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The term discipline conjures up a huge range of actions in most people's minds. A parent disciplining a child could mean time-outs in the corner or a swat on the rear, not getting to hang out with friends, or any number of other things.

Introducing the modifier 'church' probably doesn't do much to clarify. I can imagine the range of things brought to mind by the term church discipline could range from being made to wear a dunce cap during service to 40 lashes.

I have asked about the purpose and Scriptural basis of discipline, but how exactly is it implemented? Is there a standard definition for what consequences make up the 'discipline'? Do different church traditions have different methods?

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closed as too broad by Flimzy, curiousdannii, Nathaniel, Lee Woofenden, bruised reed Apr 15 at 14:39

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is a huge question, please narrow it down, e.g. to a specific issue and denomination like "how does the Methodist church deal with gossip?" (or a better example, you get the picture) – Wikis Aug 28 '11 at 13:12
@WikisAtArea51: I narrowed it down a bit. If you have other ideas I'm all ears. I don't think the per-denomination thing is viable until I hear what kind of range we're dealing with, but I tried to ask that in as narrow a way as possible and dropped the "what are all the different traditions implementations" wording. – Caleb Sep 10 '11 at 20:02
Sorry, I still think it is too huge (and my natural bias is against closing questions). Why are you asking this? Perhaps answering that will help you to be more specific. Or we can take it to chat if you want to discuss further. – Wikis Sep 10 '11 at 20:14

A congregation (ELCA Lutheran) I served once as a lay leader mentions Matthew 18:15-18 (NRSV) in our constitution as the means to exercise church discipline.

We got into difficulties in the congregation when a certain employee challenged the authority of the pastor. Those of us on the Council studied that passage very carefully over the period of a month or so. We then implemented it. First the pastor spoke to the person and asked for change. Then two executive committee members did the same. Finally, we had a meeting which could only be called a "tribunal," in which the whole elected council confronted the bad behavior.

The person ended up resigning, so (thank God almighty!) we didn't have to move to the final stage.

This is no simple thing. Don't undertake it lightly! It took me personally a decade to heal from this controversy. Two years after the fact, I couldn't have even tried to summarize the episode in a few paragraphs.

But the good news is, that congregation is now thriving.

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The passage you reference talks a little bit about the process, but doesn't give much about what the final thing looks like. The example you give sounds more like being fired than punishment. Discipline = being fired? What if the person is not a church employee? – Caleb Sep 10 '11 at 19:27
"Let such a one be to you as a Gentile or tax collector," is the final stage. That is not tremendously clear. But Gentiles and tax collectors are two groups outside the disciples to whom Jesus addressed the Good News. I suppose it means relocating the person in question from the congregation to the mission field -- kicking them out of the congregation. (FAR easier said than done.) – user116 Sep 10 '11 at 21:45
But we let the mission field come into our churches don't we? How are they to be different? And is ejection from whatever "in" circle they were "in" the only form of discipline we have or are there steps that can be taken before ostracism? – Caleb Sep 10 '11 at 21:48

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