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G. Responsibility as a Church

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Revised Aug. 20, 2008

Child Sexual Molestation...

G. Responsibility as a Church



BIBLICAL TEACHING about CHURCH DISCIPLINE

When the sin of Child Sexual Molestation has been committed.


When spiritual leaders fall in sin, the procedure has sometimes been to remove them quickly and as far away as possible. This accomplishes nothing. It simply transfers the problem to another unsuspecting group of friends. The sinner remains undisciplined, and the church is at risk in another area. So what does the church do?

  • Publicly dismiss the Offender.
  • Publicly dismiss the Offender.
  • Pray and commit it to God and sidestep human responsibility by waiting for Him to take action.
  • Quietly dismiss the Offender.
  • Publicly dismiss the Offender.
  • Tell others in order to protect the innocent and helpless.
  • Find out if anyone else has been harmed.
  • Ask the Offender to leave his church office for “personal reasons.”
  • Move him to another area to be a worker.
  • Make it impossible for him to ever serve as a worker again.

Unfortunately, some churches are very lax in disciplining their sinning ministers. Ministers are human, have weaknesses and fall in sin just like other people do. They are not perfect, and they are not exempt from discipline. However:

1 Tim 3: 2: A bishop then must be blameless…

Titus 1: 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;

In the above two passages, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words gives the definition for a “bishop” as an “overseer,” and the same word is also translated as elder in other places. An Overseer/Bishop must give as little occasion for blame as possible, so he doesn’t bring reproach upon his office. If the Biblical qualification for a bishop or elder is that he is to be blameless—how much more a servant or minister of God should be blameless and above reproach? When an Offender’s action are disgraceful and shameful, the safety of the sheep and lambs are at risk. This blemish on his life disqualifies him from continuing in his capacity as bishop.

What is the correct Biblical procedure? Obedience to God’s Word should override all considerations. The purity of the church must be maintained. The love of God should be present. When the sin is a public sin by an elder, worker/minister to the public and church, his sin is against God and the whole body of Christ. He must be brought into judgment, and this requires some form of open and public explanation and rebuke. Other possible negative events that may come out of this action must not be allowed to have priority; i.e. the reputation of the church, a broken marriage, division in the church, reduction of ministry staff, the possibility of the Offender going to prison. Protecting the church members and their children and disciplining the brother should be given first priority. There is no alternative.

DISCIPLINE is an absolute necessity if the church is to be obedient to the Scriptures

DISCIPLINE in the church is not optional—it’s mandatory.

Paul lists six sins deserving of corrective discipline. an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler. When these sins are practiced, they called for severe church disciplinary action which could cause the sinner to be excluded from the church.

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” 1 Corinthians 5: 11

A “fornicator” is one who commits a(n) moral sin of God’s laws. Child sexual molestation falls into this category. The Offender disqualified himself for spiritual leadership. He is to surrender his position as a minister or the ministry will expel him him. Depending on his subsequent actions after being confronted with his sin, he may be excluded from the church also. The church is not to keep company with the Offender and not to even eat with him. “…not to keep company…with such an one no not to eat.” Unless he repents. If the Offender accepts reproof, is repentant, apologizes, offers restitution and restoration, then he should not be excluded from the church. However, certain restrictions would apply.

Jesus said: “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 20) The law places certain restrictions on a Perpetrator of child sexual abuse. If the church follows Jesus’ instructions in this verse, then at the minimum, the church would follow the same restrictions as the law enforces; and if they follow this scripture to the letter, then surely, the church should go even further than the law does to protect their little ones. Perhaps male workers should not be allowed to stay in homes where there are small children, so that it would help them be “beyond reproach.”

In the following passages, God makes it clear that He intends for the church to take corrective measures when its members persist in practicing sin.

Matthew 18:15-20 teaches that a sinning brother is to be (1) confronted (2) reproved and (3) excluded from the church if he refuses to repent

Acts 5:1-11 illustrates (1) the seriousness of sin within the church, (2) the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit to sin and (3) the quick judgment of God upon sin.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5 teaches that in the event of persistent, unrepentant sin, the church is to (1) grieve (2) call a counsel to deliberate (3) judge the sin and (4) exclude the unrepentant member.

1 Thessalonians 5:14 gives the command to warn the disobedient and the disorderly

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 teaches to (1) warn the undisciplined brother and (2) withdraw from him

1 Tim 5:20 instructs to rebuke persistent sin publicly

Titus 1:13 says to severely reprove those who teach untruth

Titus 3:10 commands to withdraw from one who causes divisions—after adequate warning.

Rev 2 and 3 calls the churches to repentance and warns of impending discipline if they refuse.

