Although I talk about many controversial topics in my classes, I receive no greater pushback from students than when I talk about the need for church discipline in churches today. We spend a class period introducing the topic, discussing various reasons why Americans do not like it, how to go about practicing all stages of church discipline, and reflecting on some difficult cases. The main point I want them to take away from the discussion and the assignment is to see how church discipline can be helpful for spiritual formation and encourage them to develop relationships in which their friends feel free to rebuke them over sin. For the assignment (see details below) I have them read a chapter on confession from our textbook on spiritual formation (Joanne Jung’s Knowing Grace), reflect on the practice of church discipline, and meet with a trusted friend or mentor to practice confession.
1. Read Jung 85-98 (chapter on confession). What did you find most helpful in the chapter?
2. Write a paragraph on your personal reflections and experience with the topic. Has your church publicly rebuked a member? Has a friend rebuked you over your sin (you do not need to share details)? If so, how did it go? How do you emotionally feel about church discipline?
3. For each of the following, indicate if you think the church should proceed with the public stage of church discipline (in the context of a small group where everyone knows each other well) and your reasons. I will not grade this based on the "right" answer, but on the quality of your reasoning.
3A: Someone gossips frequently and has caused hurt in the small group many times, but refuses to agree that the gossip is a problem when confronted about it by several individuals in the group.
3B: A young lady in the small group has become pregnant out of wedlock.
3C: Two Christian men who lead the small group have identified themselves as homosexuals and embraced a gay lifestyle. They would like to continue leading the small group.
4. For the practical part of this assignment, make an appointment with a trusted friend or mentor to talk with them for half an hour:
- Discuss briefly the topic of church discipline
- Ask for prayer for something that you have been struggling with, and pray with your friend.
- Verbally give your friend/mentor the freedom to help you in the future if they see sin in your life by gently pointing out that sin to you.
- Write a one paragraph summary of your conversation. There is no need to share the details of issues relating to sin unless you would like me to pray for you.