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 Vol. 6, No. 11 

November 2004

~ Page 18 ~

Image Growth, Leadership
 and Church Discipline

By Mark Weaver

The Parable of the Three Fathers

Once there were three Fathers. The first one believed that love demanded he always allow his children to do whatever they wanted. Consequently, his children became unruly, ruled the house and grew up to be reprobates. The second father believed that love demanded harsh punishment for any infraction. Thus, he spanked his children for every lack of perfection he detected. As a result, his children grew up to be twisted and hated him until their deaths. The third father was a man who followed Christ. Therefore, he believed that discipline begins with training, continues with explaining, and only the failure of training and explaining leads to punishment. He taught his children the Way of God, explained to them why they must do what they were told and corrected them (if needed with the rod of correction) even when it hurt him--to the end that they would be upright before God. For these reasons, the children grew up to respect the father, to believe in God and to discipline themselves.

Which one of these fathers was an elder in the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? We all obviously choose the third father, but does this personification accurately represent the elders of the church today? What are elders today doing to train members in God's Word, to explain why it is necessary to obey God and to correct and protect the Family of God? How are growth and leadership tied to church discipline? What are the causes of the astounding lack of leadership and growth within the body of Christ?

The church of the Lord is largely minus the imperative presence of corrective or punitive discipline. Lack of discipline is a sure breeding ground for contempt of law and order. It produces chaos and anarchy. Orderliness cannot survive where there is no discipline. (Taylor 83)

This writer is convinced that the reason the church is failing in her mission is because there are few congregations in the body of Christ that are truly following God's instructions to discipline the membership.

A misconception that greatly hinders the process of church discipline is the widely held belief that church discipline is somehow mean-spirited and only practiced by "ultra-conservatives." This belief flies in the face of what the Bible teaches: that church discipline is an expression of love. "Some of our anxiety about discipline today is rooted in our contemporary confusion about the church, about authority, and even about God" (Buzzard 69). Certainly, those within the churches of Christ, who are aware of how to establish biblical authority, should also be aware that the Bible not only authorizes the withdrawal of fellowship, it commands it. "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). In many sermons, Johnny Ramsey has pointed out that discipline is love in action. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24). It is not loving to allow your child to continue on a course that will lead to his own death. We would not allow our children to step in front of a train. Why do elders allow members of the church to practice ungodliness that will cause them to lose their immortal souls? Some elders within the Lord's church, and these may be good men who love their families, seem to have forgotten that discipline is love in action. They are to watch for the souls of the congregation! "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). Infractions that they would never have tolerated in their own teenage children are allowed to continue in the lives of the members--unrebuked--sometimes without even any discussion.

In our country, the generation that lived through and fought World War II has been called the "greatest generation." They are called this because of their achievements in the sight of Americans and, particularly, of American historians. We, as Christians, need to remember that we, too, have a greatest generation, the first century Christians. We have Stephen, Priscilla and Aquila, the apostles, and the ordinary church members, only a few of whom have their names recorded in the New Testament. We need to remember that some of the names listed in the New Testament are there as negative examples. Demas, Hermogenes, Phygellus, etc. are in the New Testament as examples of those who turned their backs on the church, examples of cancers cut out of the church. In short, they are examples of those whom the greatest Christian generation removed from their fellowship so that their poison would not infect the early church. They understood what brother G.C. Brewer wrote 1900 years later:

If a congregation permits impure individuals to remain unchastened within its fellowship, it thereby becomes a partaker of their sin and will soon so far fall out of the favor of the Lord that the candlestick will be removed. (Rev. 2:5) Paul says a little leaven will leaven the whole lump. (1 Cor. 5:6) He showed that the whole church at Corinth had already become guilty of the wicked man's sin. (Brewer 108)

Discipline!

While watching the World War II movie, Twelve O'Clock High, this writer had an interesting experience. My ten-year-old son was watching it with me. The story line had reached the point where a fictional unit, the Nine-Eighteenth Bombardment Group, was demoralized and dispirited because things were going badly. It had just reached the place in the story where the commanding officer was replaced by a new man. Thinking to teach my son a lesson, I asked him what he thought the Nine-Eighteenth needed. Without missing a beat, he replied with one word: discipline. The story ends with the Nine-Eighteenth able to complete its mission because of the leadership of its commanding officer and the discipline he brought to bear. Isn't it interesting that a ten-year-old is able to recognize the havoc that a lack of discipline can bring, while many lifelong members of the church claim to be ignorant as to why the church is not growing?

