When the world speaks of “love,” it often means unconditional acceptance. Many churches have adopted this mindset in their practice of membership and discipline—if they have not done away with such structures entirely. “Yet God’s love and God’s Gospel are different than what the world expects,” writes Jonathan Leeman. They are centered in his character, which draws a clear boundary between what is holy and what is not. It’s this line that the local church should represent in its membership practices, because the careful exercise of such authority “is God’s means for guarding the Gospel, marking off a people, and thereby defining his love for the world.”
So how should churches receive and dismiss members? How should Christians view their submission to the church? Are there dangers in such submission? Leeman answers these questions and offers biblical, theological, and practical guidance from both corporate and individual perspectives. This is a resource that will help pastors and their congregations upend worldly conceptions and recover a biblical understanding and practices of church membership and discipline.
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What happens when you bring together one of the most misunderstood subjects (love) and one of the most ignored practices (church membership and discipline) in the church today? A book like this one. Unlike the generation raised on Mr. Spock’s child-rearing advice, the Good Shepherd cares for his flock by loving discipline. There is a lot of talk these days about radical discipleship, but what we need more today is a lot more ordinary discipleship, where we realize not only in theory, but in practice, what it means to be conformed to Christ’s image. This is the best book I’ve seen on this subject in a long time.
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
It has been a frustrating reality that there are so few resources on church discipline. This book is not only timely, but definitive. I highly recommend it to those who seek to learn about and desire to practice biblical church discipline.
—Darrin Patrick, pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri
Jonathan Leeman is an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, DC. He serves as director of communications for 9Marks and is the editor of the 9Marks Journal. Leeman has been published in several major newspapers and Christian periodicals and holds his PhD from the University of Wales.