J.L. Dagg, well-known nineteenth century author, noted, It
has been remarked, that when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes
with it. The deplorably low state of Christianity in America
is traceable to the absence of accountability.
The pastor of a large church, 2,000 in attendance, informed the church
leadership that one of the church leaders was involved in a sinful relationship.
Then the pastor proceeded to lay out a plan based on the disciplinary/restorative
guidelines given in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. The leadership
would not follow the biblical mandate for dealing with the sinning brother.
Weve got to love him, not discipline him, was
the consensus of those in leadership. The pastor had no choice but to
The see no evil, hear no evil, deal with no evil
approach to sin in the church is epidemic in scope. Those who would
be true to Christ dare not ignore this solemn obligation of accountability
by looking the other way while pretending all is well.
The theological category of sin has been replaced with the psychological
concept of therapy. James Twitchell comments:
We have in the last generation tried to push shame aside. The
human-potential and recovered-memory movements in psychology; the
moral relativism of audience-driven Christianity; the penalty-free,
all-ideas-are-equally-good transformation in higher education; the
rise of no-fault behavior before the law; the often outrageous distortions
in the telling of history so that certain groups can feel better about
themselves; and the Im shame-free, but you should be ashamed
of yourself tone of political discourse are just some of the
instances wherein this can be seen. (For Shame: The Loss of Common
Decency in American Culture, p. 35)
Modern churches are never far behind secular trends. With a muddled
vision of God and a watered-down idea of sin, theres no one to
be accountable to and nothing to be held accountable for. Feel-good
religion is the predictable outcome once the concept of sin is abandoned.
The breakdown of accountability is seen in every sphere of national
Accountability and the Family
One explanation for the awful state of the American home is as follows.
The men were pulled out of their homes during World War II and shipped
off to war. In order to manufacture munitions for the war effort, the
women were pulled from the home and recruited for the factories.
Once the war ended, the men returned, but in many instances, they never
really came home. Scores of men abandoned domestic and parental authority.
Correspondingly, vast numbers of women followed the revolt initiated
by their husbands. Accustomed to enjoying their own income, and deceived
into thinking they were no longer needed in the home, they left home
in mass and became part of the workforce.
The children were handed over to the state. The hearts of the parents
were fixed on things and concerns other than their children. He
that spareth his rod hateth his son (Prov. 13:24). Fathers
and mothers didnt care enough to discipline their sons and daughters.
Sensing rejection from their parents, the children were on their own.
Turning to the sensuality and rebellion in rock music, the Sexual Revolution
Now decades later, we are reaping the devastating consequences of irresponsibility
as well as following suit by sowing seeds that will yield certain destruction
in the future. The train is derailed and it is high time to get it back
on the tracks!
The average church youth group and the typical Christian School merely
reflect the devastation that comes from shirking parental authority.
Parents who use the TV as a baby-sitter, education as a surrogate service,
and rock music for entertainment are virtually guaranteed to lose their
children to the world.
Accountability and the Church
One of the credit card companies used the slogan, Membership
has its privileges. What they failed to say was that membership
also included obligations (namely the responsibility to pay your bills!).
Were living in a day of lowered expectations. Many church people
have been conditioned to expect very little from their leaders. Likewise
consumer/market-driven religion requires very little from its audiences.
Back when church members signed covenants and publicly pledged their
loyalty, church membership had genuine meaning. Sadly, today the concept
of accountability is foreign to the vast majority of those who claim
affiliation with a local church.
Jesus Himself outlined the process for maintaining unity and peace
among believers in Matthew 18:15-20. Here the primary purpose and goal
is restoration. An individual offense called for a private face-to-face
confrontation. Should that fail to produce reconciliation, the offended
is charged to go again with one or two witnesses. The principle of two
or three witnesses was laid down in Deut. 19:15. If this didnt
effect restoration, then the matter was to be publicly addressed before
the entire church. If no repentance was evidenced after this measure,
then the sinning brother was to be corporately regarded as an unsaved
individual. All possible steps are to be taken to restore the fallen
and to avoid this public spectacle. But this drastic action is necessary
to remove the erring brothers detrimental influence from the church
as well as preserve the churchs testimony.
The integrity and purity of the church demands shunning the unrepentant.
Jesus promised His presence in this essential matter of discipline.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there
am I in the midst of them (v. 20). This verse is often quoted
in prayer meetings, but the preceding verses make it clear that this
promise of Christs presence pertains to the process of dealing
with sin in the church. After outlining the steps in verses 15-17, Jesus
said, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again
I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching
any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father
which is in heaven (vs. 18-19). The church has authority,
based on the principles of Gods Word, to declare whether a person
is bound in sin or is loosed from sin. The church does not determine
these things, but declares the judgment of heaven based upon the standard
of Scripture. When a church makes such judgments on the basis of the
Word, they can be sure heaven is in accord. Christ is so jealous over
His name that He pledges His manifest presence when His people act to
preserve the integrity of His holiness by implementing church discipline.