Growth

There are few topics across the brotherhood that come up in prayer more than growth. During prayer in the worship assembly, you will often hear a brother pray for the Lord to help the church grow. This is wholly appropriate as Paul said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:6). However, there are three main problems associated with growth, and they are: growth at any price, understanding what biblical growth is, and finally, what the body of Christ can do to encourage growth.

Growth at Any Price?

Growth at any price is beginning to become a severe problem within the brotherhood. Some within the so-called change movement use the need for growth as their battle cry to alter the church. These misguided brethren believe that growth is measured only in numbers, and must be achieved at any price. Dave Miller said in Piloting the Straight:

A third key item that is being used to fuel change in the church is the unfortunate and misplaced emphasis upon church growth and the desire to be relevant. It seems that there is no end to the lengths that some will go to bring about church growth. They surely appear to God a sad sight as they go from one large denominational group to another frantically grasping for ways to make the church swell to great numbers like theirs. (64)

We see, then, that there is a misconception about growth; that misconception is hurting the church greatly. Across the brotherhood, elders are encouraged to search for a preacher in the same manner that a secular board of directors searches for a chief executive officer. They rate a preacher on his ability to bring in numbers; they count "noses and nickels." Only rarely do they concentrate on his knowledge of God's Word and his ability to explain it to others! The one question every preacher can expect to hear in an interview is, "Can you help us to grow?" While this is certainly a legitimate question, it is probably best to respond by asking those elders what they mean by that question. Most preachers and elders are aware that numbers do not accurately represent the strength of a congregation. All would do well to remember that in Christ's address to the seven churches of Asia, attendance figures did not impress him, but faithfulness to his will did.

True Growth

In order for us to understand what biblical church growth is, we need only read the Book of Acts. Phil Greer once called the Book of Acts "the greatest study of church growth in history." It is interesting that, although figures are given for numbers of converts made in Acts 2, etc., we never really have an accurate count of how many members each local congregation had. We do, however, have a great deal of information on the spiritual maturity of those various places. This would seem to indicate that you could sum up church growth in two words: spiritual maturity. This begs the question, "From where does spiritual maturity come?" While it is certainly true that we must pray for God to give us wisdom and understanding, we must understand that spiritual maturity is something that requires effort from each of us. Biblical church growth basically consists of the local congregation submitting itself completely to God's will. Where there is full submission to and love for God, growth naturally follows. Members find themselves growing because they are being fed with the milk and meat of the Word (1 Corinthians 3.2; 1 Peter 2.2). Moreover, they "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Relationship Between Growth,
Leadership and Church Discipline

Leadership and church discipline are inseparable from church growth because it takes leadership and church discipline to cause growth. If there is no one who will take the lead in converting souls to Christ, there are no conversions. If there is no church discipline, there is nothing to teach the new convert more perfectly the will of God, nor steer him back to the correct path should he stray. Therefore, the local church that wishes to grow biblically must endeavor to follow the will of God as it is revealed in his Word.

How Christians Can Encourage Growth

Every Christian that follows Christ is a leader to others. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). The responsibility to practice church discipline also rests on the members of the church. They must be willing to train others as well. They must be willing to explain to new Christians why it is important for them to be at every service of the church. They must be willing to encourage the preacher to preach on church discipline and withdrawing fellowship. They must be willing to support the eldership in the practice of church discipline. As a matter of practicality, tell your elders, "I will support you if you withdraw from ungodly members, even if they are members of my own family." Jesus said, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). By this, he did not mean that one does not love his family members, but rather, that a Christians' first loyalty is to Christ. Jesus also said, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). This was done to cause greater growth. If there is a single verse of Scripture in God's Word that more eloquently describes the need to remove the dead wood from the church, the writer is unaware of it.

Leadership

Leadership, as it relates to growth and church discipline, may best be explored in its various forms. There is commanding leadership, absentee leadership and follow-me leadership. Let us examine these types and see how they relate to church growth and discipline.

