I have been the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church for nearly 5 years. My voyage into the choppy waters of pastoral ministry has been marked by incredible suffering and overwhelming joy. It continues to amaze me that one can experience so much evil and so much good at the exact same time and in the exact same place. Pastoral ministry is truly the frontlines of combat in the spiritual war that is being waged every single day.
Indeed, we all are in a war…A war waged by Sin, Satan, and Death for the souls of men and women. If you don’t believe me, just hang out with me or my Associate Pastor for a week or two, and you’ll see that this war is very real. Drugs want your body. Fear wants your mind. The mistress wants your marriage. Suicide wants your life. The war is relentless, and our enemy is so very determined.
As a local church pastor, I have witnessed the brutality and devastation of this spiritual war. Yes, I have also witnessed the beauty and courage of individuals fighting this war with me and achieving spiritual victories in their own lives, hearts, and marriages. Indeed, pastoral ministry may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring! Every day I have the privilege to wake up, mount up, and wrestle with some demons. My marching orders come straight out of Ephesians 6:11-12, which states, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In this fight of faith, many things are necessary, to include discipline. Indeed, discipline is one of the essential ingredients to effective Christian living and vital to successful combat operations in the spiritual war that we wage. Let me briefly explain at least two types of disciplines required in the life of a believer…
Personal Discipline – Here I am describing the Christian fighter’s mandate to live a life that honors the Lord in and through the power and presence of the Spirit of God. Philippians 2:12-13 states, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This working out your own salvation requires a God-supplied, God-fueled discipline (implied in the verses above) that results in the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-24).
Corporate Discipline – Here I am describing the process of accountability and restoration that is described in Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 6:1-2. Matthew declares, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Also, Paul in Galatians declares, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
The four-step process outlined in Matthew 18 (i.e. corporate/church discipline) and further explained in Galatians 6 is absolutely essential in the life of a local church for the purity and joy of the individual Christian, as well as the health and overall vitality of the church as they engage in the spiritual war described in Ephesians 6. Yes, even though the concept of corporate discipline might seem mean, or outdated, or unloving, it doesn’t negate the truth and relevancy of this process. Fred Greco states, “Church discipline exists to uphold the glory of Christ and His truth and also to protect the people of God from error and its consequences.”
And remember, we’re in a war. As a local church pastor and an Iraq War veteran, I can personally attest to the fact that wars (physical and spiritual) are always fought imperfectly, but the imperfections of performance should never prevent us from participating in the process of warfare. In other words, in our individual lives and corporate lives, we will practice discipline imperfectly, but it doesn’t mean that discipline is inappropriate or should be discarded. Indeed, when mistakes in the discipline process are made, one should acknowledge such mistakes, repent, and move forward. Bottom line, the war does demand discipline…and better to have imperfect discipline than no discipline at all.