Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 9, 2009

Jeschke on Church Discipline and Evangelism

Congregational discipline belongs to the essence of the church as much as evangelism does because both are inescapable implications of the gospel.  It makes no sense to declare the good news of liberation from sin to people outside the church and then refuse to declare it to Christians within the church.  The gospel is not merely the good news which converts the sinner.  It is also the good news by which the Christian can continue to live.
 
In practice also it makes no sense to accept the task of evangelism and then to neglect discipline.  What is the point of adding people to the church through gospel proclamation if membership in that church becomes meaningless because of the failure of discipline?  Evangelism itself is soon undermined if people discover that belonging or not belonging to the church makes no difference.  The result is the absence of ethical integrity in the church’s life.  As one writer says,
The church which neglects to speak the word of judgment will eventually discover that the forgiveness which it speaks is empty and irrelevant to a world which watches the life of the church with discernment.
 
If a church’s aggressive evangelism lacks supporting discipline, the purpose of evangelism shifts.  Rather than incorporating people into the discipled life of the church, such evangelism makes conversion a religious experience for its own sake.   We see this sort of thing in modern revivalism when many people—most of them already members of some church—go through periodic “conversions.”  These conversions carry little meaning beyond a temporary emotional charge.  If persons are already members of a church, what else does conversion mean?
 
Some might still ask, Isn’t revivalism consistent with the thesis that congregational discipline is a function of the gospel?  The answer is that much modern revivalism is organized along parachurch lines.  Since it functions primarily outside the congregation, it fails to take seriously the most basic gospel requirement—namely, the ethically accountable life of the church.  Proclaiming the gospel means calling people into that community which accepts the rule of God. 
 
Marlin Jeschke, Discipling in the Church: Recovering a Ministry of the Gospel, 3d ed. (Scottdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1988), 109-10.
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