Commanding leadership is what we typically saw, and still do see, in factories of the past. This is a top-down organizational structure wherein persons in authority dictate to others what they should do without participating themselves. Spiritually, this type of leadership is often seen in situations without a working eldership, where the preacher has become the pastor, and so-called evangelistic oversight takes place. This is a particularly dangerous type of leadership because it hinges on the character of one person. Surely, as Christians, we understand that the wisdom of God is seen in the church in his decision to have each congregation ruled by a plurality of elders (Ephesians 3:10).

By far, the most popular form of leadership in congregations that are shrinking is absentee leadership. By this it is meant that there is basically a vacuum wherein no one takes the lead. Congregations with this type of leadership are often ruled by fear. "Will we be able to pay the bills this month?" "Will we be able to fix the roof?" "Who is going to mow the grass?" These are only some of the many questions with which these congregations worry themselves and make themselves afraid.

Follow-me leadership occurs when a Christian, in humble submission to the will of God, follows the example and instructions given by Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus never taught a class on leadership. He did not have to; he led by example. Those who truly wish to be leaders in the church of Christ should be interested, first, in being a follower of the One who died for her. "Every good leader is first a good follower. That eternal truth flows from God Himself. Jesus lived it, and so do His disciples" (Bagents 13).

One cannot be a true follower of Jesus Christ and still suffer from the buffet complex regarding his Word. The buffet complex occurs when those who have been obedient to the will of God and become Christians convince themselves that they can choose which parts of the New Testament they will obey and those which they will ignore. This is wrong and leads to spiritual weakness.

Discipline is a matter of obedience. For many, the question about church discipline is settled by the clear biblical mandate of Matthew 18. Whether or not the passage is seen as a specific formula, it clearly represents the teaching of our Lord concerning the church's authority and ministry of discipline. (Buzzard 71)

Is it not evident to all who faithfully attend the services of the church that those who need to be there the most every time the doors are open are they who are least likely to be there? This is caused not by baseball games or television, but rather by the lack of a submissive spirit and a refusal to follow in the pathways of Jesus.

Church Discipline

Church discipline has been called "the forgotten commandment." However, it should be obvious to all in the church that the devil has not forgotten it. Otherwise, he would not so successfully oppose its implementation. The word "discipline" is defined as:

...training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness and efficiency; strict control to enforce obedience; the result of such training or control; specifically, self-control or orderly conduct and acceptance of or submission to authority and control; or treatment that corrects or punishes. (Anges 410)

As we see from the above definition, discipline begins with training. Many brethren are aware that there are desperately few congregations that practice withdrawal of fellowship from ungodly members. But few seem to identify the problem as beginning immediately after the conversion of a single precious soul. When a person joins the United States military, he is first given what is referred to as "basic training." He learns how to conduct himself among his fellow soldiers and those that bear authority over him. This occurs in a relatively short, but intensive time. While we certainly realize that the Lord's church is not the military, we also recognize that that lack of basic training for the new Christian is actually the beginning point of the failure to practice church discipline. Why are babes in Christ put in this position? Jesus said, "Teach, baptize, teach" in Matthew 28:19-20. The only possible answers are either willful ignorance or rebellion against God's will.

Church discipline could, in fact, be a misnomer. It would be more proper to always refer to church discipline by its three main parts: initial training, corrective action and withdrawal of fellowship.

Teaching Is Part of Discipline

Just as training on the basic tenets of Christianity is lacking in the new convert today, so also is corrective teaching missing from those who have been part of the body of Christ for years. This despite the clear teaching of Scripture: "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Elders, preachers and members seem to be paralyzed. There is no corrective measure taken against those involved in sin. Members of the church will not tell their brethren that what they are doing will lead them to be lost. Elders, in some cases, are too busy to have a quiet conversation with erring members. Preachers, believing they will receive no support from the eldership or the members, give up and do not speak against sin as they ought. What should we do?

How can we prevent disorderly conduct on the part of any member? We should not forget that God's laws were given to men and not to angels--that is, the laws we have. The Lord knew our weaknesses, and has made all necessary provisions for them. (Brewer 108-109)

Therefore, with patience and kindness, members of the body of Christ should practice what the Bible says in Galatians, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). Elders must remember that they are to "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1 Peter 5:2). When we go to our brethren, we must remember that the Book of Proverbs says, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Without proper training, including corrective training, the church will continue to hemorrhage members and her growth will be hindered. She will continue to be like a patient who is bleeding faster than blood can be transfused into her.

