Matthew 16:19 - (Jesus said) "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Scott McConnell is executive director of Lifeway Research.
Recently, Mr. McConnell said something which captured my attention. The sentence was "It's not easy to be kicked out of a church."
Most people, having heard that statement, would want to know what precipitated the man's observation.
Not wishing to keep you in the dark, I should tell you Mr. McConnell's organization recently surveyed 1,000 pastors, ministers, and priests. They were amazed to find that 55 percent of the clergy polled had never "formally disciplined" a church member. Significantly, about 20 percent of those questioned said their church had no "official policy" for practicing what Lutherans call "The Office of the Keys" (OOTK).
Now there are any number of reasons to explain such inaction. Just a few of them would be
1. the people to whom these pastors and priests minister are really good folk and have no need of church discipline;
2. the people to whom these pastors and priests minister are men and women who, although sinners, pay attention to their shepherds and repent when they hear sin being condemned;
3. the pastors and priests who are doing the ministering believe since the Bible says, "Judge not lest ye be judged" (see Matthew 7:1-3), they have no right to try to make changes in others;
4. the pastors and priests who are ministering recognize they also are sinners and feel uncomfortable correcting others when they, themselves, are wrongdoers;
5. the pastors and priests believe disciplining people will make them unpopular.
Now I would love to hear the discussion generated by those five statements. Sadly, space does not allow me to do that. Instead, as a pastor who used church discipline, let me explain what I consider to be the two main reasons to practice the OOTK. With your permission, I would like to do so speaking as the father of three children.
Parents discipline their children because they love them. They will do what is necessary to help their little ones avoid that which is dangerous or fatal. Churches practice the OOTK for the same reason: we love the Lord's children and want to see them headed to heaven.
Parents know that if you let child number one do that which is wrong, children number two, three, and four will assume that what child number one has done is perfectly acceptable. Similarly, members of a church wrongfully assume that when the sin of parishioner A is left uncondemned, that wrongful action is quite acceptable. In short, the church practices OOTK to stop a sin from spreading.
And just why would we do that? My friends, we have a Savior who has sacrificed Himself to win our salvation. His life, suffering, death, and resurrection is God's plan which saves all who are brought to faith in the Savior. As individuals and part of a church, it behooves us to glorify Him with our lives, support each other, and provide a positive witness for all the world to see.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant us good lives and right consciences that we may do that which glorifies You, benefits our fellow believers, and is an example to those who do not know the Savior. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
The above devotion was inspired by a number of sources, including one written by Amanda Cassanova for Christian Headlines on April 10, 2018. Those who wish to reference that article may do so at the following link, which was fully functional at the time this devotion was written: https://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/study-majority-of-pastors-do-not-discipline-church-members.html
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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