Confrontation is a Neglected Practice
– Confrontation is a very neglected practice in the church (and I don’t just mean by the elders or deacons of the church). It is especially unfortunate in America where so many people claim to be Christian. We should take their claim as free reign to confront them if they are living in a way which is inconsistent with their claim to know Christ. Youth who claim to know Christ but enjoy listening to music which glorifies violence, sexual immorality, and drug abuse. Mr. So and So who claims to be a Christian but calls people who look different than he does “niggers” (and the like) in a condescending and prideful way (or churches that are opposed to “blacks mixing with whites” in worship or marriage). That girlfriend of yours who claims to be a Christian but seems to totally disregard the apostles teachings on modesty. That guy who claims to be a Christian but is living with his girlfriend (i.e. sleeping with her). What is our responsibility in when we see such phenomenon? This is a highly relevant question for all Christians (at least in America), because this phenomena is not the exception in the American church—it’s typical. When did we begin to excuse ourselves from this practice of confrontation?
Is This Type of Confron- tation Biblical?
– By no means should we expect any Christian to be perfect, but there is a lifestyle clearly consistent with such a claim and one which is not (see I Cor 6:9 for example, or I John 2:4). It’s impossible for those who accept the Bible as their authority to explain away all the verses which bind the Christian conscience about confronting professed believers who live in sin (Mt 18:15, 1 Cor 5:1-12, 2 Thes 3:6, Jn 8:11, Acts 8:20, 2 Thes 3:14, Titus 3:10-11). Sure church discipline is a lost practice in the local church today, but it doesn’t have to be a lost practice in your life. Besides, the rank and file Christians outnumber the leaders. Rank and file believers like us have the ability to change the face of Christianity. Many of us are fighting to make it a revived practice. Many churches are now awakening to church discipline as a healthy mark of a local church (thanks in large part to Mark Dever)—but it’s supposed to be the norm.
How Can You Say Confron- tation is For the Sake of Our Pleasure? – Confron- tation is not only biblical, it is necessary for the preserving of pleasure in at least two ways. 1) The spiritual pleasure of intimacy with Christ is proportionally dependant on the purity of the church, which seems to be Paul’s main concern when he confronts people in his epistles, 2) the goal for the one being confronted and/or excommunicated is to see him restored if he is a true Christian (i.e. to the spiritual pleasure of intimacy with Christ which sin hinders and dilutes). Purity in the corporate body as well as in the individual entities magnifies the work and worth of Christ, glorifies God, and demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit—all of which is the ground of our pleasure. If only we were more committed to our own pleasure, the pleasure of the church, and the pleasure of those who need confronted, we would suffer a great deal of opposition and uncomfortableness to see to it that we confront our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are in sin, or could use a bit of gentle, loving, gracious confrontation about something.
P.S. – The pictures I posted have no real connection with the topic, but the new safety net on campus filters all pictures on google, so I couldn’t get access to anything ideal.
that’s where i get mine … unless i take them myself.
Thanks Christine! I’ll try that out.
I was glad to see a new post! I check Jonathan’s and your website several times a week now…gives me somthing to ‘do’ here in Uganda 🙂 And it challenges me. Anyways, good post. I totally agree…church discipline/confrontation is pretty much non-existent in most American churches these days. I personally think there are 2 reasons for this…
1.) Churches and Christians in general don’t want to ‘offend’ anyone or ‘step on their toes’ by confronting known sin in a person’s life. I think they are afraid that by ‘calling out’ another’s behavior that they might be looked upon as a hypocrite or it might affect their witness (like that sinners are not welcome in the church or something). However, they don’t realize that they are hurting their witness even more by not standing up for the principles of the Bible.
2.) In my personal opinion most churches in America are too big today. People can’t lovingly confront a fellow believer about the lack of fruits in their life because they honestly don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life! The church is too big and those that are not living according to Biblical prinicpals are not typically the ones to be involved in small cell group discipleship. They often get left to live life ‘on their own’. This is a challenge to active members of churches to reach out to those who maybe aren’t exactly ‘like’ us and show them the love of Christ.