Fellowship Is Part of Discipline

Another reason that church discipline is not practiced within the body of Christ is because there is no fellowship to withdraw. Ask yourself as you are reading this article, "How many members of your own congregation have ever been to your house?" Do you know where any of them live or what they do for a living? The sad truth is that withdrawal of fellowship in many congregations is an empty threat because there is no fellowship to withdraw. On an even more serious note, elders oftentimes do not know the congregation that they are attempting to oversee! As a practical matter, elders should follow the instruction of brother Cleon Lyles, "It is wise for the elders to establish a systematic arrangement in their church program whereby the individual elders would visit certain members each week" (Lyles 105). We should all remember that just as the qualifications for elders represent to the Christian a goal toward which to aim, visiting and knowing the members is a worthy objective as well. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that you have love one to another" (John 13:35). How on earth will they think we love one another if we do not even know one another?

Focus on fellowship not on discipline. One of the worst things that church leaders can do is to decide to "start disciplining." If you are not already, it means there is something wrong with the quality of your church's fellowship. So start there. Improve fellowship, and discipline can and will follow. (South 20)

The Bible says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1). If it is good and pleasant, why don't we do it? The lack of fellowship between brethren is a root cause of the failure to withdraw from ungodly members. Fellowship, or joint participation, like the love we are to have for one another, is part of the glue that welds together the family of God. Fellowship begins with man's relationship with God and then extends to his relationship with God's people.

Fellowship must exist vertically before it can exist horizontally; that is, it must extend upward to God before it can extend outward to men. The true basis of fellowship one with another is fellowship with God. How can we be in fellowship with those who are not in fellowship with God, and how could we refuse to be in fellowship with those who are in fellowship with God? This is precisely the reason the pioneer preachers taught that nothing should be made a test of fellowship that was not essential to salvation. (McDade 27)

The point that brother McDade makes in the above quote, which should sink into our hearts, is that we have to decide to be on God's side (Joshua 24:15). We will fellowship those whom he approves and we will turn away from those of whom he disapproves.

Withdrawal Is Part of Discipline

The withdrawal of fellowship from a member actively engaged in sin is a very serious matter. There is probably no other subject that injects as much stress into the local congregation as this issue. Unfortunately, the greatest source of stress is actually widespread differences of opinion about withdrawing fellowship. This may be the fault of both preachers and elders who have not taught adequately on this subject, or it could be the result of too much worldliness in the church. Is church discipline a heavy-handed and mean-spirited act against a church member? "Or is it the necessary and proper response of a religious community with moral values committed to the biblical call to holiness?" (Buzzard 16-17). Surely, they who call themselves Christians should understand that church discipline, including the withdrawal of fellowship, is as much a commandment as "repent and be baptized."

The Two-Fold Purpose of Withdrawal

Withdrawal of fellowship has two purposes: to call back the erring and to keep the church pure. Paul admonished the church at Corinth to "put away from among yourselves that wicked person" (1 Corinthians 5:13). His purpose in instructing them to do this was so that they would not become infected with his sinfulness. Interestingly, when this did occur, and the individual in question repented, not only was the church there protected, but also the man engaged in sin was returned to his first love. Ask yourself, was this the cruel actions of a renegade eldership or the loving and corrective touch of Christians who actually cared for a sinner's soul? Do the elders in local congregations recognize the awesome responsibility in their hands? How far will they go for the flock over which they have the oversight?

We have known of some who were saved because the elders called them in and reasoned with them kindly, as a father reasons with a child. We know of a few who have been reclaimed by sterner actions--after kinder actions failed. (Wilson 123)

The responsibility for leadership in matters of discipline falls squarely on the shoulders of the elders. This makes it all the more imperative for the current leaders within the churches of Christ to tirelessly labor to bring up a new generation of elders who will be obedient to God's will, because it takes time to create a godly elder. "The thick skin and soft heart of a godly leader are forged in the fires of experience and time" (Bagents 13).

Withdrawal and Numbers

Most congregations recognize the fact that many who have been converted have now fallen away. Considering the Parable of the Sower, this should not surprise us. However, what we must recognize is that many of those who fell away could have been brought back. Too many times, those who become faithful in their attendance are allowed to slip away. Elders are to be shepherds! Their primary role should be to bring those lost lambs back into the fold. It is not the responsibility of the preacher (except as it relates to him as a member of the congregation) to bring back those who are straying. Our numbers would climb if we could just keep more of the converts we make. Our congregations would grow if we would only follow God's pattern for church discipline.

