Is it a bad idea for pastors to tolerate the sharp tongued critic that he'd rather avoid? Is it a good idea for her to be patient with factious members who constantly carp, complain and gossip?
Yes to the first question. No to the second.
Most ministers - especially in smaller churches - wait too long to start church discipline, tolerate ungodly behavior by dysfunctional disciples and permit immature saints too much access to the PA system.
If you're an interim pastor it is your responsibility to set the stage for the next settled pastor. You are responsible for creating a culture of godly conduct, peaceful gatherings and dealing with trouble. It is your duty to create a pattern of immediate confrontation and swift church discipline.
There are 6 reasons why you must shorten the cycle on church discipline.
- Tolerating sinful behavior brings public reproach on the name of Christ and the conduct of the church. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
- Discipline initiated with redemptive purpose is a loving act. Proverbs 3:11-12
- The Bible admonishes us to deal with relationship problems promptly. Matthew 5:21-26
- Unresolved relationship problems will corrupt our relationship with the Father. Matthew 6:15
- Undisciplined sinners pollute the rest of the believers. 1 Corinthians 5:6
- Anger - often kindled by sinful behavior in others - must quickly resolved. Ephesians 4:26
I cringe when I read stories of pastoral colleagues under fire from people whose behavior demands discipline.
In smaller congregations it is harder to face and discipline inappropriate behavior. They often rule others fear.
Some pastors find it contrary to their nature to face sin. If her temperament and giftedness runs toward mercy and serving gifts it will be especially challenging for her to lead the church in discipline. If he is high on the Steadiness or Compliance scales (DiSC profile) he will be naturally inclined to avoid confrontation.
It's our job as interim pastors to solve this problem in our client churches. Our job isn't to please the congregation. It's to leave a healthy church poised to meet its God-given potential when the next settled pastor arrives.
What's your first reaction or natural inclination when trouble crops up in church?
- Church Discipline
- What does the Bible say about discipline/excommunication?(GotQuestions.org)
- Church Discipline: The Missing Link (R. Albert Mohler, Jr.)
- Church Discipline Resources (Christianity Today)