Viewing church discipline as part of the discipleship process makes sense because of their similarities.
The Objective of Discipleship and Church Discipline is the Same
The objective of discipleship is to bring people under the Lord’s authority, not that they conform to us. Jesus began the Great Commission with, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …” We are all ultimately accountable to Him. The goal is for people to identify with the Lord (“baptizing them”) and for their lives to line up with Him (“teaching them to obey”).
This holds true of church discipline as well. The point is not that they are offending us but that they are grieving the heart of God and quenching the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). To grow as His disciples they must be brought back into alignment with the Lord.
The Means of Discipleship and Church Discipline is the Same
Teaching is part of the discipleship process which would include admonishing, encouraging, and correcting as well as didactic instruction (2 Tim. 3:16-17). No area is off limits. The comprehensive nature of discipleship is seen in Jesus’ words, “teaching them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded you.”
Disobedient believers are not acting as His disciples. As noted in previous posts, we must do all we can to help people see their need to repent (2 Tim. 2:23-26), to help them learn to be His disciples. Church discipline is not about degrading people but teaching them.
The Need for Jesus’ Presence in Discipleship and Church Discipline is the Same
After giving the Great Commission Jesus made a very important statement — “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” His presence signified His power with them to accomplish His will in making disciples.
Likewise, in disciplining, we need Him to be a part of the entire process. If we step out on our own, not seeking after Him at every turn, we are asking for trouble. He is the One who changes people’s hearts, not us.
And, just as His presence replaces fear with confidence as we disciple others, so does His presence serve as a deterrent in the lives of those we must discipline. People may be able to hide sinful behavior from us, but not from Him. — “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)
You’ll find this content on discipleship and church discipline in the Steering the Church Toward Discipleship Leadership Guide along with a look at 24 other leadership responsibilities in light of the Great Commission.