The Faithful Few

A brother who is a preacher and an elder in the Lord's church related the story about a time when his congregation was being ripped apart by gossip within. He got up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and said, "Brothers, there's gossip in this congregation and it's tearing us apart and it's gonna stop. If those who are doing it don't stop and repent, I'm gonna tell it to the church. I'm gonna name the names, because I believe I know where it's coming from." He recounted that at the conclusion of the sermon, the front pews were full of people who were intending to repent. We need to understand that church discipline is taking place in congregations of the Lord's church, that there are places that are holding fast to the Word of Truth. There are places where division is not tolerated, where those with unscriptural views are not allowed to teach; not only are their mouths stopped, but also they are told in no uncertain terms that if they don't straighten up, they will be disfellowshipped. What a grand day it would be if we could ever reach the point, as brother Doug Pell says, "that the elders are pleased to announce the withdrawal of fellowship from these members." It does not mean that we are pleased that they are being withdrawn from, but rather that we are pleased that we are doing the Lord's will. We are willing to do what God has told us to do, despite the consequences that may come from weak-kneed brethren who are unschooled in God's Word.

Excuses, Excuses

Interestingly, it seems that there are those within the body of Christ who are more interested in making excuses than in following the will of God. These excuses include statements like: "If we practice church discipline (withdrawal of fellowship), it will give us a bad reputation in the community." Or what you might hear is, "Well, they've already withdrawn fellowship from us anyway," in response to those who are unfaithful in their attendance. "We just need to give them time to grow" is another popular excuse, or "Maybe if we just continue to teach them, they'll eventually change." While it is definitely important for us to be patient, we must remember that we cannot be more patient than God. We need to understand that all decisions that are made in the area of church discipline must be made with the knowledge that we are unaware of when Jesus will return. Perhaps each day that we give for those that are committing sin only allows them to become more hardened in that sin. Of all the excuses that are given by both elderships and members in the Lord's church, there is one that has become the ultimate excuse.

The Ultimate Excuse

Some years ago, the Marian Guinn case rocked the brotherhood and other so-called Christian churches as well. This was a legal case that was brought to bear because a congregation practiced the withdrawal of fellowship from a woman who was actively involved in an affair with a married man. For a background of this case, it is necessary for us to understand that the church of which she was a member had bent over backwards to help her. It even went to the length of, at one time, giving her a car. Opinions vary across the brotherhood as to whether or not mistakes were made by the eldership in question, whether they should have adopted a "hands-off" policy when she made clear that she no longer wanted to be considered a member of the congregation. However, this writer is convinced that the eldership there was doing what it knew was right according to God's Word.

A careful reading of the facts, however, suggests the church was acting quite consistently not only with its own doctrinal commitments, but even within a strong Christian tradition. It may have been out of touch with contemporary styles, but the issues run deeper. (Buzzard 16)

This is the new bogeyman with which churches and elderships are being frightened. The idea that they will be sued if they practice church discipline has become the perfect excuse behind which brethren can hide so that they may disobey God's will. This is frightening not only because it puts us at odds with the commandments of God, but it also indicates that we have caved in to the world and are willing to have them to bully us into doing that which they see as right instead of what we know is right by God's Word. We need to say, like our own greatest generation, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Marian Guinn's lawyer accurately summed up his position, and the position of the world at large, by saying, "It doesn't matter if she was fornicating up and down the street. It doesn't give [the church] the right to stick their noses in it?" (Buzzard 16). The world is determined to reform the church into its own image. They are not comfortable with the idea of a church dictating to an individual how she should live her life. In our pluralistic, postmodern society, the idea that final authority lies with the church, or rather with God but administered through the church, is completely foreign. This is especially true of the Mega-Church and Community Church movements:

Too often now when people join a church, they do so as a consumer. If they like the product, they stay; if they don't, they leave. They can no more imagine a church disciplining them then they could imagine a store that sells goods disciplining them...We have a consumer mentality. (Buzzard 75)

Because of this, it is the will of those in the world that we should pay a heavy price for our "interference" in people's lives.

