I had a very interesting coversation over lunch today concerning the topic of discipline in the church setting. I have a suspicion that the church (the term "church" here is being used very broadly to reference all protestant churches in our society) has lost its touch with the need for church discipline. What I mean is that our churches are slap full of members who are not fulfilling their mandates as believers. This could manifest itself in habitual absence from the local assembly, immoral behavior, failure to tithe adequately, or other circumstances. My opinion is that members who demonstrate their unwillingness to fulfill their mandates are wrongly treated by the church leadership. The leadership of the church is responsible for addressing such issues in a biblical manner. When questionable behavior is swept under the rug by the leadership members are sent a very strong message about their lifestyle - live however you please and you will not face any consequences. This message is then passed on to those outside the body of believers. Translation: The Christian church is nothing more than a group of people who call themselves righteous, but live life very much the same way as unChristian people.
Maybe I am taking this too far. Maybe I'm not taking it far enough. What if the reason that so many "Christian" men and women have such difficulty living holy lives is because deep down they know that they will not have to answer to Christian leaders. Paul took this problem very seriously during the era of the early church. He explained very explicity an outlined procedure for how to deal with members with questionable behavior. If the church practiced this procedure more what would the demographics of the typical church look like? Would they be any different? Probably.
I propose that one reason our churches lack the zeal to pursue disciplinary actions when they are deemed necessary is because they realize that the person receiving the discipline will withdraw their membership. And this creates a mountain of problems: the disciplined person maligns the local church, takes his tithe, takes his family, and joins another local body.
On the flip side, however, taking disciplinary action could prove very fruitful. One could hypothesize that members who are taken seriously by their church leaders will also take their church, and hopefully their personal faith, more seriously. Not only so, but also the unchurched population may view the church with more respect.
Or maybe I'm just naive.