There are scores of churches who claim adherence to biblical standards
of morality, but very few who practice or enforce the standards they
claim to believe. BELIEVE like a CONSERVATIVE, BEHAVE like
a LIBERAL is the standard operating procedure among countless
Bible-believing congregations. Where are the churches who
hold married couples accountable for keeping their marriage vows? Evangelical
and even fundamental congregations are just slightly behind the liberal
Protestants in accommodating the divorce culture. Faithfulness to one
marital partner at a time now means little more than faithfulness to
serial monogamy. In any other culture this practice is know as polygamy.
How many ministers roar like lions in the pulpit, but cower like sheep
when it comes to implementing the truth they preach. It reminds me of
the big, bad wolf who huffed and puffed, but never got around to blowing
the house down! When there is no bite to back up the bark,
preaching is just a meaningless exercise which eventually no one takes
seriously. Soft-treading and letting things slide
have reduced countless congregations to little more than religious clubs.
Its one thing to say, I believe the Bible is the Word
of God, or I am committed to the authority of Scripture.
Its quite another thing to obey the clear directives of Scripture.
Dont listen to what people say. Watch what people do! Conduct
is the only real indicator of an individuals true beliefs. Actions
do speak louder than words. Belief affects behavior, and behavior reflects
ones real beliefs.
Accountability in Society
William Jefferson Clinton, our president, has a string of scandals
stretching from Arkansas to the White House. He has been investigated
for alleged misconduct in White-water, file-gate, China-gate, and the
Paula Jones case. Before becoming President there was Jennifer Flowers
and now theres Monica Lewinsky. He has been, and still is, an
ardent supporter of every pro-death initiative, including the barbaric
partial-birth abortion. Bill Clinton has sought to legitimize sodomy
by vigorously promoting the homosexual agenda. Time and space, not to
mention the shame of even speaking about such sin in detail, will not
permit the chronicling of the deceit and treachery of this presidency.
Added to this, Bill Clinton is also a member of a Baptist Church!
Concerned with the immoral content and conduct of the Disney Corporation,
the Baptists displayed their moral outrage by announcing an official
boycott against the entertainment giant. Is acceptable entertainment
more important than truth and purity within the ranks? Why should secular
corporations be held to a higher standard of morality than affiliate
member congregations and members within those congregations? Why throw
stones at the pagans for their vulgarity when there is no effort to
discipline unruly brethren and compromising congregations?
Shouldnt sin in the camp be dealt with first before the sins of
society? Does it seem strange to you that the Baptists cant bring
themselves to execute discipline on this man and/or the church that
would sanction his membership?
Examples of such inconsistency and blatant compromise are legion. Gods
Word is crystal clear, Withdraw yourselves from every brother
that walketh disorderly (2 Thess. 3:6).
How can churches be the moral consciousness of society when there is
no accountability for moral infractions within the body? If Gods
people abandon Gods standards, can we really expect Congress and
the American public to hold public officials to a standard?
If this president walks, and it is almost certain he will, we can say
good-bye to the rule of law and the Constitution. And when that happens,
perilous times cant be far behind.
The current theological confusion and compromise which mark modern
churches are traceable to the failure to separate from doctrinal error
and heretics. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the
doctrine of Christ, hath not God....If there come any unto you, and
bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid
him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his
evil deeds (2 Jn 9-11). Spurgeon said, Fellowship
with known and vital error is participation in sin.
Permissiveness, tolerance, accommodation, and cowardice all pave the
way to apostasy. Praying for revival without repenting of sin and obeying
clear-cut scriptural mandates is sheer hypocrisy. Where there is no
obedience, there will be no revival!
The Blessing of Obedience
In the beginning days of our ministry my wife and I got invited to
a revival-ready church. The spiritual intensity was incredible.
People were struck with a sense of Gods presence when they came
on the church grounds. The response was overwhelming. People would cry
out to God in brokenness, sometimes for hours, until the victory was
secured. The enthusiasm was contagious. People came from all around
to be in the services.
We began to wonder why this meeting was so different from the others.
What had preceded this outpouring of grace? Upon investigation we discovered
the church had implemented some hard obediences before we arrived. First,
the church took measures to reconcile with a property owner next door.
Second, the church had gone through the steps in Matthew 18 to bring
a disorderly deacon to repentance. This was done in the right spirit,
but failed to bring about change. Though difficult, the people knew
the right course was to excommunicate the erring brother with the intent
of restoration. By fully adhering to the Word of Christ, these dear
people were rewarded with a remarkable sense of His presence and revival
I recognize some congregations are so far removed from the standard
of Scripture that they would never consider this biblical mandate. In
those cases it might be better to start all over than to endure the
futility of attempting to reform apostasy. But there are many churches
who could, if their pastors would lead them, turn from their passivity
and live up to the light of Scripture.
Weve all heard that line, If it aint broke, then
dont fix it! In our case how about, If it is broke,
then FIX IT! In revival sin is judged because individuals feel
their accountability to their Creator. Accountability, both individually
and corporately, to God and His church, must precede revival.
I think the opening statement by Dagg is trueWhen discipline
leaves a church, Christ goes with it. I also believe when
discipline returns to a church, Christ will come also. NOW is the time
to ACT in OBEDIENCE!