You’re right, if we truly cared about God’s glory and the pleasure of His church we would step out of our comfort zones and put this disciple into practice. And when I say this I realize that this will in turn affect me. As I confront others I am opening the door for them to also confront me in areas that are not God-glorifying. This practice of confrontation is known as church discipline because it’s not necessarily fun or easy, but like discipline from a parent to a child it’s important for the well-being of the believer/church.
Well put Kari. I am extremely encouraged to discover that mine and Jonathan’s blogs actually help you out on the mission field. I am flattered at the thought of being a “challenge” to anyone who is pouring their life out on the mission field in a poverty stricken and hostile land while I coast through seminary and enjoy all the American comforts (shallow as they are) and suffer so little. I am rather challenged by people like you and Amy (another missionary who makes comments on blogs) who are in the front lines for the sake of the gospel.
Concerning your first point: I used to tell those who accused me of hypocrisy for practicing biblical confrontation, that were I NOT to practice it, I would be liable for such accusation, but that accusing me of hypocrisy for being biblical can hardly hold water.
Concerning your second point: Mega churches do seem to have that tendency of letting hundreds of people slip through the cracks. But this is, me thinks, a combination of several related and overlapping things other than church discipline. I’m thinking in general of a lack of true biblical comprehension and cultural influence, and in particular about the great misunderstandings in our day of the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion (ex: the sinners prayer, poor gospel presentations, Armenian theology, the lordship controversy, emphasis on numbers instead of quality, preachers who have become masters of manipulating every kind of emotion but that emotion which comes from a sober and penetrating proclamation of the whole counsel of God, so called “seeker-sensitive” practices which shy away from stepping on toes, legalism of many forms, emphasis on all the wrong things, lack of passion for the things of God, excessive humor and stories in preaching without any blood earnestness, etc. etc.). You are right to see a connection between mega-church tendencies and lack of church discipline.
Your comments are very helpful to this discussion. Anytime I confront someone else, I always tell them that I am doing nothing for them I wouldn’t expect them to do for me. I always invite them to reciprocate my rebukes wherever it would be appropriate. Contrary to popular belief, it has a tendency to draw friends closer to one anther, and it is often the first step to superseding the typical and superficial relationships with other believers. I have found that I tend to be more respectful and affectionate for someone who has endured my criticism and given me their honest responses (without being immature, defensive or aggressive). I don’t know why, but after such a confrontation, I just feel more at ease to speak my mind, and they feel the same. It opens up a new level of friendship in which—I know it’s a novel idea—people actually speak their mind to one another instead of gossiping about it to everyone else.
I should stop now. Thanks for your thoughts!
bradley..you should talk to bethany more…she is the best rebuker in love i have ever encountered…i have learned so much from her!
good…maybe she can leave us a few tips here.
By the way…Amy (missionary in Mexico) is my good friend. We went to orientation together in the states before coming to the field. She knew I was interested in coming to Southern when I finish so she connected me to ya’lls blogs.
I agree with your comment concerning ‘the great misunderstandings in our day of the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion’, however we have to just keep praying that the Holy Spirit will guide ‘the church’ in spirit and in truth as they truly seek Him so that real worship might take place!
And you might be ‘coasting through seminary and enjoying all the American comforts’ but that doesn’t mean your life is any ‘easier’ than mine…it’s just different. You are doing what God has called you to do at this point in your life, and Amy and I are doing what we have felt the Lord is calling us to do. Believe me I feel very unworthy to be here in Uganda! God continues to humble me and remind me that He doesn’t NEED me at all!
You make some important points – well said.
That’s cool Kari.
I do think much true worship is taking place in all the hearts of the redeemed. The Lord overcomes our misunderstandings constantly (including my own). I am thrilled to know that you understand that we serve a God who is needless. It helps in the midst of failure to know that God has factored our failures into his plan of spreading the gospel among the nations, and thus our failures do not hinder His sovereign plans. Your words are kind and encouraging.