A common phrase in the Revelation chapters: “…and they did not repent…”


Discipline in the church has many purposes

To obey God’s Word
To honor Christ (an act of obedience to all the above scriptures)
To restore sinners (Matt 18:15, 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 2:8, Gal 6:1)
To maintain purity (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)
To discourage others from sinning (1 Tim 5:20)
To keep Satan from having a foothold (John 8:44)
To protect the helpless (Matthew 18:6)


Discipline in the church is to be undertaken in a spirit of love, humility and fear

Galatians 6:1: exhorts us to be gentle, humble and aware of our own humanness when ever we attempt to correct a sinning brother. The point of church discipline is to save the sinner and to restore him to fellowship.

2 Thessalonians 3:15: warns us to keep in mind the relationship we have with the offender. He is not our enemy—he is our brother.

God is the first one to be offended in this type sin and any other sin. Any sin is a sin against God. This sin is breaking the Commandment of God to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. Sad to say, but many sins against God of this type have been swept under the rug during the past 110 years, when disciplining a brother would have been far more profitable spiritually.


Discipline according to Jesus’ teaching

Matthew 18:15-17 tells how to perform the act of discipline. This is the first and most complete instructions in the New Testament on the subject of discipline. The text says:

“If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

The passage assumes relationship

“if your brother…”


Church discipline is a family affair. 1 Corinthians 5:10-11 makes it clear that discipline is confined to those “in Christ” and does not reach out beyond the boundaries of the church of the world. The Offenders are brothers, fellow saints and some are fellow servants.

The passage implies imperfection.

“If your brother sins…”


Sin is both a reality and a possibility in the believer’s life. We all wish it were not, but it is. A brother who has broken the moral law of God, has offended the Holy Spirit and has compromised the whole Body of Christ, both saints and servants.

The passage commands confrontation

“…go…”

Confrontation is extremely difficult for many. To “speak the truth in love” to an offending brother requires more than an insensitive accusation. More than a perfunctory rebuke. More than an unsubstantiated assumption. The act of addressing the problem of sin in a brother’s life should be prayerfully thought out and planned beforehand. It must not be done in anger or impulsively. Since the instinctive human response to any suggestion of sin is denial, the first step in confrontation is critical.

The passage commands reproof


“…reprove him…”


After laying out the facts as we know them, ask, “Is this true?” A simple straight forward direct question calls for a similar answer. To expose and convince one of his sin is the meaning of the word “reprove” here in Matt 18. Reproof is the gentle, loving word or warning that tells the Offender that someone knows and cares about the sin in his life. It suggests that someone is willing to take the risks involved in confrontation and to spend the time necessary to help.

The passage demands privacy.

“…in private…"

Confidentiality is crucial to the act of confession—it is best accomplished when done in private.

The passage seeks restoration

“…if he listens to you, you have won your brother”

The goal of the confrontation is apology, repentance, restitution and restoration.

The passage teaches alternatives.

“…but if he does not listen…take 2-3 witnesses…”

There is the possibility of rejection, rationalization, justification or even outright denial.

When any of these take place, more proof must be produced. Two or more witnesses are required in Scripture before any accusation can be honored by the church. One witness is not sufficient. They are needed both to confirm the rejection of a reproof, and to also confirm the validity of the accusation. If a brother has sinned, and he persists in his sin, and refuses to repent and seek forgiveness, then the added witnesses can confirm this to the larger body. They can also confirm that appropriate steps were taken and warnings were given before more drastic measure are taken. Verse 16 states that “every fact” or “every word” need confirmation.
1 Tim 5: 19: “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”

The passage expands the alternatives.

“And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…”


It is obvious in Scripture that God always prefers repentance to judgment. However, in the case of unrepentant sinning, the church is called to expel or exclude. 1 Tim 5: 20: “Against an elder… Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”

The passage suggests the ultimate alternative

“…if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be as a heathen and a publican.”

The painfully decisive step to exclude a brother or sister form the church is sometimes necessary. He is then to be regarded as an outsider. Gentiles were regarded as heathen. The Jew had no fellowship with them. In other words, the sinner is disowned as a brother and treated as a nonbeliever. This means he is excluded from the ministry, from taking part in testimony, prayer, or having fellowship in the church. It is important that the action not be reversed until sufficient time has elapsed to confirm the genuineness of repentance…and in the case of a worker who is a child molester, that person can never be a worker again.

 



TELLING IT TO THE CHURCH

SUGGESTED MEETING



PROVISION: Offender is willing to confess his sin publicly.


Announce to the congregation ahead of time that a matter of utmost urgency to the entire church will be dealt with at ___ (meeting place/date/time). It’s seldom that the church is called upon to collectively deal with a discipline of one of its members, but we must do just that. One of our ministers has fallen victim to sin.

THE MEETING:

Prayer

Worker introduction:
There have been things brought to our attention that have revealed to us that one of our fellow servants has fallen in battle. We have asked him to share with you the sin that has been his life and to confess his sin to the church.

Offender steps up to platform and microphone.

Offender makes public confession, apology, repentance, restitution, etc.

Offender takes his seat.

