In many of today?s churches, it?s no secret that a worship pastor is asked to wear multiple hats. The list of responsibilities seems to grow by the year. But with this growing trend, it?s important to note that while different items may be added to our portfolios, there are primary functions existing in our roles that may not often receive our attention. And in many cases, especially when it comes to discipleship and pastoral work, disregard for those primary functions (one of which I?ll be addressing momentarily) can lead to an eroded ministry foundation. Without Gospel rooted disciples, the ground on which you build will dissolve like sand.
When I think of discipleship, there is one word that always surfaces for me: discipline. As disciples of Christ, there are many times the Lord will discipline us. Whether you?re on the receiving or giving end, it?s never an easy thing. And the scriptures are very clear on the matter, as seen in Hebrews 12:6: ?For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.?
When looking at that verse, the part that stands out to me is His perfect discipline is done out of His perfect love. It?s done out of this deep care for us. And as we are disciples and imitators of Christ, we too must be disciplining the ones that we love. And so, brings on the conversation about discipline.[quote]God’s?perfect discipline is done out of His perfect love.[/quote]
Now, people get stuck in what discipline actually looks like. In some cases, you?ll have the passive aggressive leader that may try to discipline someone, but doing so in a way that the person receiving the discipline doesn?t get the hint. Then there?s the aggressive leader that is often too abrupt in their approach to discipline. There are so many different schools of thought on how to properly discipline team members. And the circumstances surrounding the individual?s actions will determine the disciplining course of action.
For example, you may have a person who is constantly late. They are never on time to anything. Now, for me as a leader, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. It shows a level of disrespect to not only the leader, but also the team. But when I step into that moment of discipline with that person, it is not out of a place of anger but love. And what I have learned about this process is that love is often preceded by trust. If my team members and I have a level of trust, then discipline feels far less harsh. Consequently it usually has a positive outcome. But if you do not have a level of trust/love within your team, the outcome can often turn negative.[quote]If my team members and I have a level of trust, then discipline feels far less harsh.[/quote]
Just to prepare you, there will most likely be a time in your leadership that discipline requires you to ask a team member to take a break or step away from the team altogether. Whether that be sexual sin, an addiction to a substance, or another sin that calls for immediate action on your part as the leader. It is imperative this is done respectfully and biblically.
There are two different ways to proceed with the biblical approach to disciplining. Both approaches are based on the person?s heart. 1) If the person who has stumbled is repentant and understands that what they did was wrong, there is a process that follows. 2) If they are unrepentant for what they did, it calls for a different response.
The Repentant Person
In the part of the repentant person, first set up a timeline with them. The first step is time away from serving. They need to be in a ?receiving? mode. A process of healing and restoration is needed. During this recovery process, it?s important to track their growth and be checking in with them. Don?t leave them to their own devices. At about the 3-month stage, I determine a timeline for return based on this growth. For me, it?s a minimum 4-6 months before they can get back into ?serving? mode. I?ve heard of other churches going as far as it being 1 year away. After that time period, they start serving in a capacity where trust can be earned back. Small but loving steps are key.[quote]In discipline, small but loving steps are key.[/quote]
The Unrepentant Person
For the person that is unrepentant and is clearly out of step with Scripture, you?re obligated as a leader to make sure the person knows they do not have a timeline for returning based on their choices. The ball is in their court here.
Tips for Discipline
Here are some tips to help you in the process of discipline:
1 – Never do this through email or text. Ever! Face to face is always best. If possible, do it with another staff member or team leader present. Accountability is important. Spend time praying and looking at the Scriptures together to see what the Bible says about the issue at hand.[quote]Never discipline?through email or text.[/quote]
2 – Make sure they understand you are committed to them first as a follower of Christ, and not just someone who serves on your team. This is the trust/love thing I was speaking about earlier.
3 – Make sure the timeline, length, and depth of the discipline is clearly understood. Write it out, read it together, and agree to the terms. Be exceptionally clear during this stage of the process.
Church discipline is not an easy topic but remains an important one. We?re not called to be drill sergeants. But we are called to be disciples who lead disciples. And discipline is part of the journey to becoming more like Jesus.