Friday, May 11, 2012

Kinnon: Church Discipline does not equal discipleship

Some folks may not have seen posters that say "Membership equals discipleship". We know that membership does not necessarily entail discipleship.  A disciple of Jesus may be a member of a church but a church member is not necessarily a disciple of Christ.  The two may be overlapping spheres that are not always exactly the same.

One of the selling points ... for folks who are into this sort of thing, membership brings with it this joyful benefit of spiritual discipline.  That might be a puzzling way to describe it if discipline is only defined in corrective and occasional terms.  Now if a person were to describe "discipline" as having a positive and negative aspect there's room for actual exposition.  Let me put it this way, "church discipline" could be something as mundane as going to church and singing songs and praying and reading scripture and hearing teaching and taking communion.  These are all spiritual disciplines, are they not? There's a subculture, and I doubt I have to explain which subculture I mean to regular readers, that tends to define "spiritual discipline" entirely in corrective or potentially even punitive terms.  "Spiritual discipline" ends up being mainly discussed only in terms of accountability and checklists and oversight. Now there's a time and a place, I suppose, for that stuff, too yet this would seem like a negative way of framing things.

As Bill Kinnon's post puts it, Jesus did rebuke and correct his disciples.  We can go look that up.  There was, however, a great deal of positive instruction and, equally important, lived out demonstrations of what Jesus would have his disciples say and do.  A Jesus who taught us how not to pray also taught us positively how we ought to pray.

Conflating church discipline with discipleship may simply be a case of putting the cart ahead of the horse ... or ... maybe it's a case of calling the cart the horse.

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