WORKER SPEAKS: This is one of the most difficult things for those of us in the ministry to do; to publicly expose personal sin in a brother in this way. I dislike what I am doing tonight intensely, but I dislike the alternative even more. The dissention and distrust that this problem would create if it were handled any other way could be disastrous. There is more sin lying under the proverbial rug than the rug can cover and far more than the church can handle.

Some of you are probably thinking:

IS THIS PROBLEM SO SERIOUS AS TO REQUIRE THIS SORT OF A MEETING?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 5. “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you…” (v. 1)

In this passage there was an account of a church member who was living in continued unrepentant moral sin. It was public knowledge among the Corinthians. He was arrogant, unconcerned and unrepentant. And furthermore, the church was tolerant. Paul insisted that the problem was of such a magnitude that it required immediate public corrective action.

It was immorality that was even uncommon among the heathen. (V. 2): It was being ignored and tolerated. It required the exclusion of the sinner (v 2) It demanded the assembled action of the congregation (vv 3-4). It presumed the need for ultimate discipline (v. 5) If undisciplined, it could infect the whole body (v 6). That sacrifice of Christ for sin demands the judgment of sin (v7). The passage continues to list other sins that require similar action by the church body if they are permitted to continue.

Is the problem so serious, you ask? This passage declares that all sin is serious because all sin caused the death of Christ, shames the body, and infects the church if it is not properly addressed.

Contrary to that tonight, ____ (name of offender) is not displaying arrogance; and we are not displaying a lack of concern.

There is a second question some of you may be asking:

WHY ARE WE DOING THIS SO PUBLICLY? SHOULDN’T THIS BE DONE PRIVATELY?

WH
Y IS IT NECESSARY TO EXPOSE THIS BROTHER TO SUCH PUBLIC HUMILIATION?

It is seldom that we engage in discipline in such a public way. Most discipline that goes on is done in private. You never know about it and that is the way it should be done. For Jesus taught: “ If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone…” (Matt 18:15). This trespass was not between two brothers. It involves a minister or leader of the church and a child or several children.

There are three reasons for taking such drastic measure in this situation.

1. The nature of the sin and its persistence demands radical attention. An ongoing moral sin that has continued for years and damaged many lives will probably not be forsaken without such attention as we are giving it tonight.

2. The sin is public information and requires public action.

3. Because the Scripture tells us to do it this way. 1 Tim 5:17-22 talks about church leaders and how they should be honored and how they should be rebuked. We followed these instructions.

Public servants, like those of us in the ministry, deserve public rebuke whenever we break a public trust. That is why we have reluctantly gone so public tonight. We want you to follow our example when it is worth following, but when it is not, we want you to be warned so as not to make the same mistake we have. As Scripture says, “ Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11: 1)

4. Children who are watching will learn how mature Christians deal with sin. Children need to learn that sin is dealt with in a serious and fair manner. This is important if the whole church is going to know how sin is to be repented of. Families need to be restored to wholeness. Children need to be able to trust and respect their parents and the authorities above them if they are going to respect God and the civil authorities when they are grown.

Paul warns that failure to bring sin into judgment can cause weakness, sickness and death. And that refusal to judge our sins results in the chastisement of God. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30, 32).

Another question you may have may be:

WHAT RESTRICTIONS WILL BE IMPOSED ON THIS PERSON?


He is allowed to retain his place in this church family because of his confession, etc. He will never be allowed to be a worker or elder again. Due to the high percentage of reoccurrences of this type sin, we are restricting his access to church family members and children. The law places certain restrictions on convicted pedophiles, and we choose to observe those restrictions also for the protection of our little ones. Out of consideration of the serious injuries to his victims, we have imposed certain Restrictions on him. (See separate Restriction List)

Another question you might be asking is

WHAT DO WE DO NOW?


Paul tells us what to do when a sinner repents. “restore such a one in love…” (2 Corinthians 2:1-11)

IN CLOSING: This is probably a meeting that none of us will ever forget. It will be burned into our memories forever. Our church is firmly committed to not sweeping sin under the rug, and to protect its members and their children.

CLOSING PRAYER.


COMPLETE SCRIPTURE REFERENCES for the above:

Matthew 18:6 “Whosoever offends one of these little ones, (or causes one of these little ones to sin) it would be better to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths Of the sea.”

Matthew 18:15-17: If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Acts 5:1-11: But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

2 Corinthians 2: 1-11 But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Ephesians 5:3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people……No immoral, impure or greedy person –such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.”

Ephesians 5:11-13 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them for it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.”

1 Thessalonians5: 14: Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.

2 Thessalonians 3: 6-15: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

1 Timothy 5:19-21 “Do not hear an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

1 Timothy 5:19- 20: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Titus 1: 13: This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Titus 3: 10: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject;

3 John 11: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”

Jude 4: “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

Jude 7: “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

Adapted from: Beyond Forgiveness – The Healing Touch of Church Discipline
by Don Baker, Mulnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, 1983 (ISNB 0-88070-054-8)


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