.”  For that reason one congregation stipulated “that the members of everie Church or Congregation ought to knowe one another . . . so they may performe all the duties of love one towards another both to soule and bodies. . . . And therefore a Church ought not to consist of such a multitude as cannot have a particular knowledge one of another.”   
   
Marlin Jeschke, Discipling in the Church: Recovering a Ministry of the Gospel, 3d ed, rev. and enl. (Scottdale, Penn.: Herald, 1988), 136-37.  Emphasis added.  Jeschke quotes from James R. Lynch, “English Baptist Church Discipline to 1740,” Foundations, April-June 1975.
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Responses

  1. Quoted in a paper I read recently:

    “The Church or Congregation ought to knowe one another, that so they may performe all the duties of love towards another, both to soule and bodie.”

    From Article 16 in Thomas Helwys, “A Declaration of Faith of English People Remaining at Amsterdam” in Holland (1611), in Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions, 121.


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