Perhaps, as Marian's lawyer argued, a $390,000 judgment would teach the church to mind its own business next time! As the Collinsville case vividly illustrates, we live in a day when the whole concept of discipline, accountability, judgment--even guilt--is not simply passť but is perceived as unhealthy, if not dangerous. The spirit of our age is hostile to the very principles that underlie the biblical concepts of the church, including moral absolutes, spiritual accountability, and individual responsibility. (Buzzard 21-22)

Surely, we understand that all men are fallible. Because they are fallible and because they have their own personality problems and other issues, we realize that there have been abuses of church discipline in the past. Certainly, we also ought to know that those abuses can be corrected by those who truly follow God and his Word. The concept that church discipline should be abandoned because of the Marian Guinn case is absurd.

To abandon discipline because it has sometimes been ill-administered is as unwarranted as it would be to abandon worship on the ground that it has sometimes been ill-conducted. The relaxation of discipline has often more absurd results than ever attended its excesses. (Buzzard 68-69)

So, if church discipline is a part of growth and leadership, and has been allowed to fall by the wayside, either through neglect or fear, then how do we get back to it? How do we regain that level of closeness and caring that we see in the New Testament church? How do we again become what God would have us to be?

A Plan of Action

First, repent. If we truly wish to be God's people, and we haven't been training, teaching and at the ultimate extremity, withdrawing, we must recognize that we have sinned. If we will turn back to God with all our hearts, and follow the commands that he has given us, he will accept us. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (James 4:8). True repentance, which involves a change of action, is the first step needed to practice church discipline.

Second, pray. Pray for God to give wisdom and understanding in this matter. Pray for the ability to confront ungodliness kindly, but firmly. Pray for the elders of the church to exercise their office to the fullest of their ability. Pray for elders who will not exercise church discipline to step down. "When is an elder not an elder? When he stops acting like it" (Pell). Pray for your congregation to adopt an adequate training program that will teach the most important tenets of Christianity in the shortest possible time to new members. Pray for the members to support the elders if the withdrawal of fellowship becomes necessary. Pray for the strength to support the elders yourself.

Third, study. Study the issue. Read sound material about church discipline and the eldership, and the responsibility for growth and leadership that all Christians have. Study takes time and effort. It can be expensive, but ignorance of this matter is more expensive--it could cost someone his or her soul. There is no doubt in this writer's mind that there are elders within the church of our Lord today who will be eternally lost if they do not begin to live up to their responsibilities.

Fourth, act. It is not enough to repent, pray and study if we will not act. Belief and obedience are not just closely related. They are the same thing. "But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report" (Romans 10:16). If we claim to be the New Testament church and refuse to do what our own "greatest generation" did, we are unworthy of our Lord and Savior and he is ashamed of us. The future of the church, and the precious souls that it is our mission to rescue, depends on our willingness to act.

We see, then, that church growth, church leadership and church discipline are inextricably linked together. They are part of the same whole; that whole is following God and doing what he has commanded. We need to understand that we are all following Christ and that the only leaders who are worthy to be followed are those who take him as their example and guide.

Strong leadership flows from strong followership. Until we learn the cost and the value of humility, submission, obedience and loyalty, we are not ready to lead. Until we willingly follow those whom we should be following, we have no right to lead. (Bagents 13)Image

Works Cited

Anges, Michael, editor in chief. Webster's New World College Dictionary. Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, 2002.

Bagents, Bill. "Good Leaders are Good Followers." Gospel Advocate August 2004: 13.

Brewer, Grover Cleveland. The Model Church. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1957.

Buzzard, Lynn R. and Thomas S. Brandon, Jr. Church Discipline and the Courts. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1986.

Lyles, Cleon. Bigger Men for Better Churches. Little Rock: Cleon Lyles, 1962.

McDade, Gary. "Church Discipline." Spiritual Sword October 2003.

Miller, Dave. Piloting the Straight. Pulaski: Sain Publications, 1996.

Pell, Douglas. Class Material. Leadership - What Part of Leadership Do You Not Understand? Wadsworth Church of Christ, Wadsworth, OH. 11 Mar. 2002.

South, Tommy. "How to Discipline Lovingly and Consistently." Gospel Advocate November, 2000, 20.

Taylor, Jr., Robert R. "Put Away the Wicked Man." Studies in 1 Corinthians.Dub McClish, ed. Denton: Valid Publications, 1982.

Wilson, L.R. Congregational Development. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1959.

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