Morgan is far too kind. Some of my rebukes come in love and some of them come like a freight train …and it all relies on my submission to God and whether I am ministering from my flesh or by the Holy Spirit.
To me it comes down to love. If I love you and let you continue on in a way that is dishonoring to God (and you are a confessed believer), do I really love you? Jesus said if I love Him, I’ll obey Him. Jesus, God made man, gave me a beautiful picture of love for the Father in unswerving obedience.
James writes: “19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
If I had to guess where the hesitation comes from for most believers, I think it would come from false teaching. Christianity is “Love your neighbor as yourself” and today we tend to equate loving with accepting and therefore enabling. It’s a worldly philosophy in the church. I also think a lot of the generation before us was burnt by legalism and the subsequent backlash is to rid ourselves of standards and standard bearers. Instead, what we should have done was repented and come back to the true standard, Jesus Christ. He rebuked heartily but His rebukes were received because He first loved.
So, all the comments tied together are very true and very thought provoking. I also heartily agree with Kari that we don’t rebuke also because we don’t know our brother – and therefore there is no framework for the rebuke. Granted, I don’t think you always have to have a close relationship to rebuke but that’s another post topic.
Thanks for the topic Bradley…very good things to think about!
Your comments strongly resonate with my personal convictions. I also have an experiential knowledge of what it is like to confront someone in my flesh as opposed to in the Spirit.
Your insight into the worldly notions of love is helpful. I think you are perceptive when you say that love is tied to acceptance in our culture. Of course, we should “accept” people in a certain sense no matter what, but it’s one thing to accept someone as a friend (and to love them), and quite another to accept their values and behaviors so as to never address them for their benefit.
Your comments about the nature of true love are also good. This was one of my points. If we really love people, we will not allow them to continue in that which works only for the destruction of their life in Christ, without attempting to steer them away from those works.
I agree with your last comment as well. Originally, this post was about five times the size it is now. I took several objections to the idea of confrontation and addressed them one by one. One of them was “To speak the truth in love necessities an attempt to be one’s friend before rebuking them.” This qualification is unbiblical–we are commanded with only one qualification: that we be their “brother” (which I believe includes sisters also). The apostles did not deem it necessary to be someone’s “buddy” before we love them in this way (although it tends to help our cause).
It is good to hear that you and your click of sisters are aware of this command of our Lord, and the benefits which ensue upon obedience to it.
My pastor was preaching the other night and addressed the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” He said Jesus would say, “Love the sinner, hate your own sin.” Interesting…talk amongst yourselves.
As my pastor’s wife said, “If you haven’t had the sand paper refinement of a friend, you may not be true friends after all.” (Morgan and I have some beautiful sand paper moments – refining both of us – but BOY IS OUR SKIN GETTIN’ SOFT) (can I get an Amen Morgan?)
Amen and Amen
Bradley, since you bring this up, I’ve been meaning to confront you about some things:
1. I don’t mind you using my toothpaste, but please stop using my toothbrush. If you need one, I can get you one.
2. I know you ate the last cookie and replaced it with a picture of a cookie you cut out of a magazine.
3. You should stop mooning everyone who looks you in the eye, when they have their back to you. They don’t know you’re doing it anyway.
4. Please stop screaming incomprehensibly at everyone who comes through the door wearing orange.
5. You posted this on my birthday, and didn’t say happy birthday.
Very well Jonathan. You speak the truth in love. I must confess my guilt. But not without a few defensive qualifications.
1. I haven’t used your toothbrush every day, just when the toilet needs cleening.
2. I only ate the cookie and replaced it with a picture because I was bitter at you.
3. Your right. I should do it while they are looking.
4. It’s not my fault they are wearing orange–if they had an ounce of sincere humble consideration for the well being of my soul they would not wear it.
5. I thought your birthday was 26 years ago? Oh well, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!
Bradley!! That was hilarious… don’t be a stranger bro, wherrUbinhidin,cuz?