June 23, 1999

Founders Conference
issues call for discipline

___By Lacy Thompson
___Louisiana Baptist Message
___ATLANTA--Extreme times call for extreme measures-- most notably, a return to biblical preaching and church discipline, a pair of Southern Baptist Founders Conference speakers emphasized June 15.
___Evangelicals have made very little impact on the culture, Tom Ascol stressed during a Founders Conference breakfast just prior to the 1999 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Atlanta. About 120 people attended the pre-convention meeting organized by those who identify with the Reformed theological tradition, often referred to as Calvinists.
___"The world has made more of an impact on the church in our day than the church has made on the world," said Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla. "We live in very desperate days. We live in days when people are unabashedly selfish and self-centered, when they're greedy and prideful in an open way. ... We glory in immorality in our culture. ... People hate what is good. They deny the very existence of truth, and they live for pleasure."
___Such people also are found in the churches, Ascol continued. Indeed, studies show that there is little difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to moral behavior, he said.
___"What's a church to do in such days? What's a pastor to do? How are we to respond as those who know Christ and love the gospel of the Lord Jesus? What does this world in desperate days?
___"The Bible does not leave us wondering," he said. "Extreme times call for extreme measures. And the extreme measure which the Bible calls for in desperate days can be summarized in one word--preaching."
___Referring to 2 Timothy 3, Ascol emphasized the need for a return to biblical preaching.
___"Preaching is God's ordained means for accomplishing his ordained purposes of spreading the gospel throughout the world," Ascol said. "Whatever else may be done, this one thing always must be done."
___In this passage, Paul urged Timothy to remember the nature, power and usefulness of the word of God in his personal life, he said. In addition, the apostle emphasized the need for Timothy to remain faithful in preaching the word publicly, Ascol said.
___That means preaching sound doctrine and allowing Scripture to interpret itself, the Florida Baptist pastor insisted. "The pastor must be a sound theologian. He must be committed to the task of drawing out from the word of God the truths which God has revealed to us there, reflecting on them and helping people understand and apply them. That is the work of the pastor."
___Basically, the charge to Timothy is to preach in an expository manner, Ascol said. "There's more to preaching the word than merely taking the Bible as your starting point. Many people take their texts from the Bible but then take their sermons from the newspapers. Paul says preach the word; not preach from the word but preach the word itself."
___Expository preaching is a necessary corollary to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, Ascol insisted. "The absence of such preaching always betrays a lack of conviction of the Bible's authority and sufficiency, no matter how loudly a man may profess his allegiance to our God."
___Likewise, churches must return to the practice of church discipline, asserted Don Whitney, professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
___The modern church faces a three-part problem, Whitney said. First, for generations, churches have practiced a methodology that has brought unconverted people into the church. Second, churches have failed to preach the word of God and bring these unconverted people to faith in Christ. Third, churches have failed to discipline these people when they act like unconverted people.
___When that scenario is played out over a couple of generations, it creates a problem for the church, Whitney suggested. Deacons and teachers begin to be drawn from that pool, making it more and more difficult to return to the practice of discipline, he pointed out.
___"Will those people want to tighten up the membership requirements? Will those people want to call a preacher who preaches the word of God? Will those people want to begin instituting and implementing church discipline? A church that follows that pattern over a long enough period of time is on the path to apostasy," Whitney warned.
___An answer to the problem is a recovery of church discipline--both formative discipline (preaching the word) and corrective discipline, Whitney continued.
___Corrective discipline is practiced to honor Christ, to maintain the purity of the church, to restore people, to release people from sin and to reconcile believers, he said. "One of the misunderstandings is that it's punitive, but the goal is restorative. ... The goal is to win someone back, not to kick someone out."
___Any persistent, unrepentant sin is a disciplinable offense--and every pastor and church will be tested in this area, Whitney said. He cautioned them to act biblically and carefully and always to seek reconciliation with the person.
___He stressed the need to make sure one is dealing with a violation of Scripture and not judging self-righteously. He also emphasized the need to keep matters as private as possible for as long as possible.
___Withdrawing of fellowship should come only after a period of time of repeated, loving appeals in which a person consistently refuses to repent, Whitney said.
___Such a move should involve a vote of the church body, he continued. "The church decides. ... If it's going to be church discipline, the church has to be involved."

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