Pastoral Ministry


Chapter 36—Church Discipline

Necessity of Discipline

Pastors having too little courage to reprove wrong are held accountable for the evil that may result—Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from their neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority as if the acts had been our own.—Patriarchs and Prophets, 578. PaM 209.1

There will ever be a spirit to rise up against reproof—There will ever be a spirit to rise up against the reproof of sins and wrongs. But the voice of reproof should not be hushed because of this. Those whom God has set apart as ministers of righteousness have solemn responsibilities laid upon them to reprove the sins of the people. Paul commanded Titus, “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” There are ever those who will despise the one who dares to reprove sin. But when required, reproof must be given. Paul directs Titus to rebuke a certain class sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. And how shall the reproof be given? Let the apostle answer: “With all long-suffering and doctrine.” The one at fault must be shown that his course is not in harmony with the Word of God. But never should the wrongs of God's people be passed by indifferently. Those who faithfully discharge their unpleasant duties under a sense of their accountability to God, will receive his blessing.—The Signs of the Times, September 16, 1880. PaM 209.2

Those failing to reprove are not to be exalted—To exalt a minister as perfection because he has not displeased any one by reproving errors, not only brings a snare upon the minister, but brings disaster upon the people. He who does not hurt the spiritual self-complacency of the people is almost deified by them, while a devoted, faithful servant of God, who lays bare the errors of the church-members, is supposed to be defective, because he does not see what they suppose are their personal merits. He reproves wrongs which really exist, and this is counted an indignity, and his authority and instruction are cast aside and trodden under foot of men. These extremes in the way the people look upon ministers are found among the professed children of God; and who will now examine their hearts, and tenderly, earnestly and faithfully set these things in order?—The Review and Herald, July 25, 1893. PaM 209.3

Character deficiencies of members should burden pastors—Here we have presented before us the work of him who shall open the Scriptures to others. It is a most solemn work, and all who engage in it should be men of prayer. It is not enough for the minister to stand up in the desk and give an exposition of the Scriptures. His work has but just begun. There is pastoral work to do, and this means to reprove and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; that is, he should present the Word of God, to show wherein there is a deficiency. If there is anything in the character of the professed followers of Christ, the burden should certainly be felt by the minister, and not that he should lord it over God's heritage. To deal with human minds is the nicest job that was ever committed to mortal man.—Sermons and Talks, 1:61. PaM 210.1

God will not acknowledge as His shepherds those who speak smooth things—In this fearful time, just before Christ is to come the second time, God's faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was borne by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as His shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them.—Testimonies for the Church 1:321. PaM 210.2

Church discipline is a disagreeable but necessary part of ministry—Paul charged Timothy to “preach the Word,” but there was yet another part to be done,—“to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” This work cannot be neglected with safety. Ministers must be instant in season and out of season, watching for souls as they that must give an account. They must exercise great carefulness. Watch in all things, watch for the devices of Satan, lest you be beguiled from doing the disagreeable part of the work. Difficulties must not intimidate or discourage you. Having well-balanced minds and established characters, meet the difficulties, and in overcoming them gain a rich experience.—The Review and Herald, September 28, 1897. PaM 210.3

Although not congenial to the minister's natural inclinations, warnings are to be given, sins rebuked, and wrongs corrected—He will have many straight and plain words to address to those who need them; for when God commissions men to do His work, He lays upon them the burden of watching for souls as they that must give an account. When needed warnings are to be given, sins are to be rebuked, errors and wrongs are to be corrected, not only in the pulpit but personal labor. This is divine work, and although it is not congenial to the natural inclinations, the minister must proclaim the straight truth which will make the ears of them that hear tingle; for they must lay before those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, the dangers and perils that are around them, and the doom that awaits the impenitent. Because this message is not agreeable to their inclination, or welcome to those who must be warned, they are solemnly charged to be faithful in its declaration.—The Review and Herald, September 6, 1892. PaM 210.4

Ministers do great harm by allowing their forbearance toward the erring to degenerate into toleration of their sins—Ministers of the gospel sometimes do great harm by allowing their forbearance toward the erring to degenerate into toleration of sins and even participation in them. Thus they are led to excuse and palliate that which God condemns; and after a time they become so blinded as to commend the very ones whom God commands them to reprove. The only safe-guard against these dangers is to add to patience godliness,—to reverence God, His character and His law, and to keep His fear ever before the mind. By communion with God, through prayer and the reading of His Word, we should cultivate such a sense of the holiness of His character that we shall regard sin as He regards it.—The Acts of the Apostles, 504. PaM 211.1

Too many ministers leave plain dealing to be done by other ministers—Too many ministers neglect to deal faithfully with those with whom they come in contact. They leave plain dealing to be done by other ministers: for they do not want to run the risk of losing the friendship of those for whom they labor. If ministers would deal at the right time with those who err, they would prevent an accumulation of wrong, and save souls from death. If the work of reproving is neglected by one minister, and taken up by another, those who are reproved, receive the impression that the minister who did not point out their errors was a good minister. But this is not the case; he was merely a preacher, not a worker together with God for the suppression of sin. In the meekness of Jesus, you should do the work which will gave full proof of your ministry. You should show a heartfelt sorrow for sin, but manifest no unholy passion in reproving the error. All your efforts must be made with long-suffering and doctrine; and if you see but meager results of your work, do not be discouraged. This experience will call for the manifestation of long-suffering and patience. Keep working, be discreet, be discerning, understand when to speak and when to keep silence.—The Review and Herald, September 28, 1897. PaM 211.2

People having a perverted sympathy for those under discipline are not helping them—I saw that some have been very jealous for you, fearing that you would not be rightly dealt with, and not have justice done you by your ministering brethren. Such should stand out of the way, and be faithful to confess their own wrongs, and let all the censure and weight of your wrongs rest upon your own head. God designs that they shall rest there until you thoroughly remove them by repentance and hearty confession. Those who have a perverted sympathy for you cannot help you. Let them manifest zeal in repenting of their own backslidings, and leave you to stand for yourself. You have been altogether out of the way, and unless you make thorough work, confess your wrongs without censuring your brethren, and are willing to be instructed, you can have no part with God's people.—Testimonies for the Church 1:319. PaM 211.3

There is danger of doing too much to cure difficulties—The sincere believers of truth are made sad, and their trials and sorrows greatly increased, by the elements among them which annoy, dishearten, and discourage them in their efforts. But the Lord would teach His servants a lesson of great carefulness in all their moves. “Let both grow together.” Do not forcibly pull up the tares, lest in rooting them up the precious blades will become loosened. Both ministers and church members should be very cautious, lest they get a zeal not according to knowledge. There is danger of doing too much to cure difficulties in the church, which, if let alone, will frequently work their own cure. It is bad policy to take hold of matters in any church prematurely. We shall have to exercise the greatest care, patience, and self-control to bear these things and not go to work in our own spirit to set them in order.—Testimonies for the Church 3:113. PaM 212.1